ZERO CALORIE SWEETENERS

On my quest to discover all zero-calorie sweeteners in stores across the United States,

I found 100s of options and list them here in two groups: natural & artificial.

 

NATURAL SWEETENERS

  • Sugar substitutes labeled as "natural" and "zero-calories" contain sweeteners obtained from a plant. Stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, and allulose are FDA-approved. Based on their sweetness level compared to sugar, they fit into one of two groups: high-intensity or mildly-sweet  

  • High-intensity sweeteners are 100s of times sweeter than table sugar. The natural ones include stevia (the term used to refer to steviol glycosides = refined extracts from the leaves of the stevia plant) and monk fruit (the term used to refer to mogrosides = refined extracts from the monk fruit). Scroll down to see the artificial ones.

 

  • Mildly-sweet carbohydrates labeled as "zero calories" are less sweet than table sugar and include erythritol (a sugar alcohol obtained from corn) and allulose (a rare sugar obtained from corn).

  • Miracle fruit extract (miraculin) is not an FDA-approved ingredient so you are not going to find it as a sugar substitute. It is not an actual sweetener but can enhance the sweetness of acidic foods up to 800 times. You can buy the fruit itself or the extract in tablet form. Read all about it HERE.

  • Find out if a sweetener claimed as "natural" meets your expectations by reading two of my blog posts: 

 
 

ARTIFICAL SWEETENERS

  • Artificial sweeteners are not found in nature. Even if produced from a source material found in nature (such as sucralose, which is made from table sugar) or their component parts are found in nature (such as aspartame, which is split in our body into 3 components widely found in foods), it does not make them a natural sweetener.

  • Six artificial sweeteners are approved as ingredients in sugar substitutes (find them listed below). Saccharin-based products were the first available in stores; the Sweet'N Low brand name has been the most popularAspartame–acesulfame K blends were popular for some time but were surpassed by sucralose, which is the most used of all six.

  • Only a couple of brands use neotame as an ingredient and I have not found sweeteners containing advantame, the most recently approved high-intensity sweetener.

WHAT'S A ZERO-CALORIE SWEETENER?

  • By law, a sweetener may be labeled calorie-free, no-calorie, or zero-calorie if it provides less than 5 cal per serving. One serving is often the amount of product (teaspoon, drops, squeezes) with sweetness equivalent to 1 or 2 teaspoons of table sugar.
     

  • Zero Calorie Sweeteners are available to you in various forms: granulated, powdered, sachets, cubes, tablets, liquid, and syrup. The color code for them tends to be green for stevia, yellow for sucralose, blue for aspartame, and pink for saccharin.

WHAT'S A HIGH-INTENSITY SWEETENER?

  • Most zero-calorie sugar substitutes you find in stores have High-Intensity Sweeteners (HIS), which deliver intense sweetness with no calories and no nutritional benefits. Being several hundred times sweeter than table sugar, they are used in a fraction of the weight of any caloric sweetener

  • Because they are used in such small amounts, they have no effect on volume or mouthfeel. As a result, high-intensity sweeteners are often blended with fillers or bulking agents which give them an overall resemblance to table sugar, making them spoonable & pourable, and masking their off-flavors.

  • As opposed to table sugar, they are used mainly for sweetening purposes and no other culinary role. Pure high-intensity sweeteners (without any additives or fillers) work best in foods that do not require sugars for texture, shelf life, moisture retention, color, and aroma.

  • Two sweeteners—erythritol and allulose—can be labeled as zero calories and sugar-free, but are not high-intensity sweeteners. In fact, both are less sweet than table sugar. In addition, they are not completely free of calories as high-intensity sweeteners. They provide about 1 to 1.5 calories per teaspoon or 40 to 70 calories per cup. Learn more about erythritol HERE and about allulose HERE.

Which high-intensity sweeteners are FDA-approved?

  • Among all, aspartame is the only one approved as a nutritive sweetener because it provides 4 cal per gram. However, it's used in such small amounts that it's effectively non-nutritive. Stevia, monk fruit, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame K, and neotame are non-nutritive sweeteners (0 cal/gram).

  • As I write this, stevia (leaf extract) carries the medal of the most popular high-intensity sweetener, with almost 200 products sold in stores. You can see the complete list here. They contain a variety of stevia leaf extracts such as reb A, reb D, reb M, or stevioside.