How to Choose an Artificial Sweetener

Artificial sweeteners are sweet and taste similar to sugar, but they have some very distinct differences from sugar in taste and function. Using artificial sweeteners can help cut unnecessary dietary calories and keep blood sugar levels low, however there are some disadvantages to using them. Sweeteners often leave a bitter aftertaste and they are not as easy to cook with as sugar because they react differently to sugar when heated. Due to these differences, knowing what the types of artificial sweeteners are and what makes each one different is key to choosing the one that will work best for you.


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    Know what the most common artificial sweeteners are and what brands offer them. There are many artificial sweeteners found in packaged food, but there are only 4 common artificial sweeteners widely available to consumers in either bulk form or pre-packaged individual serving sizes.
    • Splenda: This is the artificial sweetener sucralose and is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose is calorie free and will not affect blood sugar levels. This sweetener works well for both hot and cold food applications because it has high water solubility and retains its sweetness without developing bitter notes when heated. It can be purchased in individual packets or in a baking mix that has either sugar or maltodextrin in it. Currently, Splenda has a sucralose product with fiber for those looking to increase fiber in their diet. Baking with sucralose can change the texture of food because of the reduced amount needed to achieve sweetness and because it does not melt as well as sugar.
    • Sweet One: This is the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium (also labeled as acesulfame K) and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener works well for beverages and will work well for baking when combined with other sweeteners to bulk it up and help mask a slight bitter note. It doesn’t add any color when cooking, but when used in combination with sugar, it can achieve a golden brown color. Sweet One is mainly sold in individual packets where 1 packet is as sweet as 2 teaspoons of sugar. Acesulfame potassium is calorie free and will not affect blood sugar levels.
    • Sweet N’ Low: This is the artificial sweetener saccharin and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener works best in cold items, such as beverages and whipped cream. However, saccharin does not dissolve readily in cold water. Saccharin doesn’t work well when heated because it develops a bitter taste, but combining it with other sweeteners will mask the bitterness. Sweet N’ Low is available in many forms, including a brown sugar substitute. It is calorie free and has no effect on blood sugar. Saccharin is not recommended for children or pregnant women due to studies showing that saccharin is a possible carcinogen. It is considered safe for use as an artificial sweetener in the US, and since 2000 has not had to carry a warning label.
    • Equal: This is the artificial sweetener aspartame and is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It works well with cold items, but loses sweetness when heated and is not recommended for baking. Equal is mainly sold in individual packets where 1 packet is as sweet as 2 teaspoons of sugar. Aspartame provides 4 calories per gram and has little effect on blood sugar
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    Taste the artificial sweeteners. The amount of sugar 1 packet replaces should be on the package. You should start with a clean palette when tasting.
    • Clean your palette by eating a cracker and drinking some room temperature water (cold or hot water will affect taste buds and may change perception of sweet and bitter) before and after tasting.
    • Take note of the differences between them and decide which you like best plain.
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    Dissolve the sweetener in 8 fluid oz. of water. Dissolving the sweetener in water will tell you 2 things about the sweetener: First, how soluble the sweetener is in water, and, second, how it tastes when diluted. This is helpful when deciding if it will go good in a beverage or in a recipe. If the sweetener doesn’t dissolve well, then it won’t work well for cold items or some recipes that have little moisture in them. If the sweetener is still very sweet when diluted, then you know you will need to use less and vice versa.
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    Determine how much you are willing to spend. All artificial sweeteners are more expensive than sugar, but you can use less.
    • Check the prices per serving by dividing the price by the amount of servings listed on the package. Some will be much more expensive than others and may help determine which artificial sweetener is right for you.


  • Natural sweeteners and artificial sweeteners are very different. Natural sweeteners are close to sugar nutritionally, as opposed to artificial sweeteners that have little or no calories. Natural sweeteners are usually not as sweet as artificial sweeteners, with the exception of Reb-A, an extract from the Stevia plant. Using a natural sweetener would be considered an added sugar and should not be sought out for health benefits. However, it does help in finished food products to combine natural sweeteners with artificial ones to achieve a desired effect, usually for taste and texture, and still reduce the caloric content.


  • There is little research on the effects of artificial sweeteners on unborn babies and children. Most researchers recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners during pregnancy and limiting artificial sweeteners for children. For more information, discuss this with a nutritionist or your healthcare provider.
  • Be aware of the potential health hazards of artificial sweeteners. Although all the artificial sweeteners listed above are considered safe for use in food items, there have been studies linking the use of some artificial sweeteners to bladder cancer. These studies have been reviewed and the FDA has determined they are not valid because the mechanism that caused the tumors in rats is not present in humans. The National Cancer Institute has more information on the studies conducted on artificial sweeteners.
  • Artificial sweeteners may not help you cut back calories as much as previously thought according to a study done at Purdue University. The study suggests that the body’s ability to regulate caloric intake is impaired by the use of artificial sweeteners and that many overeat because of the lack of calories.

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle