Know your sweeteners

In a world where sweeteners have become a focus for people living with diabetes or wanting to lose weight, the Huletts EquiSweet range provides sweetness without the drawbacks of traditional sugar.

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What are sweeteners?

There are various alternatives to sucrose and other carbohydrate sweeteners such as fructose and glucose. There are two different categories of sweeteners and each have a different effect on blood glucose levels and weight.

   1. Non-nutritive or intense sweeteners

The first category are products with very intense sweetening properties that are used solely to replace the sweetening effect of sugar. They have sweetness levels that vary from around 20 times to around 600 or more times the sweetness of sugar. Therefore, they only need to be used in very small quantities and accordingly contribute minimal kilojoules to the products in which they are incorporated. They also have minimal impact on blood glucose levels. Examples: aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame potassium and stevia.

    2. Polyols (sugar substitutes) 

The second category is polyols which are sugar substitutes that provide sweetness at a lower level than that of non-nutritive sweeteners but still usually lower than that of sugars.

They are used to replace sugar in those applications where the functional properties of sugar are still required but removal of sugar is desirable for health reasons; the best examples are sugar-free chocolate and other confectionery.

Polyols have a similar structure to sugars but are not as well absorbed by the body. Hence, they have lower kilojoule contents than sugars (although contribute more kilojoules than non-nutritive sweeteners) and a lower effect on blood glucose, making them more suitable for people with diabetes. Although, it would be advisable to discuss this with your doctor before making them part of your regular diet.

Some polyols, such as sorbitol and xylitol, play an important role in dental cavity prevention as they are unable to produce the acids that can cause dental decay. The downside is that, if consumed in large quantities, they can have a laxative effect and cause bloating, wind and diarrhoea. Examples: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol and erythritol.

How does the taste of sweeteners compare to sugar?

The taste and sweetness can vary based on the type of sweetener and the blend used. Some may closely mimic the taste of sugar with a similar sweetness level, while others may have a slight aftertaste or different sweetness intensity. It often comes down to personal preference and the specific application in which it is used.

How does the Huletts EquiSweet range differ from regular sugar?

Huletts EquiSweet comprises a range of sugar substitutes from both the non-nutritive and polyol categories.

The EquiSweet non-nutritive sweeteners, known as the EquiSweet Sweetener range, are mainly intended to replace sugar in beverages and products where they only provide sweetness without any other function. The products include EquiSweet Classic and EquiSweet Sucralose which is an aspartame-free variant.

The EquiSweet polyols, known as the EquiSweet Sugar Substitute range, are designed for use in cooking applications where sugar removal is desired, but the physical properties of sugar are still needed, for example baking. The products include EquiSweet Erythritol and EquiSweet Xylitol. These are lower in kilojoules than sugar but not as low as those in the EquiSweet Sweetener range.

Huletts EquiSweet Erythritol is derived from starch and is a low-GI and low-kilojoule sugar substitute. Among the sugar substitutes, it has a higher digestive tolerance because about 90% of the ingested erythritol is readily absorbed and excreted in urine. This is why it’s called a low-kilojoule sugar substitute as opposed to xylitol where it’s kilojoule levels aren’t low enough to be called a low-kilojoule sugar substitute.

Huletts EquiSweet Xylitol is also a low-GI sugar substitute derived from plant sources. It’s slowly and partially absorbed and metabolised which results in very insignificant changes in blood glucose levels. It can assist in weight management as well as managing diabetes. High consumption of xylitol can cause digestive symptoms, such as diarrhoea, due to it only being partially absorbed.

