Can I substitute stevia or agave nectar for the sugar? What sugar substitutes are safe?
Yes, you can substitute the sugar in many recipes for other sweeteners. However, completely replacing the sugar in baked goods can be tricky. In baking, sugar not only provides sweetness, but it also provides volume, texture, browning, and it helps to retain moisture. Other sweeteners (both artificial sweeteners like stevia and those that provide calories like agave nectar) do not have all of the same properties as sugar, so the final baked product may look and taste different.
Another thing you should know is that not all sweeteners are created equal. Brown sugar, honey, and agave nectar all have just as many carbohydrates and calories as sugar. All of these sweeteners are safe for someone with diabetes to have, but they need to be worked into that individual’s meal plan in the appropriate portion size.
Agave nectar is a popular ingredient these days because it has a lower glycemic index than the other sweeteners that provide calories. Using it in place of sugar may cause a less severe blood glucose. However, remember that even without sugar, baked goods still have other carbohydrates in them that will cause blood glucose to rise. (These other carbohydrates can come from flour, brown sugar, chocolate, and recipe other ingredients).
There are several artificial sweeteners that you can buy in stores: aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose. Artificial sweeteners are very low calorie and have fewer carbs than agave nectar, honey, or sugar. Aspartame should not be used in baking because it loses its sweet flavor at high temperatures.
Some brands offer pre-packaged blends of sugar and artificial sweeteners. These blends are formulated to be used in baking. They are half-sugar and half-artificial sweetener, so they have half the calories and carbohydrate as sugar, which will help to cut down on the total carbs and calories in your baked good.
It’s true – replacing the sugar in a recipe can be complicated. My suggestion? Find a recipe that has already includes the sugar substitute for you. You can also choose to read and follow the directions for substituting sugar on the package of the sweetener on your own. Often, you can visit the company’s website to find recipes as well.
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