Every carb gram counts when you're following a low-carb diet, especially during the early phases of a few of the most popular plans. With 4 grams of carbs per teaspoon, sugar is out, but you may be able to use certain artificial sweeteners instead. If you're not sure about artificial sweeteners on your low-carb diet, consult your doctor for guidance.
Sucralose Is Low in Carbs
Sucralose is a low-carb artificial sweetener made by chemically altering actual sugar to create an extremely sweet product. It's 600 times sweeter than regular sugar and has 3 calories and 0.9 gram of carbs per packet. Of all the artificial sweeteners, sucralose is lowest in calories. In fact, most of the sucralose passes right through because your body isn't able to absorb it, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. In addition to packets, sucralose is also available in bulk form so you can bake with it to create low-carb sweet treats. It's also used to sweeten a number of low-calorie food products such as drinks, gum, diet ice cream and gelatin.
Aspartame in a Low-Carb Diet
Aspartame is made from protein, more specifically the amino acids spartic acid and phenylalanine. It's a little more than 200 times sweeter than sugar and has 4 calories and 0.9 gram of carbs per packet. You can't cook with aspartame, but you can use the artificial sweetener in drinks such as coffee and tea on your low-carb diet.
There is concern that aspartame may be linked to cancer, and very high intakes of it may increase risk of blood-borne cancers such as leukemia, according to studies done on rats. The validity of these studies have been questioned, however, according to the American Cancer Society, and both the Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority consider aspartame safe to use.
Because aspartame is made with the amino acid phenylalanine, people with phenylketonuria -- a rare genetic disorder characterized by the body's inability to break down phenylalanine -- shouldn't consume drinks or food that contain it.
Old School Saccharin
It may be hard to believe, but saccharin has been around for more than 100 years. Chemically known as ortho-sulfobenzoic acid imide, saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar and has 4 calories and 0.9 gram of carbs per packet, making it good choice for your low-carb diet. While you can add saccharin to anything, and even cook with it, you may not like saccharin because of its bitter taste.
As is the case with aspartame, there are cancer concerns surrounding the use of saccharin. Studies from the 1970s showed that high doses of saccharin lead to bladder cancer in rats. There's no link to saccharin and cancer in humans, however, according to the American Cancer Society.
Pregnant women shouldn't use saccharin because the fetus doesn't clear it quickly, according to the American Medical Association.
Fitting in All-Natural Stevia
With 1 gram of carb per packet, stevia also makes a good choice if you're trying to limit carbs. And unlike the other sweeteners, stevia is calorie-free. It's also 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. The sweetener is made from steviol glycosides extract, which comes from the stevia plant. Stevia has been used around the world for years, but it was only approved for use in food in the United States in 2008, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. Stevia can be used to sweeten both food and drinks.
There are also cancer concerns surrounding stevia, but not enough long-term studies have been done to determine risk, according to the American Council on Exercise.
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Stevia, Sugar
- HealthAliciousNess.com: Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool: Saccharin, Aspartame, Sucralose
- MedlinePlus: Sweeteners
- International Food Information Council Foundation: Everything You Need to Know About Sucralose
- American Cancer Society: Aspartame
- Diabetes Self-Management: Sugar Substitute: Saccharin
- American Cancer Society: Artificial Sweeteners
- International Food Information Council Foundation: Stevia Sweeteners: Another Low-Calorie Option
- American Council on Exercise: The Truth About Stevia — The So-Called "Healthy" Alternative Sweetener