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Comparing Sugar Substitutes


What are sugar substitutes?

Sugar substitutes can be used instead of sugar to sweeten foods and drinks. They are also found in many foods sold in grocery stores. These sweeteners are made from chemicals and natural substances.

The most common sugar substitutes are:

  • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet). It's mostly used to sweeten diet soft drinks.
  • Saccharin (Hermesetas). It's used in many diet foods and drinks.
  • Sucralose (Splenda). It's in many diet foods and drinks.
  • Acesulfame-potassium. It's often combined with saccharin in diet soft drinks.
  • Stevia (PureVia, Truvia). Stevia is made from a plant and is used in foods and drinks.
  • Cyclamate. This sugar substitute is available in Canada as a table-top sweetener that you add to food or drinks. Talk to your doctor before using cyclamate, because having too much per day is not safe.

Many people use sugar substitutes as a way to limit how much sugar they eat.

Sugar substitutes provide no energy, so they won't affect your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, these substitutes are generally safe to use.

What are sugar alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are a type of sweetener. They are used in foods labelled "sugar-free" or "no sugar added."

Common names for sugar alcohols are erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH).

Even though a food is "sugar-free," it still has carbohydrate and calories. Having more than 10 grams of sugar alcohols a day may cause gas, bloating, upset stomach, and diarrhea.

If you have diabetes, read food labels closely. Look for the amount of carbs in each serving of food that has sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols don't cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. But they do have some effect on it.

Related Information


Adaptation Date: 11/29/2022

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.