Sugar free coffee syrups have become increasingly popular as more people try to reduce their sugar intake. But are these syrups actually a healthier option? Here is a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of sugar free coffee syrup.
What is sugar free coffee syrup?
Sugar free coffee syrups are flavorings made without any added sugar. They are sweetened artificially using sugar substitutes like sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, and stevia. This allows the syrups to provide sweetness without the extra calories from sugar.
Popular brands of sugar free syrups include Torani, DaVinci, Monin, Jordan’s Skinny Syrups, and Walden Farms. They come in a wide variety of flavors like vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, mocha, pumpkin spice, and more.
The main appeal of sugar free syrups is the ability to flavor coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, and other drinks without adding any sugar. People use them to sweeten their brew while maintaining a low sugar, low carb, or low calorie diet.
Are sugar free coffee syrups healthier?
Here are some of the potential benefits and downsides of using sugar free coffee syrup instead of regular syrups or sugar:
- Lower in calories and carbs – Sugar free syrups contain minimal calories and carbs compared to regular syrups.
- Do not spike blood sugar – The artificial sweeteners do not cause spikes in blood glucose levels.
- Help reduce overall sugar intake – Using sugar free syrup can lower daily sugar consumption.
- Allow sweetness on carb/calorie restricted diets – People on low carb or low calorie diets can still enjoy flavor.
- Safe for diabetics – The syrups won’t affect blood sugar levels.
- Artificial sweeteners – Sugar free syrups contain artificial sweeteners that some people try to avoid.
- Do not satisfy sugar cravings – May not curb a sweet tooth as well as real sugar.
- Gastrointestinal issues – Some sugar substitutes like sorbitol can cause diarrhea or other GI upset.
- Less satisfying taste – Some people feel the taste is not as satisfying as regular syrup.
- High acidity – The syrups tend to be very acidic which can erode tooth enamel.
When looking at these pros and cons, sugar free coffee syrup comes out as a healthier choice for people concerned about calories, carbohydrates, and blood sugar control. But the use of artificial sweeteners and less satisfying taste makes them less ideal for those simply trying to reduce added sugars in their diet.
Nutrition facts of popular sugar free syrup brands
Here is a nutritional comparison of some top sugar free coffee syrup brands:
|Syrup (2 Tbsp)||Calories||Fat (g)||Carbs (g)||Sugar Alcohols (g)|
|Jordan’s Skinny Syrups||15||0||4||2|
|Torani Sugar Free||0||0||0||0|
|Monin Sugar Free||10||0||3||2|
|DaVinci Sugar Free||15||0||3||3|
As you can see, most brands have minimal calories, fat, and carbohydrates. The carbs present are typically from sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol which the body absorbs slowly or not at all. This makes them unlikely to raise blood sugar.
Torani and Walden Farms syrups are the lowest calorie options with 0 calories and 0g carbs. Jordan’s Skinny Syrups and DaVinci are 15 calories per 2 Tbsp serving. Monin is 10 calories.
Artificial sweeteners in sugar free syrups
While the nutrition stats of sugar free syrups are better than regular syrups, a potential downside is the use of artificial sweeteners. Here are the common sweeteners found in sugar free coffee syrups:
Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is one of the most widely used sweeteners in sugar free syrups. It is made from sugar but has been chemically modified to remove calories. Sucralose provides sweetness without raising blood sugar levels.
Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) is an artificial sweetener that is often blended with sucralose in sugar free products. It provides a sweet taste without calories or carbs. While generally considered safe, there is limited data on its long term effects.
Aspartame is found in some sugar free syrups, especially diet brands like Walden Farms. It provides about 4 calories per gram so does not remove all calories like other sweeteners. Aspartame remains controversial though regulatory agencies consider it safe at current intake levels.
Stevia is a natural, plant-derived sweetener. Though processed and concentrated, it lacks the calories and carbohydrates of sugar. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar but may have a slight aftertaste. It has garnered interest for its natural origins.
Neotame is an artificial sweetener related to aspartame but much sweeter so only tiny amounts are needed. It is rarely used on its own in syrups but sometimes combined with other sweeteners. Neotame is approved for use in food and beverages.
While these non-nutritive sweeteners provide the sweet taste without downsides like blood sugar spikes, some health conscious consumers prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners when possible. The safety of consuming them regularly long-term also remains debated.
Other ingredients in sugar free syrups
In addition to artificial sweeteners, sugar free coffee syrups contain other ingredients including:
- Preservatives – Potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate
- Natural and artificial flavors – Vanillin, almond extract, hazelnut flavor
- Coloring agents – Caramel color, turmeric
- Thickeners and stabilizers – Xanthan gum, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan
- Acids – Citric acid, malic acid
- Sugar alcohols – Sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol, mannitol
Some brands may also include potassium chloride, sodium citrate, sucralose, acesulfame potassium or other sweeteners. Sugar alcohols are considered carbohydrates but are subtracted from the net carbs.
These ingredients serve functions like preserving freshness, adding flavor, coloring, and improving consistency. While generally recognized as safe, some health advocates recommend avoiding gums, colorings, benzoates, and other synthetic additives when possible.
