Faking sweetness

So you’re a dessert-aholic like me and want to cut down on your sugar intake… Or maybe you’re living with diabetes and don’t want your blood sugar soaring? Whatever the reason, sugar substitutes may be a great option.  But there are things you need to know….

First off, let’s cover a few of the main sweetness fakers:

  • Splenda (sucralose)- Yellow packets
  • Sweet ‘N Low- Pink packets
  • Aspartame- Blue packets
  • Stevia- Truvia, Stevia brand
  • Sugar alcohols- Xylitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, etc


As a dietetic student, I hear a LOT of things about “fake sugar.” I’m here to help you with the basics.

The main thing I’ve heard from people: “That stuff gives you cancer and rots your brain”

Aspartame is to blame for this quote.  There have been studies linking aspartame with cancers in mice and rats. Are you a rat or a mouse?  ….didn’t think so. So there may be a chance this translates to a cancer risk in humans.  However, even the lowest dose in the studies I’ve seen (20 parts per million each day) is more than what you’re probably eating/drinking.  That 20 ppm equates to about 6 cans of diet soda a day.  Most studies don’t see a statistically significant effect until more like 12 cans of diet soda a day.  Lesson here:  moderation! Think about it, alcohol causes liver cirrhosis if you drink in excess for a long time.  Does that stop you from going to happy hour? No, probably not. But may stop you from chugging an entire six pack every day.

Another thing I hear often:  “It upsets my stomach”

This can be very true! Sugar alcohols (like xylitol and mannitol) can have a laxative effect if you eat too much of it. This is because most are not absorbed by your body. So ease into eating things like sugar free candies and sugar free gum if you’re not used to it.  Or not, but don’t say I didn’t warn you….

Some people are allergic to fake sugars. People with a genetic condition PKU can’t digest sweeteners that break down to phenylalanine (like aspartame in diet sodas). If you had this issue, you would know.

Last but not least, you CAN use fake sugars in baking! More on that in a different post, but to give you a preview; sucralose is a very easy substitute for home bakers and Splenda brand make a granulated sucralose that measures cup-for-cup for sugar in recipes.

Now that you know the basics, do you have any more questions about fake sugars?  Leave them in a comment and I’ll get back to you.  Until then, keep life simple and sweet….even if you aren’t using sugar!


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