Can sugar-free products be used liberally? – Myth
I am asked this question so often by my clients. This is since scientist have sounded the alarm that sugar is the culprit to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, uric acid, etc. And hence, people today wish to switch to sugar substitutes.
Let us understand what is sugar substitute? A sugar substitute (artificial sweetener) is a food additive that duplicates the effect of sugar in taste, which is usually low caloric or non-caloric. Some sugar substitutes are natural and some are synthetic or artificial.
- Natural sugar substitutes include glycerol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, stevia, etc.
- Artificial sugar substitutes include acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, etc.
There is an increase in use of artificial sweeteners by food & beverage industry due its advantages like weight loss, dental care, controlled blood sugar, improves blood pressure, low cost availability, etc. But how much of artificial sweeteners can we consume?
Regulatory bodies set Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) levels. Which means the maximum amount of a food additive that can be safely consumed daily without any adverse effects. And the range is high, we usually eat much lesser.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know exactly how much of sugar substitutes we Indians consume. Since most of the food labels don’t mention the amounts present in their food products.
Also, food products with artificial sweeteners are marketed as “Sugar free!”. Stores nearby are filled up with such products like sugar-free biscuits, sugar-free chocolates, sugar-free ice creams, sugar free sweets, etc. I know it sounds good but let’s understand what a sugar free food really means.
- When a food product is reduced in sugar they also take away a lot of what gives that food some flavour.
- To compensate for this flavour loss they add artificial sweeteners which is calorie free. But that doesn’t mean the product is calorie free.
- The caloric content of the food product comes down due to no sugar but it still contains calories from FAT and CARBOHYDRATE!
Like if we talk about dudhi halwa, you might eat it less thinking it is laden with sugar. And when you have sugar-free halwa, you keep eating thinking it is healthy. By doing this you do not get calories from sugar since it is replaced by an artificial sweetener, but what about calories from khoa, ghee, etc.? Ever thought that way?
So, though there are benefits of sugar substitutes, they will not be fully realized if there is a compensatory increase in caloric intake from other ingredients. Hence, sugar free products cannot be consumed liberally!