While the traditional coffee drinker insists that the proper way to drink coffee is black, others need to add a little something extra to sweeten up this strong-tasting beverage. Plain, white sugar (or table sugar) usually does the trick, but not everyone wants to or is even able to add extra refined sugar to their diet every time they want a cup of coffee. Here come coffee sweeteners to the rescue!
White sugar isn’t exactly known for its health benefits, and if you are diabetic or otherwise intolerant then you definitely want to limit your intake. That is why it is a good idea to consider a sugar substitute.
It is important to keep in mind that not all coffee sweetener alternatives are created equal. Some may be worse for you than plain, white sugar. If you want to learn more about coffee sweetener alternatives, keep reading for our guide to help you stay on the healthy side.
If you want to change up the flavor of your coffee without a coffee sweetener, check out our list of the best flavored decaf coffee.
When people think of coffee sweeteners, they may automatically think of artificial sweeteners. While an artificial coffee sweetener may contain fewer calories than sugar (if they contain any at all), there is still considerable debate regarding whether or not it is healthier. Let’s look a little more closely at some of the most popular options.
Sweet’N Low uses saccharin as its main sweetener and dilutes it with dextrose. Saccharin needs to be diluted with something as it is about 300-500 times sweeter than sucrose (regular sugar)! Another reason for dilution is that at high concentrations, saccharin tends to have a lingering metallic flavor, which is certainly something that you do not want in any of your food or drink, let alone your coffee!
One of the main reasons people tend to like Sweet’N Low is that it contains little to no calories, but that is because saccharin cannot be digested by the body. So, it does not have any nutritional value whatsoever.
Saccharin was placed on the carcinogen list at one point due to its apparent links to bladder cancer but was removed in the early 2000s due to a lack of hard data supporting this assertion. These days it is generally considered safe for human consumption, though there is still some debate over whether or not it is the best option.
Another popular coffee sweetener alternative is Splenda, which is mostly made of sucralose. This means that it is technically made out of real sugar, but chlorine is added to it to make it about 400-700 times sweeter than the real stuff. Like Sweet N’Low, Splenda contains next to no calories because sucralose cannot be absorbed by your body. Unlike Sweet N’Low, though, Splenda is not known for having a particularly unique flavor or aftertaste outside of its general sweetness.
Whether or not Splenda and sucralose are really good for you is controversial. An animal study has shown that sucralose may negatively affect the healthy bacteria in your gut, though more human studies are needed to establish this link. Until that time, Splenda is considered to be safe overall.
Nutrasweet and Equal
Nutrasweet and Equal are popular brand name products that use aspartame in their sweeteners. Unlike sucralose, aspartame is not made from sugar, but from the natural amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
Like the other artificial sweeteners on our list, aspartame contains virtually no calories, so it is a popular choice for people who are on a diet. It tends to not be quite as sweet as the others, though, as it is only about 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. Perhaps because of this, aspartame tends to have a milder flavor and aftertaste than the other types of artificial coffee sweeteners.
Like Splenda and Sweet N’Low, there is controversy surrounding the health effects of consuming aspartame. It is considered safe to use by government agencies such as the FDA, but some research has called for the re-evaluation of their position. It is also not recommended that people with phenylketonuria or Tardive dyskinesia consume aspartame, as it can cause serious problems. If you have either, talk to your doctor about whether or not you should consume aspartame.
Are There Any Benefits to Using Artificial Sweeteners?
While you should be mindful when consuming artificial sweeteners, there are some potential benefits to using them over sugar in your diet:
- They are not bad for your teeth. Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners do not cause cavities or tooth decay.
- They contain little to no calories. If you are on a calorie-restricting diet, then artificial sweeteners may help you reach your goals.
- They may be safe for diabetics. Artificial sweeteners generally do not significantly impact blood sugar levels, but diabetics should still check with their doctors to see if certain ones are better than others.
If you are nervous about any of the controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners, then you can certainly try some of the natural sweetener options. They are generally considered to be safer than artificial ones, and some may even boast additional health benefits.
If you are looking for a more natural coffee creamer to go with your sweetener, here is our list of best vegan coffee creamers.
Some people may think of stevia as an artificial sweetener, but it is a natural one as it is made from the stevia plant found in South America. It does share some characteristics with artificial sweeteners, though, as it tends to be about 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar and contains virtually no calories. It does not tend to have the same lingering aftertaste that people often complain about with artificial sweeteners, though this may be contested by some.
Unlike artificial sweeteners, however, stevia has some interesting health benefits. Research has shown that stevia may actually help fight or even prevent certain kinds of cancer, such as leukemia, stomach, breast, and lung cancers. Stevia may not be for everyone, though, as some people say it makes them feel bloated or nauseous.
Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol that you can find in fruits such as pears, grapes, and melons. Like stevia and other sugar alternative options, it too has a very low caloric content. But unlike them, erythritol is about 30% less sweet than sugar, so you may need a little more of it than expected if you are using it as a coffee sweetener.
Erythritol may also have health benefits. Some studies have shown that it has some antioxidant properties and may even improve the function of blood vessels.
Xylitol is another natural sugar alcohol that can be found in a lot of fruit and vegetables, though only in small amounts. It tends to be just about as sweet as sugar, but with fewer calories.
One of the biggest benefits of choosing xylitol as your coffee sweetener is that it can improve your dental health. It has been shown to help reduce cavities and prevent tooth decay, whether you use it to replace sugar or just add it to your diet in general.
Coffee Sweetener Alternatives – Final Thoughts
If you are looking to sweeten your coffee with something other than sugar, then you do have a lot of options between artificial and natural coffee sweeteners. Yes, artificial coffee sweeteners do have their critics, but while it is important to be aware of any potential health concerns, remember that they are generally considered to be safe by government organizations. Besides, if you are generally healthy and are only using it in moderation, then you probably do not have too much to worry about.
If you are the worrying type, however, then try to develop a taste for unsweetened coffee or stick with the natural coffee sweeteners. These are again best used in moderation, but at least there are some additional health benefits to be gained by going natural.
If you want to experiment with other natural sweeteners, try adding pure maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, raw honey, blackstrap molasses, agave nectar, cane sugar, coconut oil, or monk fruit extract to your next brew!