Sugar: An Introduction Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that are present in natural and cooked foods. Sugar is a part of the family of carbohydrates, formed of carbon,hydrogen and oxygen - which are used by the body to give energy. India has had a long tradition of sugar intake. Sugar has been a vital part of the Indian diet since ancient times. In the Mahabharata, written in 350 BC, sugar finds a reference .They are an alternative to the taste of sugar but come with some concerns (see below).The FSSAI has approved artificial sweeteners like saccharin sodium, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose for use in food. They are either available as loose artificial sweeteners which can be added to food or present in foods labelled as sugar-free as a sweetening ingredient.•\tSaccharin sodium: It is used in beverages like fruit juices, mixes and basesas a sugar substitute in processed food. It is approximately 200-700 times sweeter than usual table sugar (sucrose) and has0 calories.•\tAspartame: It has no calories and is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It loses its sweetnesswhen heated hence it should not be used in baked foods.•\tAcesulfame potassium: This is often used in combination with other sweeteners and is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is usually added tobaked goods, beverages, candies and frozen desserts.•\tSucralose: It is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. It is used in frozen desserts, gelatins chewing gums, baked goods.•\tNeotame: It is 7000-13000 times sweeter than table sugar and 30 to60 times sweeter than aspartame. It is a derivative of aspartame. FSSAI recommends the use of neotame in soft drinks only.•\tIsomaltulose: This is a recent addition to the list of artificial sweeteners. FSSAI permits the use of isomaltulose in confectionary products only. The maximum limit of isomaltulose usage should be50 per cent of the total sugar content of the product. It is not allowed for in edible ices and ice lollies.•\tStevia: It is a plant-based sugar substitute that has no calories. It is a South American plant. Highly purified extracts from leaves of the plant are called "Steviol glycosides". They are 200-400 times sweeter than sugar. It is used in many food products and also as tabletop sweeteners.•\tSugar Alcohol: Sugar alcohol does not directly refer to a unique combination of sugars and alcohol. They are carbohydrates that naturally occur in certain foods andcan be manufactured. They are found in many processed foods including candies, ice creams, toothpaste etc. They may be used in combination with another sugar substitute.The other side of sugar substitutes Sugar substitutes come with benefits of lowering overall calorie intake and hence "theoretically" avoiding hazards of problems like obesity and other diseases associated with the same, one also needs to look atthe other side of sugar substitutes. These sugar substitutes were once studied for their cancer properties. Various studies have established that the accepted dietary allowance of these needs to be added as per the regulations of each country. Consumer needs to be educated about the permissible limits. Some sweeteners like aspartame are not heat liable and should not be used in cooking and baking. An increased amount of sugar alcohols and sugar substitute intake may alter our gut microbiota and may cause irregular bowel movements. Changes in gut microbiota have been linked to the onset of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Hence, rather than depending on sugar substitutes, a balanced diet is the key to good health.Dr Geeta Dharmatti (MSc, PhD RD) is a registered clinical dietician and the founder of Geeta NutriHeal Nutrition Consultancy. Dr Dharmatti is a consultant to Chellaram Diabetes Institute and is associated with the Indian Dietetic Association as its Executive Member. She is also theAssociate Professor and PhD Guide of Nutrition at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune and as guest faculty for CCIH, Ayush Department of PuneUniversity.