For many the act of getting out of bed in the morning requires the sweet smell of coffee. But on its own, sweet does not really describe coffee at all. Black coffee, a term used to describe coffee without any additions, often stimulates an acidic if not bitter taste, depending on the type of coffee bean and method of roasting. To take away the edge and sweeten the flavor, many add sugar. Adding sugar, however, adds calories. To avoid added calories and the resulting added weight, many types of sugar substitutes offer a healthy alternative.
Artificial sweetener describes a group of sugar substitutes created through synthetic processes – meaning in a laboratory. Although synthetic, some are derived from natural substances. Because most artificial sweeteners add little to no calories, according to MayoClinic.com, using them in coffee adds with sweetness without adding unwanted calories. Therefore, artificial sweeteners help to control weight. In addition, patients with diabetes can use artificial sweeteners and they also provide the benefit of not contributing to dental cavities.
Common artificial sweeteners available for table-top use in beverages such as coffee include acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Some animal studies indicate that sweeteners, such as saccharin, may contribute to cancer, but studies conducted in humans do not support these findings, according to the American Heart Association. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the use of these artificial sweeteners, allowing coffee-drinkers a healthy substitute for sugar.
A sugar alcohol is a carbohydrate that occurs in fruits and vegetables, and despite the name contains no alcohol. Manufacturers of processed foods often use sugar alcohols, such as mannitol or sorbitol, as a substitute for sugar. One sugar alcohol available for table-top use, Stevia, comes from an herb native to the tropical regions of North and South America. Although sweeter than sugar, Stevia provides no added calories, making it a potentially healthier alternative to sugar. When sweetening your morning coffee with Stevia, use it more sparingly than sugar to avoid losing the flavor, body and aroma of the coffee.
Natural sweeteners can be used to sweeten drinks, including coffee or tea, or in making baked goods such as cakes or cookies. Common natural sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, maple sugar or molasses. These natural sweeteners; however still contain calories, just as sugar, so do not provide any additional health benefits over using sugar. Some less well-known natural sweeteners may provide health benefits. Coconut sugar, made from the coconut palm sugar blossom, contains beneficial nutrients, including B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Although still a carbohydrate, it fails to raise blood sugar as much as traditional sugar so diabetics can use it. It also contains fewer calories than traditional sugar. So sweetening that morning cup of coffee does not have to add on pounds.