Alternatives to sugar are widely used by people with diabetes to sweeten drinks and foods. They do give sweetness with fewer calories and usually less effect on blood sugar levels but there are differences in between them.
There are lots of brand of sweeteners on the supermarket shelves, but essentially there are two main types:
Nutritive sweeteners are simply those that provide some calories. Sorbitol and maltodextrin, the sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, mannitol and maltitol are generally not as sweet as table sugar, provide fewer calories and have less of impact on blood glucose levels.
The nutritive sweeteners such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol syrup may have a laxative effect or cause gas or diarrhoea if you consume them in large amount.
Non-nutritive sweeteners (Splenda or Saccharin) are much sweeter than table sugar and essentially have no effect on your blood glucose levels because most are used in such small quantities and are either not absorbed into or metabolized by the body.
Stevia is also a non-nutritive sweetener and sugar substitute derived from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Brazil and Paraguay. The active compounds are steviol glicosides, which have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, are heat-stable, PH-stable, and not fermentable. The body does not metabolize the glycosides in stevia, so it contains zero calories like some artificial sweeteners and has no effect on blood sugar.
What is the best for cooking?
The non-nutritive sweeteners that are made of protein molecules often break down when heated at high temperatures for long periods, thus losing their sweetness. For this reason, they are not always ideal for baking. I prefer the Stevia for baking and cooking because it is heat stable, so the sweet taste stays in the food after cooking or baking.