By choosing foods made with sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, you can consume sweets that are low in carbs.
There may be a way to satisfy your sweet tooth without loading up on carbohydrates. Most sweet foods and desserts use real sugar, which makes them very high in total carbs. Sweets that use sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or stevia, however, are usually very low in carbs. These alternative sweeteners contain few to no calories, making them ideal for anyone on a low-carb diet.
Sugar Alcohol Sweets
Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners derived from natural sources such as fruits and berries. Because they are converted to glucose more slowly than real sugar, they don't cause spikes in blood sugar. Common varieties include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt and maltitol. Sugar alcohols contain one-half to one-third fewer calories than regular sugar and can be used in a variety of sweet foods such as ice creams, puddings, cookies, candies and chewing gum. These items will be labeled "sugar-free" or "no sugar added."
Artificially Sweetened Foods
Artificial sweeteners contain absolutely no carbohydrates and can be several hundred times sweeter than sugar, depending on the particular variety used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved five artificial sweeteners: sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, neotame and acesulfame potassium. These powerful noncaloric sweeteners are used in many foods, including baked goods, diet drinks, frozen desserts, candy and chewing gum. They can also be purchased as tabletop sweeteners for drinks such as coffee or tea.
Sweets Made with Stevia
Stevia, a natural sweetener obtained from a shrub in Brazil, contains approximately 100 times the sweetening power of regular sugar and no calories. Stevia is steadily is now being used in more foods and drinks. As with other alternative sweeteners, products using stevia are advertised as "sugar-free."
Although foods using low- and no-calorie sweeteners are ideal for low-carb diets, there are a few things to keep in mind. Sugar alcohols, when consumed in excess, can cause have a laxative effect that can lead to upset stomach, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Although artificial sweeteners and stevia are FDA-approved, there are some safety concerns. Certain groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, contend that artificial sweeteners and stevia may present some health risks. Therefore, to help lower any potential risk, be sure to consume these sweeteners in moderation.