I can't believe it's not sugar!
June 8, 2008 1:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some sugar substitutes (other than Xylitol) that can be used in coffee, tea, and [unsweetened] juices that won't rot my teeth.

I'm looking for some sugar substitutes that I can use in my tea, coffee, and juices. I tend to use a lot of sugar -- about two or three teaspoons depending on what it is I'm drinking -- so I'm trying to find something that's a little easier on my teeth. Any suggestions?

I've tried Xylitol, but I didn't like the odd flavor it had, nor did I like how much of it I had to use to actually sweeten my drinks. Though, to be fair, it did say on the bag that it shouldn't be used in drinks, but I didn't know that when I ordered it. I should also mention that I'm aware that most sugar substitutes will probably have an odd flavor, so I don't need to be lectured on that. I'm just looking for an odd flavor I can stand.

I'm allergic (not severely, but enough to keep me from using anything that contains it) to aspartame and saccharin, if that matters.
posted by Dreamcast to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, there's Sucralose, or you could try taking Miracle Fruit before drinking bitter coffee.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 AM on June 8, 2008

Maybe try stevia?
posted by scody at 1:46 AM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I'd suggest you try better quality coffee. Low quality coffee needs more sweeteners to be palatable, while a really good coffee is enjoyable without any sugar. Of course, this depends on your personal taste. This will protect your teeth as much as anything, other than bypassing the coffee in entirety, which is an absurd notion.

Sugar alcohols such as Xylitol are fine for teeth as far as I know, but the amount you use might be problematic. Sugar alcohols have a laxative effect, and combining that with coffee is very likely a bad idea. Delmoi has a few good suggestions, such as Miracle Fruit, but the cost can be prohibitive. Sucralose is more popularly known as Splenda, and it may be your best choice if you're stuck with terrible coffee.
posted by Saydur at 2:06 AM on June 8, 2008

I saw debittered stevia for sale at a bulk food store here, that might be good in coffee since some stevia has a bit of a herbaceous bitterness to it. I've never really been one for sweet coffee FWIW.
posted by glip at 4:11 AM on June 8, 2008

I've never been one for stevia, but Splenda has been pretty good to me so far.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:57 AM on June 8, 2008

I use Fiber Fit (which is made with Sucralose) and do enjoy it. I've tried everything I could get my hands on and it's the only one (besides Splenda) that didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth.

There's also an interesting article called Sugar-Free Blues that is worth a read for anyone interested in the variety of Sweeteners.
posted by mcarthey at 5:16 AM on June 8, 2008

I prefer Sweetleaf. It comes in pre-sized packets, so you know how much to put in. I don't notice any aftertaste (but I don't eat anything but stevia, so ymmv).
posted by dirtmonster at 5:38 AM on June 8, 2008

Sucralose, available as Splenda, works for many people. A small percentage of the population detects a bitter aftertaste, but most people just find it sweet, and a sweetness close to sugar, but without the mouth feel of real sugar. The molecule is exceptionally stable and passes through the body without breaking down. You probably will not be allergic, but of course it pays to start slowly.

Now, as for putting sugar into coffee, now that is blasphemy. Why ruin a perfectly good cup of joe with sweetenr? ;) Anyway, just skipping the sweetener will also save your teeth.
posted by caddis at 5:53 AM on June 8, 2008

I used that Flavia thing and liked the Milky Way latte.. it sounds nasty but it actually was pretty good cause you don't need to add sugar and it kinda grows on you.
posted by 0217174 at 6:09 AM on June 8, 2008

All of the fake sugars taste really nasty to me (I'm definitely in the group that gets the bitter aftertaste, plus it tastes funny in my mouth before I get to the aftertaste). So when I decided I should be drinking less sugar a couple of years ago, I just retrained my palate to enjoy the drinks without sweetening.

Definitely you should try the standard fake sugars (the yellow and blue and pink packets you can steal from a cafe). But if they don't work for you, or you get worried about the health implications, learning to do without was a lot easier than I had expected.

It really helps to have better quality drinks (coffee especially), because if the coffee tastes good on its own you don't need the sugar to cover up the bitterness. With juice, I just try to buy the 100% juice stuff, rather than the sugary fake juice varieties. And I really like the taste of honey in herbal tea, so I just go ahead and enjoy that in moderation.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on June 8, 2008

Agave syrup? it's sweeter than sugar, so you'd have to use less of it. Also, it dissolves in cold drinks.
posted by piratebowling at 6:41 AM on June 8, 2008

This tip is coffee-only -- and it's not precisely a sweetener. I brew my coffee along with chunks of cinnamon. This gives a delicious hint of sweetness to the coffee that might let you use a little less sugar.

