What About Artificial Sweeteners?
You may never have heard of him, but you have probably used his discovery at some point. Constantin Fahlberg discovered saccharin, the first commercially available artificial sweetener, in 1878.
Since then, we have had a love/hate relationship with artificial sweeteners. We love that we can enjoy sweet foods and drinks without weight-gain worries or fears of raising blood sugar levels. But artificial sweeteners never seem to taste quite like real sugar and some studies have raised flags about their effect on our health.
Just What is an Artificial Sweetener?
Let’s start at the beginning. There are two classes of sweeteners: nutritive and non-nutritive.
Nutritive Sweeteners get their name because they provide calories. They include:
- Table sugar
- Maple & Corn Syrups
- Sugar alcohols
It’s the energy they contain that make nutritive sweeteners a challenge for anyone who enjoys sweet foods. Too many nutritive sweeteners can lead to weight gain and higher blood sugar levels.
Non-nutritive Sweeteners, or Artificial Sweeteners, provide no calories and do not affect blood-sugar levels.
The artificial sweeteners available in Canada include:
- Saccharin, the oldest artificial sweetener is still a very popular tabletop sweetener. At over 300 times the sweetness of regular sugar, saccharin is mixed with other sweeteners to create a taste that is closer to regular sugar. That mixing also makes saccharin useful in both hot and cold foods
- Aspartame is found in the commercial sweeteners Nutrasweettm and Equaltm, and is used in many breakfast cereals, soft drinks and candy. While its 200 times sweeter than table sugar, it may lose some of its sweetness at higher temperatures used in cooking
- Acesulfame potassium or acesulfame-K is the sweetener most recently approved by Health Canada. It’s found in Sweet Onetm, Swiss Sweettm, and Sunetttm and works well as a sugar substitute in both baking and cooking.
- Sucralose is found in Splendatm and is derived from regular sugar, but your body does not at recognize it as a carbohydrate. Many processed foods use sucralose as a sweetener because it keeps it properties in extremes of heat and cold – which also makes it great for cooking.
To learn more about artificial sweeteners and what to look for when you are trying to manage your weight or maintain stable blood sugar levels, be sure to talk to a nutritional expert who can help find options specific to your goals.