These days, you can find a sugar-free alternative for just about any drink you can imagine.
But most sugar-free drinks still contain sweeteners; they’re just sweeteners that aren’t sugar, and they can be either artificial or natural.
The natural sweeteners that are used in sugar-free drinks can be broken down into two groups:
1, ‘Non-nutritive’: natural sweeteners that don’t affect your body like sugar does. Extracted from fruits, veggies and other plants, they contain no sugar so your body doesn’t react to them the way it does to sugar.
Common examples include:
- erythritol – only 70 per cent of regular sugar’s sweetness, but with a very similar feel in your mouth
- stevia - 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar, but can feel a bit astringent in your mouth
- xylitol - 95% of regular sugar’s sweetness, but too much can cause stomach upsets
Even though these sweeteners are ‘good sweet’ powerhouses, most of the big drinks companies don’t use them. In a bid for profit over health, instead they often pump their ‘sugar-free’ drinks with artificial chemical sweeteners that can have some nasty health side effects.
2. ‘Nutritive’: natural sweeteners that aren’t table sugar, but still are loaded with fructose, the type of sugar that our bodies can't metabolise.
Come common examples are:
- coconut sugar
- date sugar
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
Because these sugars occur naturally, many folk consider them to be healthy. But your body can't tell the difference between table sugar and 'natural' sugar. It reacts to these sugars in the same way it reacts to regular table sugar. And they still contribute to your daily six teaspoon sugar limit.
So, long story short: we reckon it’s best to stick with the non-nutritive sweeteners.