Chunk cinnamon is the way to go, because powdered cinnamon makes coffee cloudy (and doesn't taste as good either). You can get it from Penzey's.
posted by tomboko at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2008

I've had great success with the stevia from a Texas-based company, Stevita. Their spoonable stevia is just great, no aftertaste, it's really outstanding. I've turned a number of friends onto these folks, and we're all happy campers.
posted by dbiedny at 8:20 AM on June 8, 2008

I'd suggest not worrying about the sweetener in your drinks, because the acid in the drinks is damaging, not just the sugar. Chew gum with xylitol after drinking those kinds of things, if it's just your teeth you're worried about.

Otherwise, for low-cal purposes, I really prefer Splenda to any of the other "packet" sweeteners.
posted by eldiem at 8:48 AM on June 8, 2008

In coffee, specifically, I find that splenda alone just doesn't satisfy me. I use a combination of Splenda and sugar sometimes to give the mouthfeel of sugar with fewer calories. So instead of 3 packets of sugar, I'll use a splenda packet and one packet of sugar.

Along the lines of tomboko's cinnamon coffee suggestion, you could try something like MarketSpice tea. There's a ton of cinnamon in it and it tastes pretty sweet without adding anything to it. I am not generally a tea person but I like it.
posted by cabingirl at 9:52 AM on June 8, 2008

Posted too soon...I know it's the easiest thing to suggest but I don't think everyone can really adapt to black coffee, in the same way that not everyone enjoys dark chocolate, or red wine. I've done the no-sugar thing for extended periods of time, and chose to forego coffee rather than have to drink it straight. So the OP shouldn't feel bad if he/she doesn't like black coffee, is all I'm saying.
posted by cabingirl at 9:59 AM on June 8, 2008

Although I'm also skeptical that the sugar in drinks does significant damage to your teeth, I'll confirm that Sucralose (Splenda) is the current gold standard for artificial sweeteners.
posted by abcde at 11:18 AM on June 8, 2008

I'd go for the liquid sucralose. Usually it's only available via email (the link is where I get mine from), but three drops sweetens a cup of coffee.

I like stevia for tea, but never for coffee. The licorice taste interferes with coffee.
posted by answergrape at 2:09 PM on June 8, 2008

Although I'm also skeptical that the sugar in drinks does significant damage to your teeth

You must not be a dentist, then.

Sugars submersed in liquids are the single greatest material contributor to tooth decay at the gum lines or fascia. In particular, coffee and soda. From a purely bacterial perspective, coffee is a bigger offender than soda. Why? Because you don't drink coffee. You sip coffee. And each sip, you are literally bathing your teeth in acid and sugar. Sip.. sip.. sip. How long does your typical coffee drinker's morning coffee last?

Depending on how you drink, soda can be either just bad or very bad. A lot of drinkers (myself, sadly, included), take a drink of soda, then let it flow over their palette before swallowing. That's a sugar bath for your teeth. What makes soda more insidious is that, unlike coffee, (most) soda also contains phosphoric acid. There are sodas that don't (ginger ale immediately comes to mind), but Coke, Pepsi, etc. all contain phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid will leech calcium from your teeth, making them more susceptible to decay.

Another big source of decay comes from stomach acids. Often times you'll have someone with perfectly healthy teeth that turn rotten over just a couple of years. Their hygiene hasn't changed significantly, but maybe there's a newborn child, or they lost their job (or got a promotion), or someone in their family is stricken with an illness... the added stress makes the stomach kick up acids that literally dissolve the teeth in your sleep.

Oh, and to answer the question: I like Splenda. Chemically it's just an extra chlorine atom. No biggy. Not some fucking chemical monstrosity. The aftertaste isn't terrible--a bit too crisp and empty; I find sucrulose lacks the umami of sucrose, which is why I'll often add a bit of "real" sugar with the Splenda to round off the taste edges.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:31 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Civil_Disobedient: I'm know why drinks are bad for your teeth compared to diet in general; I've just gotten the (probably mistaken) sense that acids are the real issue compared to sugars.
posted by abcde at 7:36 PM on June 8, 2008

I've just gotten the (probably mistaken) sense that acids are the real issue compared to sugars.

Well, you're right in a way--stomach acids, for instance, can be far worse for teeth. It's just that it's less common... kind of like how cars might be more dangerous than mosquitos pound-for-pound, even though malaria kills more people by numbers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:14 AM on June 9, 2008

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