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Pour some sweetener on me


Splenda tied Sugar in the Raw for second place in this taste test.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Splenda tied Sugar in the Raw for second place in this taste test. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Monica Eng Chicago Tribune

Navigating the menu at the local coffee shop is perplexing enough. But now most of us face no less than five sweeteners at the condiment counter. Which are we supposed to choose? Don’t some of these have scary side effects? And – most important – what will people think of us for our choice? We convened a panel of coffee- drinking journalists to taste, analyze and judge the flummoxing five.

White table sugar

What is it? Sucrose, sugar derived from sugar cane.

Taste: Sweet without chemical flavor.

Health issues: Sugar intake causes the body to release insulin, which promotes the storage of fat – thus the sugar phobias of Atkinsites.

Diet/carb issues: 15 calories and 5 grams of carbs per packet.

Package: Plain and simple.

What they think of you: Obviously not counting calories or carbs. What’s up with that?

Splenda

What is it? Made with sugar in a process that adds chlorine. 600 times sweeter than sucrose.

Taste: Pleasant, candy-like sweetness.

Health issues: The manufacturer says that it has gone through hundreds of safety tests; one taster’s doctor told him to watch his intake to avoid tooth decay and flatulence.

Diet/carb issues: Atkins recommended. Each packet contains no calories and less than 1 gram of carbs.

Package: Cheery, yellow and modern.

What they think of you: Must be on Atkins and into the new and trendy.

Sugar in the Raw

What is it? Unrefined turbinado cane sugar from Hawaii.

Taste: Tastes like sugar with a hint of molasses.

Health issues: Not refined, so it retains nutrients washed out of white sugar; otherwise no different from white sugar in terms of insulin and fat storage.

Diet/carb issues: 20 calories per pack and 5 grams of carbohydrates.

Package: Earthy.

What they think of you: Lefty health freak.

Sweet’n Low

What is it? Saccharin. 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose.

Taste: Chemical aftertaste.

Health issues: FDA banned it in the early ‘70s after studies linked it to cancer in animals. Reapproved in 1977.

(Weird note: Made by the same company as Sugar in the Raw. Go figure.)

Diet/carb issues: Fewer than 4 calories and less than 1 gram of carbs.

Package: Girlie pink.

What they think of you: Major old-school dieter.

Equal

What is it? Aspartame, dextrose and maltodextrin. 160 to 220 times sweeter than sucrose.

Taste: Not as sweet as Sweet’n Low, with a slight chemical taste.

Health issues: The FDA has approved it, but some groups remain concerned about its effects.

Diet/carb issues: No calories and less than 1 gram of carbs.

Package: Cool in a retro sort of way.

What they think of you: On a diet since the 1980s.

The verdict

The winner: White table sugar

Tied in second: Splenda and Sugar in the Raw

Third: Sweet’n Low

Last place: Equal

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