When it comes to sweetener products, the bottom line is that many of us are indulging in too much. It takes only a cursory look at statistics for conditions like adult onset diabetes to see that an overactive sweet tooth is a problem for far too many. Consumers who like to focus on healthy choices still have some options for limiting their intake of various sweeteners.
In drinks like soda, the choices are relatively limited, although consumers can choose conventional or "diet" options. But when it comes to a cup of coffee, it's up to the individual to decide what to put in it. This popular drink is often taken with traditional cane-based sugar crystals, or with packets of chemical artificial sweeteners. Others drink it with nothing at all. But today's coffee drinkers have even more options at their disposal in the form of new natural sweeteners derived from plants other than sugar-cane. The popular stevia plant, as well as agave syrup, are examples of how natural sweeteners are making inroads in the competition among various options for sweetening coffee and other hot drinks.
With all of these available options, how does the consumer choose? Taking a few important aspects into consideration will help individual coffee drinkers, as well as cafes and specialty shops, make decisions about distribution and use of various sweetening agents.
One question when looking at sweeteners is how much the sugars will affect the body's blood sugar. Scientists maintain a glycemic index for monitoring the relative effects of a sweetener on the body's blood sugar levels. This is extremely important for anyone with diabetes or diabetic tendencies, and many are looking at glycemic load, a sweetener's rating on the glycemic index, for making healthy choices.
Although there is a lot of debate about the health effects of artificial sweeteners, many find them to be inherently unsafe. Compounds like sucralose and aspartame have some documented potential for health risks that have many consumers worried. These kinds of sweeteners pop up in 'diet' foods and drinks, and are often provided in packets for sweetening hot drinks. Individual users have to consider whether they see these synthetic sweeteners as health risks.
Some of the above mentioned diet sweeteners are much lower in calories than natural sweeteners like sugar or honey. However, some of the new natural sweeteners can also be extremely low in caloric value. For example, sucralose and related products are found to have only 1 or 2 calories in a teaspoon, where cane sugar crystals are estimated to have around 15. According to some reports, stevia is a no-calorie sweetener in the same amounts. Consulting calorie charts for sweeteners is a critical part of the process for many people who want to find the healthiest choices.
Crystals or Liquid
Yet another choice in coffee sweeteners has to do with something different: logistics. This may seem like something that's not very important, but for those who are tired of dealing with dissolving sugar crystals in coffee, new liquid sweetener extracts make pouring the perfect cup of coffee much easier.
These are just some of the major considerations for choosing the sweetener that will be on your table tomorrow.