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Healthy Artificial Sweetener Tips

Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

For more than 100 years, chemists have been working to create the perfect artificial sweetener -- one that tastes good and has no calories. Although the FDA maintains that these products are safe, some scientists believe aspartame could cause cancer.

Most artificial sweeteners also contain chlorocarbons, which some consumer advocates and doctors think pose similar health risks. And then, of course, there's the issue of flavor: These products are often sickeningly sweet (up to 700 times more than sugar).

Eat natural cane sugar, which in moderation shouldn't cause health problems. Plus, there are only 16 calories per teaspoon.

More Careful
Many health-care practitioners prefer natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt, and agave nectar (from cacti), which take longer to digest than sugar and don't cause dramatic changes in blood sugar levels. Baking with these takes some getting used to (and generally means using less of other liquids).

Most Careful
If you must use a noncaloric sweetener, try stevia, made from the crushed leaves of the stevia plant, native to South America. Stevia is up to 300 times as sweet as regular sugar, but it doesn't affect glucose levels, making it very popular with diabetics. You can find it at health-food stores in powdered or liquid form.

Sweeter Sweeteners
These are the FDA-approved artificial sweeteners:

Sold as: Sweet'N Low
Sweeter than Sugar: 200-700%

Sold as: NutraSweet, Equal
Sweeter than Sugar: 200%

Sold as: Sunett
Sweeter than Sugar: 200%

Sold as: Splenda
Sweeter than Sugar: 600%

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