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Sugar Substitutes for Cooking

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  • KRS Jan 29, 2007 11:49 AM

Which sugar substitutes work best for cooking? I've found out a little, but need some expertise. I've found the following:

Cyclamate – any word on the current status?

Equal (Aspartame) is said to break down in heat, so it's not suitable for cooking.

Erythitol – browns like sugar. The FDA rates it as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), but that means the FDA hasn't evaluated it. Their site at http://www.nowfoods.com/?action=itemd... but it's a health food manufacturer, and I'd like a neutral evaluation.

Saccharin

Spenda (Sucralose) -- OK for cooking, but is said to have an "artificial" aftertaste. How strong is it?

Stevia -- OK for cooking, but not approved by the FDA for food use.

Sunett (Acesulfame potassium) is said not to break down in cooking.

I assume any of them could be sprinkled on cooked food before serving where necessary, but how about, say, pork roasts to create a lacquered surface or in most Indian and Chinese dishes?

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  1. I use Splenda but cut back the amount called for of sugar to about 1/3- 1/2 less with Splenda. I am not a fan of overly sweet foods.

    1. KRS, regarding erythritol, Health Canada approved its use a little over two years ago ( http://canadagazette.gc.ca/partII/200... ). I don't know whether any independent testing was done, or if it was approved on the basis of information supplied by the manufacturers and distributors.

      As mentioned in a couple of previous threads, I've been using erythritol in cooking and baking with excellent results. As a diabetic, I've been very happy with the products I'm producing, and my non-diabetic family members have no complaints. I do not tend to do a lot of baking, so have not done any extensive amount of baking using erythritol. But the five or six different baking applications I've used it in have been successful.

      I have used erythritol in cooking with excellent results.

      I have not used any of the other sweeteners you mention in my cooking and baking, because I do not like the taste of these products and have other concerns about them.

      1. Try using Sucanat which is a great alternative to carcinogenic chemicals.

        Sucanat is the first dried pressing of sugar cane and does not lead to the sugar mood swing/crash.

        It also contains nutrients lost in further processing.

        It dissolves easily and is actually good for you!

        Don't trust the FDA....

        Google Splenda/Aspartame and Anxiety and check out the research...

        1 Reply
        1. re: jbyoga

          Oh nonsense! Splenda is sugar with one molecule removed and a molecule of chlorine substituted. The same chlorine that is in our water, salt etc. Just get over that nonsense.

        2. I have very successfully used Xylitol in both baking & regular cooking for the past few years. It's supposedly geared toward diabetics & enters your bloodstream slower, meaning no 'shakes' (if you're sensitive to sugar like I am) and no big crash.

          I just started experimenting with Agave Nectar - same idea, high glycemic index, so absorbed slower, etc.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jdubboston

            Be very careful using xylitol if you have pets in your household. It is reported to be toxic and possibly fatal when ingested by dogs. Erythritol has been tested, and this toxicity has not been found.

            I started off using xylitol and discontinued when I found this out (I have three dogs and four cats). Be careful with certain sugarless chewing gums and candies, as well.

            1. re: jdubboston

              I've had success with xylitol, too. I'm about to order some online in bulk because it's way cheaper that way than Whole Foods.

              Regarding pets - Lots of things I use in the kitchen that I already have to protect my pets from (including chocolate & grapes), so we are very careful with those types of items. In addition, our dog has a serious allergy & is on prescription food, so we are already ultra-careful due to that situation.

            2. Depends on what you really need sugar for in cooking.
              If you are baking, it's hard to substitute because a lot depends on volume and performance. I understand that's part of the advantage to Splenda. You could also switch to recipes that use honey.
              Honey can be used for a lot of other uses as well without resorting to chemical substitutes for cane sugar.
              For glazing roasts, since that's cosmetic, can you skip it if honey won't work?
              For my regular cooking, I use so little sugar, that I just don't worry about it. One tablespoon in a Chinese sauce or thrown in a pot of tomato sauce isn't going to make much difference over 4 servings.
              Better to just cut back on overall sugar consumption than mess around with potentially unsafe substitutes.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                Spoken by a true non-diabetic. For those of us who crave more than a little nibble of good-tasting sweets, finding a healthy, tasty alternative is important.

