To sugar or sweeten

Is calorie-free chocolate something to be proud about? I guess it all depends on who is eating, and what chocolate means for them .. are talking uncompromisable European tastes, or something more moderate for daily munching? A new Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has opened in the mall nearby, and curiousity as well as the luring aroma of roasted cocoa beans drew us in for a peek. Of the glass-contained dark indulgences, the sugar-free milk chocolate caught my attention. What makes sugar-free chocolates “less bad” anyhow?

I asked the lady behind the counter what’s inside these reduce-appeal squares. Sugar alcohols like sorbitol and maltitol are substituted for the sugar normally added into the chocolate-making process. Sorbitol and maltitol are not artificial sweeteners, in that these alcohols naturally exist in fruits — in other words, they weren’t made in the secret bowels of some chemical plant. Compared with other sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet N Low, and aspartame that are up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, sorbitol and maltitol only contain 75-90% of sweetness, though it still tastes like sucrose (the essential ingredient of sugar.) Also, the fact that the body breaks down sorbitol and maltitol slowly, meaning that fewer calories are yielded during metabolism.

Back to Rocky Mountain. If we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of the health details, the nutritional info is for all to read. See?

Sugar-free Chocolates Gift Box from Rocky Mountain

(Note the sugar alcohol content!) But at the end of the day, I consider non-sugar substitutes — be it artificial or natural — to be a little unpredictable. If taken in moderation, sugar cannot be too harmful, and in cases otherwise like diabetes, it’s just a matter of knowing how to take care of your body. If someone came to me offering loophole ways to de-trivialize eating, I’d be cautious not only of the content, but of the mindset that advocates irresponsibly eating. Food for the stomach, not stomach for the food, right? Even as a self-proclaimed foodie, I’ve got to remember that.

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