Sugar alternatives: Which sweetener is the best?
You can find out more about the dangers of high sugar consumption in our blog post: High sugar consumption is harmful.
The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore recommends consuming no more than 50 g of household sugar (approx. 10 teaspoons) per day. In times when sugar is added to almost all processed foods as a cheap flavor enhancer, this is not so easy. On average, Germans consume around 93 g of sugar a day - almost twice as much as recommended.
But there are alternatives to white household sugar. Read our blog post to find out what they are and whether they really are healthier.
Table of contents:
- Sweeteners: sucralose, stevia, saccharin & Co.
- Sugar alcohols/sugar substitutes/polyols
- Date sweetener, agave syrup and coconut blossom sugar
- Conclusion: Which sweetener is the best?
- Natures Protein: choose your own sweetener
Check the list of ingredients!Sugar is often hidden as an ingredient under names such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose syrup or glucose-fructose syrup. The higher up the ingredient is listed, the more of it is contained in the product.
Sweetener, stevia, coconut blossom sugar, xylitol & Co.: advantages and disadvantages of sweetenersThere are more and more alternatives to sugar in our supermarkets. While a few years ago they were still niche products for diabetics, today they are also known to the masses and are not only popular with those who want to lose weight, but also with athletes and health-conscious people. Here we present the most common sugar alternatives and their advantages and disadvantages.
Sweeteners: sucralose, stevia, saccharin & co.Sweeteners are substitutes that have a very high sweetening power. In some cases, they are 500 times sweeter than conventional household sugar (sucrose). The best-known sweeteners include saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, cylcamate and stevia.
Sweeteners are produced synthetically (e.g. acesulfame or aspartame) or extracted from plants (e.g. stevia or thaumatin). The big advantage of sweeteners: they are the only sugar alternative that has almost no calories. They also have no effect on insulin levels or the development of tooth decay. This is why they are often used in calorie-reduced light products or in foods for diabetics. Disadvantage: Some sweeteners have a licorice-like or bitter aftertaste (e.g. stevia, saccharin and acesulfame).
Sweeteners are classified as food additives. In Germany and Europe, various institutions such as the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment regulate and monitor which additives are safe to use and in what quantities. For sweeteners, therefore, there are specified intake levels that should not be exceeded. Within these maximum amounts, however, the sweeteners approved in the EU are considered to be harmless to health. Nevertheless, sweeteners are repeatedly criticized for increasing the craving for sweets or being carcinogenic. However, this suspicion has not been confirmed in scientific studies.
You can read more about the studies on sweeteners in our FAQ on nutrition.
Sugar alcohols/sugar substitutes/polyolsThey occur naturally in fruit, but can also be produced synthetically. They are particularly popular in chewing gum or sweets as they are non-cariogenic. In terms of sweetening power, sugar substitutes are comparable to household sugar. Their energy content is lower than that of household sugar, but they are not calorie-free. Erythritol has the lowest calorie content at 20 kcal/100 g. The sweetening power of erythritol is 70 % of that of household sugar. Xylitol is also very popular. This so-called birch blossom sugar has the highest sweetening power of all sugar alcohols. Due to its minty taste, it is often used in chewing gum. Other well-known sugar substitutes are maltitol, sorbitol and isomalt.
The disadvantage of many sugar substitutes is that they can have a laxative effect if consumed in excess. How much is tolerated varies from person to person. This is because they are largely indigestible and can therefore bind liquid.
By the way: According to the Food Information Regulation, sugar substitutes and sweeteners can be combined under the term sweetener.
Date sweetener, agave syrup and coconut blossom sugar In addition to synthetically produced sweeteners, there are also many sugar alternatives that are advertised as natural. These are obtained from sweet fruits or plants, for example. Maple syrup, apple syrup, rice syrup, date sugar and agave syrup are particularly popular. Honey or coconut blossom sugar, which has been so popular for some time now, are also natural sweeteners. These sugar alternatives are also popular for cooking, as they not only add sweetness but also a characteristic flavor. Maple syrup, for example, is often used for pancakes due to its caramel-like taste, while apple syrup or honey is used to refine dressings.
One advantage often cited here is that they still contain health-promoting substances (e.g. minerals). However, natural sweeteners are also real calorie bombs and usually contain a comparable number of calories to household sugar. Given the high calorie content, the relatively small amount of minerals is therefore negligible. In addition, these natural sugar alternatives contain a high proportion of fructose, which is also harmful to health in isolated form and in large quantities.
Coconut blossom sugar has only recently become very popular. However, this sugar alternative contains almost as many calories as household sugar and also has a negative impact on the environment due to long transportation routes.