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When Reading the Nutrition Label isn't Enough

I'm frustrated. No really, I am. Years ago I kicked my sugar addiction, and it was an insanely hard thing to do. I did it by making sweet tea, and gradually reducing the amount of sugar in it. From 2 cups, to a cup and half, to 1 cup, half a cup, and then finally to none. This got rid of my sugar craving for the most part, however I still wanted something sweet.

Enter sugar substitutes.

The first part of this process was replacing sugar was switching from regular cola to diet cola. This one wasn't so bad, as even if you down a whole 2 liter of Diet Coke, it's only roughly 19.6 calories. Also using sugar free alternatives to other stuff such as pancake syrup, these usually contain sugar alcohols, and you don't digest that, so while they say they have calories, they actually don't.

But what about the stuff you want sweetened outside of prepackaged goods, like coffee? Enter Sucralose (Splenda) packs. Instead of getting a big ol pack of sugar, you can instead replace it with a big ol pack of "Zero-calorie" sucralose. Sounds great right? Wrong. If you look at the USDA's Food Data website, they list pretty much everything that's in it, and you'll be surprised to know that 100g of sucralose is 337 calories! What the hell? That's almost the same as regular sugar! But Sucralose doesn't digest in the body, so how the hell is this possible? Well, you see, Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar, if they were to distribute pure packs of it, it would effectively nuke your taste buds with sweetness. So, they add a filler called Maltodextrin, and this is where the problem lies.

The Bad News

Maltodextrin is effectively flavorless sugar, when it enters the body is turns into Glucose. Meaning, when you consume Sucralose, you are effectively consuming regular table sugar in terms of carbs and calories. But if this is the case, how do they get away from calling it 0 calorie? Simple, the serving size of 0.5g (1 Teaspoon), and the FDA's policy on being able to label your product as 0 calories is that the serving size has to provide under 5 calories to be considered 0 calories. Thus, if Splenda just says the serving size is 1 teaspoon, they can get away with calling it 0 calorie and diabetic friendly.

This tactic is actually used in cooking oil spray, whose serving size if "1/4 of a second". But if you look at the USDA's food-data website. A 100g of cooking oil spray is 1670 calories! Hardly 0 calories now is it?

So what do?

The simplest thing to do, is to treat Sucralose as more expensive sugar in it's pack/packet form. If you're using it, switch to Sugar Alcohol or Stevia (though, you'll have to be careful with this, as I think it has the same problem). Also, stuff that has Sucralose in it, is not necessarily evil. Remember: It's the Maltodextrin in the packs that's basically sugar, not the Sucralose itself. So if you get a cola that has sucralose in it, you're probably good! And, don't make the same mistake i've been making for almost 5 years now. Always check the USDA's Food Database to see if what you're reading on the nutrition label is actually true, or if it's a devilish half truth