                I agree that a little sugar doesn't hurt, and I continue to use small amounts of sugar in my cooking. It's the honey-like pumpkin cake and the blueberry-apple pie that I use erythritol in.

                1. re: FlavoursGal

                  I do make many different desserts using Splenda, and I've always had great results.
                  I cook for a diabetic, as well as, for reducing the sugar levels in my kids. We have never noticed any after taste. It is a little sweeter though so I usually take a couple of tablespoons out.,

              2. For cooking, I have been very successful substituting bulk Splenda or a great new liquid Splenda product called Sweetzfree. I really like the Sweetzfree because it has nothing in it but pure liquid Splenda, no fillers or bulkers. No aftertaste at all.

                Baking is a lot trickier, and I stick to recipes tested with Splenda or Sweetzfree.

                1. In an ideal world, use sugar. Nothing substitutes perfectly for sugar. That said, it's not an ideal world, and some of us have to make concessions due to health. Fortunately, there are options. Lots of them have been discussed already.

                  As I said upthread, I have used xylitol with success. I've also used Splenda. IMO, Splenda has a distinct aftertaste. I do find that I notice it less the longer I go without sugar, but it is certainly always there for me (and it's noticeable to "regular" people, not just to people like me, who seem to taste things that other people don't.)

                  If you are happy with the taste of Splenda in general, and if you can not have sugar, then you'll probably be satisfied with the addition of Splenda to your cooking in most areas (cookies, cakes, ice cream, a dab in soups or something to cut acidity). Keep in mind, though, that some uses for sugar won't work with Splenda. One I can think of off the top of my head is how you can get that caramelized effect w/ sugar, but I don't think Splenda will do that. Probably better luck on that one with xylitol.

                  My other tries from your list are Equal & saccharin (pre-Equal days on the saccharin). If you're not using heat, Equal is ok. Again, aftertaste, but I get that in anything that isn't sugar. It's not just power of suggestion, either. I have eaten things that I felt had that aftertaste (not knowing in advance how they were prepared) and have tactfully asked for the recipe to see if my tastebuds were right (they were).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: luv2bake

                    Taste mechanism varies from person to person. Some people hate coriander, and say it tastes like soap. Others love it, and find no soapy taste.

                    The same with sweeteners. I find absolutely no taste difference between sugar and sucralose.

                    FWIW My Grandmother has been happily eating meat, butter, chocolate, sugar, and artificial sweetener for almost 100 years. She will celebrate her 100th birthday in August.

                    1. re: Fleur

                      I hope I didn't sound like I was saying not to use the sweeteners. I tried to explain that I use them but personally always have an aftertaste. I think it's great to live in a time when we can have our health problems diagnosed and can still eat foods we love (or darn near) because of the huge variety of products available to us now.

                      My apologies if I can across sounding like no one should use those things due to taste OR if it seemed I was implying that my taste is the absolute. I positively didn't mean either! :)

                  2. well, as this debate is pointing out, it really depends on whether you want to cut the sugar for natural/less processed alternatives or for health concerns like diabetes. I personally use maple syrup, honey, or fruitsweet (a super concentrated pineapple/pear juice), or sucanat sometimes. lately i've been making things that are much more sensitive to substitutions so i haven't been using it much.

                    diabetics, what happens when you use natural sweeteners vs. chemical ones? do you still have problems? i periodically cook for a friend who's diabetic and i'm curious about the sugar issues. i used fruitsweet the one time i baked for him.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: annimal

                      It is a problem knowing what sugar substitutes are good for diabetics. Many people are under the false impression that maltitol and sorbitol are totally acceptable. In fact, they are ingredients in many chocolates and cookies presently on the market. However, they do impact diabetics in that they create a rise in blood glucose levels hours after ingestion, not a healthy scenario for diabetics.

                      I am not familar with fruitsweet. If it is another name for fructose, which is fruit sugar, it is not an acceptable substitute for diabetics. Natural sugars such as fructose, honey, and sucanat are not suitable for diabetics.

                      Sucralose (Splenda), erythritol, and xylitol are products that do not affect blood glucose levels adversely when ingested. It is this inability to control blood glucose levels (due to a lack of, or shortage of, insulin) that is basically what diabetes is.

                    2. fruitsweet is highly concentrated fruit juice. if honey etc. is not good, then i guess this isn't either. well, i hope my friend didn't have any problems from the cake. if he did he didn't tell me.