Best sugar substitutes reviewed

May 31, 2010 8:39:19 AM PDT
In the next couple of years, sales of sugar substitutes are expected to top three billion dollars.

There are plenty out there, including newer ones like Truvia and Agave Nectar.

But how well do they kill a sweet craving and save you calories? Consumer Reports just tested to find out.

For many of us, sweet treats and cakes like these are irresistible. But, boy, can they wreck a diet! So what about lower-calorie sweeteners?

Consumer Reports just tested 11 different ones. Among them Natra Taste Gold and Splenda, Equal, and Sweet'N Low.

Also in the tests - Agave Nectar and Stevia products - marketed as plant-based "natural" alternatives.

"We looked at calories and price and tasted them to see how they compare with sugar," said Amy Keating of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports tried the sweeteners in coffee and lemonade. The Sweet'N Low tasted bitter in the lemonade and had a lingering artificial sweetener flavor in both drinks. Even the natural sweeteners had some problems.

"Most of the Stevia-based sweeteners tasted bitter, often with a chemical or medicinal off-flavor," said Keating.

Many sweeteners sold in bulk packages claim to be "perfect for cooking and baking" - so testers baked cakes, too.

"Most of the sweeteners didn't do well in our cake tests. That's because sugar does a lot more than add sweetness," said Keating. "It helps cakes rise and brown and gives them that great texture that we all love."

Sweeteners that come blended with regular sugar did do a better job with cakes. But the added sugar adds more calories, too.

So sugar substitutes are better for drinks. Consumer Reports says two to try -- Splenda and Equal. They have slightly less off-flavors and just might cure a sweet tooth.

Madhava Agave Nectar also did well in Consumer Reports' taste tests of lemonade and coffee. But because it contains fructose, which is a type of sugar, it only saves you a few calories. And it costs a lot more than regular sugar.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2010. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumerreports.org.


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