how do zero calorie drinks/foods work?

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how do zero calorie drinks/foods work?

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Do you mean how do they have flavor but no calories?

We can isolate flavor compounds and use those constituent compounds and aromas to give drinks and food flavor. Then add those to filtered water. Then if you don’t add a sweetener, there are no calories. If you do want to sweeten them, you can use a zero calorie sweetener. Some are artificially derived like aspartame. I think it’s made from sugar alcohols (by products of sugar making). Or you can use other sweeteners from more naturally derived sources like stevia which is derived from a plant.

Someone already answered for things like diet sodas where the flavoring is negligible calories and the sweeteners are either extremely powerful and can be used so sparingly that it counts as zero, or just not absorbed by the body, making it effectively zero.
Low calorie things with less sugar like certain candies can have sugar alcohols like sorbitol which technically do have calories but are absorbed less by the body. The lack of absorption is also why these can give people diarrhea because it isn’t really processed by the body.

There’s also some creative rounding going on.
For example, some small mints and candies like Tic-Tacs are mostly just plain sugar, but can be classified as zero because if it’s lower than 5 calories, it can be rounded down to zero.

So they’re *technically* not zero calorie, but on their own relatively insignificant enough to say zero. Also how the negligible amount of calories from flavors counts as zero.

The sweeteners used in zero calorie drinks/foods DO contain calories (i.e. they produce energy when burned), but our bodies can’t digest them to release that energy. They are similar to normal sugars so they still activate our taste buds, but our bodies can’t use them for energy so they are effectively “zero-calorie”.

If you take aspartame as an example it is 200 times as sweet as sugar, so in a portion of diet soda you use very little, so the calorie content is negligible. It is not actually zero, just very low.

Many no-calorie drinks have calories through artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, but the amount of sweetener used (aspartame has the same amount of calories as sugar but is 200x sweeter) is so little that it is negligible, and considered to have zero calories. For things that don’t use sweetener, it’s just flavored water.

I couldn’t really find much on zero-calorie foods, but I’m assuming those would be foods that take more energy to digest than it would give.