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Baking with Sugar Alternatives?

Low Calorie Nutritive Sweeteners and Their Uses

Sweeteners come in two basic categories, nutritive sweeteners and non-nutritive sweeteners. Nutritive sweeteners contain carbohydrate and provide energy or calories to the diet and include white table sugars, and brown table sugars, molasses, honey and syrups like corn and maple. Another category of nutritive sweeteners include sugar alcohols which are obtained from fruits or prepared commercially from dextrose. The most common sugar alcohols are sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol and mannitol. Sugar alcohols contain comparatively less calories. Nutritive sweeteners occur naturally in foods or added in food processing or added to food before consumption.

Nutritive sweeteners come under “generally recognized as safe" foods by FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Still excessive consumption of such sugars means higher intake of energy and this may increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and risk of dental caries.

The non-processed nutritive sweeteners are brown sugar, raw sugar, fructose, glucose, honey, lactose, maltose, mannitol, maple sugar, molasses and sorbitol.

Mannitol: This low calorie nutritive sweetener comes with only 1.6 calories per gram. It is a sugar alcohol with unique functional properties. Mannitol is largely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. It is approximately 50 percent as sweet as sucrose, non-cariogenic and contains low calories. Mannitol is found abundant in nature; in marine algae, fresh mushrooms and exudates from trees. It is suitable for ingestion and commercially available in various powder and granular forms. In the US, Mannitol is offered by a number of manufacturers. Being nonhygroscopic, it is used as a dusting powder for chewing gum. Due to its high melting point, mannitol is used in chocolate-flavored coating agents for confections and ice cream as well. Mannitol is ideal for using in nutritional tablets and pharmaceuticals as well. Mannitol provides sweetness with a cool, pleasant taste and serves as one of the lowest calorie sweeteners for the diabetics.

Maltitol: One of the low calorie sugar alternatives, it is a sugar alcohol used in sugar-free products like nutrition bars, candy and diet snacks. Maltitol, though carries only a fraction of the carbohydrates present in real sugar, ensures equivalent taste with similar sweetness in the products. Maltitol syrup is mainly used in low-carbohydrate food for the dieters. It is also used by those who have diabetes for keeping the sugar intake down. The number of calories provided by each gram of maltitol is three.

Xylitol: This low calorie nutritive sweetener is almost as popular as table sugar but contains much lower calories than table sugar. It has comparatively lower impact on the blood sugar level of people with diabetes. Xylitol is used to prevent several health issues like bad cholesterol, blood pressure, weight gain, low blood sugar levels, heart disease, hypoglycaemia and obesity. It is widely used in chewing gum and hard candy and also in oral hygiene applications.

Sorbitol: This is a slow-metabolizing sugar alcohol which is obtained from corn, fruits and seaweed. One of the healthiest sugar substitutes, it is about 60% as sweet as sugar. Sorbitol is found in foods like frozen desserts, diabetic candies and sugar-free chewing gum. It is also utilized as a thickener and as moisturizer in beauty products. Being very slow to be metabolized, sorbitol does not shoot up insulin levels as much as sugar. It is used in many sugar-free cough syrups and does not cause tooth decay.