Sometimes there is nothing more tempting than a sweet treat. Sometimes when you crave something sweet, you just feel the need to give up. We are all humans. We’ll get it.
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For people looking to cut down on the amount of added sugar, sugar substitutes may seem like a cheat code for a healthier dessert. They’re cute. They are “better for you”. They get the job done.
So when a new kind of sweetener hits the market, you might wonder if that’s all it’s supposed to be.
Enter allulose, new to the block of sugar substitutes.
What is allulose? And is this the alternative you are looking for? Registered Dietitian Anthony DiMarino, MD, talks about the new candy.
What is allulose?
Allulose is a natural sugar found in figs, raisins, wheat, maple syrup, and molasses. It is sweet like table sugar (sucrose) but without some of the well-documented drawbacks of sugar.
You can find allulose for sale online and in some retail stores. Because it occurs naturally in very small amounts, the allulose you find in commercial packaging is not its natural form. Nutritionists have created it artificially from fructose (fruit sugar).
“Chemically, allulose is similar to fructose, which is naturally found in fruits,” explains DiMarino. “It’s about 70% sweeter than sugar, so it tastes very similar. It is also not absorbed by the body and therefore does not contribute to daily calorie intake.”
This sounds like a win for those looking to cut back on sugar. But before diving in, DiMarino will tell us the pros and cons.
Pro: Considered safe by the FDA
Allulose is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which considers it “generally recognized as safe.” It is also approved in Japan, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea.
DiMarino says Canada and European countries may have stricter food safety regulations than the US. Allulose is not yet approved for use in Canada or Europe. There, allulose is considered a “new food,” meaning that it hasn’t been available long enough to be sufficiently tested according to those governments’ standards.
Pros: Tastes like regular sugar
Artificial sweeteners can get a bad rap for not tasting as much like real sweeteners as some people might hope. Anyone who has tried sugar-free ice cream knows that it is not at all the same as sweetened.
Research shows that allulose tastes very similar to the sugar you know and love. It does not have the bitter or chemical taste associated with some other artificial sweeteners. And studies show that people find the sweetness of allulose comparable to that of sugar.
Pros: low calories
Allulose contains approximately 0.4 calories per gram (or 1/4 teaspoon) compared to 4 calories per gram of table sugar. And because allulose isn’t absorbed by the body the way sugar is, those tiny fractions of calories don’t count at all, DiMarino says.
Pros: does not affect insulin
Allulose does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels, making it a viable replacement for people living with diabetes.
Benefits: Does not cause cavities
Your dentist will thank you for this. Unlike sugar, allulose is not metabolized in the mouth, which helps prevent cavities and other dental problems.
Cons: It can be expensive
If there’s one thing you probably remember from high school economics, it’s most likely something like this: low supply + high demand = higher price.
“Allulose occurs in nature only in small amounts and requires some processing. This makes the price higher than some other sweeteners,” notes DiMarino. “Allulose is currently not widely used. You won’t see it on the counter at your local coffee shop or in packaged foods, at least not yet. It doesn’t make financial sense for companies to include it at this time.”
And whether it makes financial sense in your household depends on your situation and your needs. Consider these current prices for sugar and sugar substitutes available online:
|Sweetener||Estimated cost per ounce|
|Sweet’N Low (saccharin)||$0.27|
FROMon: Possible side effects
When consumed in large amounts, allulose can cause stomach discomfort, including gas, bloating, and nausea. This is true for most other artificial sweeteners as well.
And contrary to some popular myths, the National Cancer Institute claims that studies have not shown that artificial sweeteners cause cancer.
Other sugar substitutes
Allulose joins the list of eight FDA-approved sugar substitutes. All are recognized for their contribution to weight management, diabetes control, and caries prevention:
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett®, Sweet One®).
- Aspartame (Equal®, NutraSweet®).
- Luo han guo (monk fruit extract).
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®, Sweet Twin®, Sugar Twin®).
- Sucralose (Splenda®, Equal Sucralose®).
- Stevia (Truvia®, Stevia in the Raw®, SweetLeaf® Sweet Drops™, Sun Crystals®, PureVia®).
The right sweetener for you will largely depend on your taste preferences and budget, according to DiMarino.
“In many ways, allulose is quite comparable to other sugar substitutes,” he continues. “Each sweetener has its own taste and texture. In addition, they are very similar nutritionally.”
If you want to sweeten your diet with a new sugar substitute, try allulose. But DiMarino reminds you that just because it’s not exactly sugar doesn’t mean that allulose, or any artificial sweetener, is the healthiest way to succumb to sweets.
“Your best choice in terms of nutrition will always be your first approach to eating,” says DiMarino. “If you’re looking for something sweet – and we all do sometimes – look first for fresh fruit and small portions of naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in honey, dairy or molasses.”