Are sugar free syrups keto and paleo friendly?
Here is how sugar free syrups fit into keto and paleo diets:
Sugar free syrup can fit into a keto diet since they add minimal carbs and will not disrupt ketosis. Look for options with no carbs or sugar alcohols to limit any impact on blood sugar or insulin. Most keto dieters can consume up to 50g net carbs per day while remaining in ketosis.
Sugar free syrups are not considered paleo friendly because they contain artificial sweeteners, gums, and preservatives excluded from the paleo diet. Those on paleo aim to avoid modern processed foods. A paleo-friendly sweetener option would be raw honey or maple syrup in small amounts.
People vary in how strictly they follow keto and paleo diets. Some may allow small amounts of sugar free syrups while others avoid them completely. Check the nutrition labels and ingredients lists against your diet plan.
Taste and texture comparison to regular syrup
A frequent complaint about sugar free syrups is that the taste and texture is inferior to regular syrups. Here is how they compare:
- Less robust, authentic sweetness
- Artificial aftertaste from sweeteners
- Less nuance in flavor
Sugar free syrups use sweeteners that aim to mimic but don’t fully replicate the taste of real sugar. Many people feel the sweetness tastes artificial and lacks depth.
- Thinner, less viscous
- May be slightly oily
The combination of sweeteners, preservatives, stabilizers, and dilution makes most sugar free syrups thinner with a less luxurious mouthfeel. They spread and mix more easily but lack the thick, rich texture.
However, taste is subjective. Some people don’t notice a major difference while others feel sugar free versions are inferior. It varies based on the specific syrup flavor and brand.
Do sugar free syrups curdle milk?
Sugar free coffee syrups can curdle milk and creamer due to their acidity. The citric, malic, and fruit acids react with the dairy proteins, causing curdling. This affects both hot and cold coffee drinks.
To prevent curdling, add the syrup to the milk when preparing lattes and other specialty drinks. Mix together well to evenly incorporate before adding brewed coffee. The higher temperature helps bind everything smoothly.
For iced drinks, mix the syrup with a bit of hot water first. Allow to cool then combine with the iced coffee and milk. The pre-mixed syrup will not curdle the cold dairy.
Do sugar free syrups destroy teeth enamel?
Dental experts warn that the high acidity of sugar free syrups can damage tooth enamel. Acids like citric and malic lower mouth pH, allowing enamel erosion when frequently consumed.
While sugar free syrups avoid cavities caused by oral bacteria on sugars, the low pH weakens enamel over time. Teeth become more prone to decay, discoloration, and sensitivity.
To reduce this risk, consume sugar free coffee syrups in moderation as part of balanced diet. Wait at least 30 minutes after having syrups before brushing teeth. The abrasion can remove more enamel when the teeth are already demineralized.
Do sugar free syrups cause diarrhea or laxative effects?
Some sugar free syrups contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol as sweeteners. In large doses, these sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
However, the amount contained in a few tbsp of syrup is typically well tolerated. Consuming large amounts or on an empty stomach is more likely to cause issues. Those with IBS may be more sensitive.
Sugar alcohols also vary in how much they affect digestion:
- Sorbitol has the biggest impact
- Xylitol is moderately absorbed
- Erythritol is almost fully absorbed and causes less laxation
Check the specific sugar alcohols used if GI upset is a concern. Moderation and avoiding excessive consumption can help minimize unpleasant effects.
Do sugar free syrups spike insulin levels?
Sugar free coffee syrups do not directly raise insulin levels like regular syrups and sugars. However, some of the artificial sweeteners may cause an indirect insulin response.
Even without calories or carbs, the sweet taste can trigger digestive processes and a small release of insulin. However, this effect is minor for most sugar substitutes and does not impact blood sugar regulation.
Aspartame may have the biggest insulin-stimulating effect. Sucralose and stevia do not affect insulin much. For diabetes management, sugar free syrups are still lower glycemic than real sugar.
What about using honey or maple syrup?
For those wishing to avoid artificial sweeteners, natural options like honey and maple syrup can provide sweetness in coffee drinks with other benefits:
- Contains antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals
- Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial effects
- Contains calories and carbs but less glycemic impact than plain sugar
- Rich in antioxidants like polyphenols
- Contains zinc, iron, calcium, potassium
- Has some antimicrobial properties
- Low glycemic index around 54
However, those on keto or low carb diets will still want to be mindful of portion sizes as both contain sugar and carbs that can add up. But they provide a less processed, more nutritious sweetener alternative.
Sugar free coffee syrups can be a healthier choice compared to regular syrups by reducing calories, carbs, and blood sugar impact. But the artificial sweeteners and lack of depth of flavor may make some consumers wish to use alternatives like honey and maple syrup or limit intake of sugar free versions.
Moderation is key, as excess consumption of even sugar free syrups can lead to side effects like diarrhea or enamel erosion. Those highly sensitive to artificial sweeteners may wish to avoid sugar free syrups altogether. Consider your individual dietary needs and preferences when deciding on coffee syrup options.