Huletts EquiSweet range

EquiSweet Product Usage Sweetness Measure & Energy Values Comparison
Classic and Sucralose Sachets (low kJ)
  • Hot or cold beverages
  • Cereals and porridge
  • Cooking and baking
  • Sprinkle over yoghurt
1g EquiSweet Sachet =  2 level teaspoons of sugar

  • 1 EquiSweet Sachet   = 16 kJ
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar = 136 kJ
Classic and Sucralose Tablets (low kJ)
  • Hot beverages:tea and coffee
1 EquiSweet Tablet =  1 level teaspoon of sugar

  • 1 EquiSweet Tablet  = 1 kJ
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar = 68 kJ
Erythritol (low kJ and low glycaemic response)
  • Cooking and baking
  • Beverages
60% – 80% as sweet as sugar

  • Erythritol  =  100 kJ/100g
  • Sugar =  1700 kJ/100g
Xylitol (low-GI)
  • Cooking and baking
  • Beverages
1 teaspoon Xylitol = 1 teaspoon of sugar

  • Xyltitol  = 1400 kJ/100g
  • Sugar    = 1700 kJ/100g

Can the Huletts EquiSweet range be used in cooking and baking?

EquiSweet products can generally be used in cooking and baking as substitutes for sugar. However, it’s essential to note that they may behave differently from sugar when heated or mixed with other ingredients. For best results, follow specific guidelines or recipes designed for the particular sweetener you’re using.

Visit EquiSweet Archives – Huletts Sugar for recipes using their sweetener range.

Can people living with diabetes use the Huletts EquiSweet range?

Yes, Huletts EquiSweet is a suitable option if you have diabetes as the range generally doesn’t significantly impact blood glucose levels. However, it’s crucial to monitor your responses and consult a healthcare provider for personalised guidance.

Are sweeteners safe for consumption?

Sweeteners have to undergo country-specific safety assessments and evaluation processes prior to approval for use. Post-approval evaluation and monitoring of sweeteners are also conducted by regulatory agencies.

All the sweeteners in the Huletts EquiSweet range have undergone rigorous testing and are considered safe when consumed within recommended limits.

Regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have approved the ingredients used in Huletts EquiSweet Sweeteners for consumption.

In South Africa, there are comprehensive regulations on sweeteners and the Huletts EquiSweet products are fully compliant with these regulations.

At global level, considerable research has gone into determining the maximum desirable quantity of each sweetener that should be consumed on a daily basis. This is known as the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and has been determined in such a way that it’s an extremely safe level of consumption.

Are there side effects associated with sweeteners?

While generally safe for consumption, some people may experience digestive issues like bloating or diarrhoea when consuming large amounts of polyols found in the Huletts EquiSweet Erythritol and Xylitol products.

It’s advisable to have a moderate intake and to be mindful of your tolerance levels. Additionally, if you have specific health conditions or allergies, please consult your healthcare professional before using sweeteners.

Sweeteners for children

Few studies have examined how non-nutritive sweeteners may affect health outcomes in children. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests not to use non-nutritive sweeteners as a strategy to reduce non-communicable disease risk in children.

Though harmful effects from the consumption of sweeteners under the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) by children or adolescents have not been reported, guidance generally remains that diet beverages should be limited, and unsweetened water and milk should be the preferred fluid source.

For children with diabetes, who follow a balanced diet and routinely monitor their blood glucose levels, substituting sugar-sweetened beverages with alternative beverages sweetened with a sweetener is an option in moderation.

Given the smaller body sizes of children and adolescents, careful planning should be given to ensure the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners is not excessive. The consumption of sweeteners by children of less than two years of age is not recommended.

It’s a safe yes to Huletts EquiSweet range

In conclusion, Huletts EquiSweet range offers a viable alternative to sugar for anyone seeking sweetness without the added energy. While generally safe for consumption, its essential to use in moderation and consider your tolerances and health conditions.

Whether in beverages, baking or everyday cooking, understanding the nuances of these sweeteners can help you make informed choices towards a healthier lifestyle. Always consult your healthcare professional for personalised advice regarding dietary changes or concerns.

Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.


Estée van Lingen is a registered dietitian practicing in Randburg and Fourways, Gauteng. She has been in private practice since 2014 and is registered with the HPCSA as well as ADSA and served on the ADSA Gauteng South Committee for 2020 – 2022.

This article is sponsored by Huletts in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the health professional’s own work and not influenced by Huletts in any way.