Types of Sweeteners and Key Characteristics
San Antonio, TX, Sweeteners can be grouped according to their calorie content (caloric or non-caloric), their source (natural or artificial) or even their chemical structure. Among the caloric ones there are natural and artificial.
The article A current and global review of sweeteners; regulatory aspect says that the caloric natural sweeteners are divided in sugars – sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose – and natural caloric sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, palm or coco sugar and sorghum syrup. The caloric artificial sweeteners are modified sugars –as high fructose corn syrup, caramel, and inverted sugar – and sugar alcohols which include sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and glycerol among others.
The non-caloric sweeteners are also classified in natural and artificial. The natural ones include Luo Han Guo, stevia, brazzein, etc. The artificial non-caloric sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, advantame, etc.
Sugars are carbohydrates and therefore contain four calories per gram. They are found naturally in many foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals and milk. If good oral hygiene is not maintained they can be harmful to teeth. Other natural caloric sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, also contain sugar, but they have other nutritional qualities too. Alcohols derived from sugar are also carbohydrates which are produced naturally, although in small amounts, in plants and cereals. They generally contain less calories per gram than sugar and are not associated with tooth decay. Despite the fact that they are carbohydrates, the body can’t fully metabolize them and, consequently, they tend to have less than 4 calories per gram.
The calorie content in non-caloric natural sweeteners is insignificant compared to the quantities usually used for sweetening purposes. Non-caloric natural sweeteners are not carbohydrates and are considered high-intensity sweeteners. Stevia is probably one of the sweeteners which has recently generated more scientific interest. Its highly purified extract is used as a sugar substitute and it has a slow taste. Although the word ‘stevia’ refers to the whole plant, only certain parts of the stevia leaf are sweet. Furthermore, the term ‘stevia’ typically refers to a crude preparation, which is not authorized by food authorities for human consumption.
The sweet components of the stevia plant are known as steviol glycosides (an alcohol which can be naturally found in the plant) and are the ones which are used as sweeteners in food and beverages. There are several types of steviol glycosides although the most common are stevioside and rebaudioside A. These sweeteners are up to 480 times sweeter than sugar. According to the Global Stevia Institute (GSI), all steviol glycosides are low in calories because they are poorly absorbed in the body. They pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract fully intact and are excreted in the urine.
García Almeida, J.M. Gracia M.ª Casado Fdez. and J. García Alemán: A current and global review of sweeteners; regulatory aspects. Nutrición Hospitalaria, 2013.
SVETIA® Calorie – Free Sweetener is made with cane sugar and stevia extract. One packet of SVETIA® contains only one gram of carbohydrates. People with diabetes are advised to check with their registered dietitian or physician.