Are sugar-free lollies better for you?
Halloween is a good excuse to break out the lollies, but if you want a healthier option should you reach for sugar-free sweets instead of traditional treats?
Not so fast, say experts.
Joel Feren, of Dietitians Australia, says before indulging your sweet tooth it’s important to know that sugar-free lollies are not necessarily better for you – nor do they give you a licence to indulge.
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What’s in sugar-free lollies?
Sugar-free lollies use artificial sweeteners to create that sweet taste but without the sugar, according to Joel.
Often they are found in gums, mints, candy and soft drinks and are even used in cakes and pastries.
There are plenty of different products on the market but here are some common types:
Derived from plants in South America, stevia is considered a natural sweetener that is low in calories and is a popular choice for lolly makers.
Around since the 1970s, xylitol is a crystalline substance common in diabetic-friendly foods and contains 40 per cent less calories than traditional sugar.
Considered a sugar alcohol, maltitol is a water soluble sweetener and occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and has been given the tick of approval by the World Health Organisation.
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Are sugarless lollies good for you?
Sugar-free lollies have no nutritional value, so experts do not consider them beneficial to health.
But on the plus side, they don’t impact your waistline as much as traditional candy so they can help if you’re watching your weight or have a medical condition, according to Joel.
“Non-nutritive sweeteners can help those with diabetes better manage their blood glucose levels,” he says.
“Nevertheless, they are still considered a discretionary choice and according to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, they should only be consumed on occasion, not every day.
“If consumed in excess, some types of sweeteners can also have adverse side effects such as pain, cramping, bloating and diarrhoea.”
Joel recommends not eating too many sugar-free products and looking out for names like mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, and sorbitol on the packaging.
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Do sugar alternatives harm teeth?
It’s a common misconception that sweeteners do not impact your teeth, according to Australian Dental Association oral health promoter Dr Mikaela Chinotti.
“Compared to conventional sugar ingredients such as cane sugar and glucose syrup, which can contribute to the development of tooth decay, artificial sweeteners used in sugar-free lollies do not,” says Dr Chinotti.
“However, these lollies can contain high levels of acids (e.g. citric acid), which can still negatively affect your teeth.
“What is important is not continuing to graze on them over the course of the day or several days and to keep good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing daily.”
Written by Alex White