The best sugar substitute
Love sugar but not its impact on your diet? Nowadays, sugar substitutes come close in flavor and consistency -- all without spiking glucose or ballooning your caloric intake.
Sugar substitutes are ideal for diabetics as well as diet-conscious individuals. These sweet alternatives typically include stevia, monk fruit, and sugar alcohols -- just to name a few. Depending on their consistency, which ranges from coarse granules to powder, you can cook, bake, and sweeten beverages with them. Since they don't have the same impact on glucose as regular sugar, they're a healthy substitute that keeps you on track for daily and long-term health goals.
Before you make another cup of tea or bake another cake, take a look at our buying guide for best sugar substitutes. We're including our favorite from So Nourished, which has a flavor that's just about as close to sugar as you can get.
Considerations when choosing sugar substitutes
Types of sugar substitutes
Artificial sweeteners: You probably recognize artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal) or sucralose (Splenda). They're popular for their intense sweetness level, as well as for having low or zero calories.
While they provide sweetness in everyday beverages and foods, they're not well-suited for baking. Some people cite digestive issues with artificial sweeteners, and certain studies suggest that they have long-term effects on the body.
Natural sweeteners: Coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey are all natural sweeteners. Their sweetness is comparable to that of sugar, but unlike other substitutes, they're very caloric. While they don't do much by way of cutting calories, they're considered a more natural alternative than using white sugar.
Novel sweeteners: Novel sweeteners are essentially natural substances that, in some forms like stevia, are FDA-approved. These sweeteners are typically low in calories, and there are some studies that suggest they have potential health benefits, like the ability to lower blood pressure. It's also important to read the labels for novel sweeteners, as many of their formulas include other types of sugar substitutes -- some of which have gastrointestinal effects.
Sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols, like erythritol and xylitol, typically have fewer calories than sugar. They're found in fruits and vegetables, and when used to sweeten processed foods, can have a positive impact on oral health. Like other substitutes, sugar alcohols can upset sensitive stomachs.
Since sugar substitutes vary in their sweetness level, it's no surprise that you need to consider which beverages and goods you will add them to. Some sweeteners, such as stevia, are sweeter than sugar, so only a trace amount is needed for coffee or tea. Other sweeteners like honey or maple syrup may need to be used in larger amounts when they're used in baking or cooking.
Drawbacks of using sugar substitutes
Flavor can be a deal-breaker for some people, as they simply cannot land on a sugar substitute they like. Some consumers complain of chemical flavors and bizzare aftertastes, whereas other people say it just takes some time to get accustomed. Regardless, it takes quite a few taste tests to discover which sugar substitute pleases your palate.
Another concern with sugar substitutes is how they affect your body. Short-term effects may include gastrointestinal difficulties and migraine triggers. As far as long-term effects, some studies suggest that sugar substitutes unknowingly lead to weight gain since they may boost a desire to consume sweetened beverages and foods.
Sugar substitutes typically cost between $0.50 to $1 or more per ounce. Baking substitutes tend to cost more per bag, much closer to the $1 mark. If you're looking for individual packets to sweeten drinks (which are not recommended for baking), expect to pay between $0.04 to $0.08 per packet.
Q. Do sugar substitutes taste a lot different than regular sugar?
A. Yes, but what they do have in common with sugar, though, is their sweetness. With that said, each sugar substitute tastes different from one another. Some people like the earthy flavor of monk fruit, whereas other people like the sweet bite of aspartame.
Q. Can I use half sugar and half sugar substitute in a recipe?
A. This works better for sweetening beverages than or baking. With that said, there may still be a bit of a tangy flavor profile, but it's a great way to ease into using the substitute over sugar.
Sugar substitutes we recommend
Best of the best: So Nourished's Erythritol Sweetener Granular
Our take: Taste is as close to real sugar as you can get without spiking glucose.
What we like: Safe for diabetics. One of few substitutes that can be used for baking. Non-GMO and vegan-friendly.
What we dislike: Can affect those with sensitive stomachs, and some people report a strange cooling aftertaste with it.
Best bang for your buck: Pyure's Organic All-Purpose Stevia Sweetener Blend
Our take: Blend of stevia and erythritol meets taste expectations while maintaining a low glycemic impact.
What we like: Granulated blend that is twice as sweet as sugar and can be used for baking.
What we dislike: A slightly unpleasant aftertaste. Some gastrointestinal issues have been reported.
Choice 3: Swerve's Bakers Bundle Two-Pack
Our take: Unique baking two-pack that includes one substitute for granulated white sugar and one for confectioner's sugar.
What we like: Low-glycemic impact. Unlike other substitutes, no need to adjust or balance ingredient ratios.
What we dislike: Can cause some stomach issues, and the aftertaste isn't well-liked by some people.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.