Sweeteners or Sugar? Well, Sugar and Honey are generally out as it give us an insulin reaction. Although many low-carb and all “primal/paleo” plans say that very small amounts can be used if sweetness is really desired, on the premise that natural has to be better than chemical, most Low-carbers will turn to sweeteners.
In this country most of our “Granular” Sweeteners are made with Maltodextrin and Aspartame.
This is not a great combination for any type of dieter as Maltodextrin is very high GI. It contains 4Kcal per gram, as per usual for carbs, but its “advantage” is that it is a very low density powder. It only weighs 0.5g per teaspoon, as opposed to 4g for a teaspoon of Sugar. Now, 0.5g doesn’t sound much, but when cooking it starts to add up fast; Using a full cup (250ml) of any Maltodextrin based Sweetener, you are adding 25g of High GI carbs to your recipe. For preference and a low carb count, using either a liquid or ground-up tablet sweetener is preferable.
Added to that, the sweetener Aspartame (Sold in Supermarket Own Brand, and Brand Name Canderel), has one *big* disadvantage. It loses its sweetening power with heated to over 70°C. It also has a short shelf life, doesn’t tolerate acidic conditions well and its taste on break down is really quite inpleasant.
This is a big problem if you want to make LC cakes, biscuits and other things that require “high heat” to cook. There are also a few other major concerns, that you have no doubt heard about if you have been doing any research. (I know from personal experience that when I drink aspartame sweetened drinks, I gain about 7lbs in water bloat.)
What do we have as a practical and also cook-able alternatives? Well…
Saccharin is usually found in tablet form, under both Supermarket own brand and as brand name products “Hermesetas” and “Sweetex”. Saccharin is generally heat stable, but also has a metallic after taste for around half the population.
Cyclamate is very heat stable, again usually found in tablet form in the UK (blended with Saccharin (10:1), as their synergies remove the bitter/metallic notes that one might otherwise taste). It’s not widely sold, but brand name “Cologran” is in Lidl stores and Tesco uses it in their “Everyday Value” Sweetener tablets.
Acesufame K also very heat stable, and widely used in the food industry to add sweetness. However, there are no UK sweetener products for this sweetener on its own. Brand name “Silver Spoon” blends Acesulfame K with Aspartame in both granular and tablet products.
Sucralose is widely sold in both granular and tablet forms as both Supermarket own brand and under the brand names “Splenda” and “Canderel Yellow”. You can also get Sucralose liquid from Amazon.co.uk, and http://www.bulkpowders.co.uk sell a pure Sucralose powder and a flavoured sucralose liquid.
Last but not least, Stevia. Stevia is a South American plant extract, is totally natural, and very sweet! I have a whole page about it. Stevia was approved for the UK food market in 2011, some Supermarkets have an own brand in either granular or tablet form, and UK brand names “Truvia” (from Silver Spoon) and Canderel Green are also available in both these forms.