My take on new sweeteners
I’m getting so many questions lately about some new sweeteners hitting the market Here’s my take on Swerve, Nectresse and more.
Consumer demand is clearly driving the market for new sugar alternatives. But it’s not because there’s some kind of sugar shortage going on. It means that more people are coming around to philosophy that sugar just isn’t good for us. But we still crave sweet tastes, so manufacturers keep introducing new ways to satisfy our sweet tooth.
Consumers want to know: How can I have the pleasure of sweet foods without eating something that’s bad for me? Here’s my take on a few of the newest products.
This product has two main components: Erythritol and oligosaccharides.
Erythritol is found in quite a few alternative sweeteners, including some stevia brands like Truvia. It’s a sugar alcohol (though it contains neither sugar or alcohol). To make it, manufacturers extract glucose from fruit or vegetable sources, then process through fermentation to get little crystals as a byproduct. That’s the erythritol. While almost anything can be used as the source for the glucose, almost everyone gets it from corn, since it’s so inexpensive.
The other component in Swerve are carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. These are pre-biotics that can be made from almost anything, from chicken feathers to fruit (fructo-oligosaccharides). And they’re good for you, helping to feed healthy flora in your gut.
So what about Swerve? Oligosaccharides are good for you, but I have mixed feelings about corn-derived erythritol. Be aware that as a sugar alcohol, it can cause some gassiness; all sugar alcohols have that potential, but in my experience, erythritol creates more gas than most.
Altogether, Swerve is still better than chemical sweeteners in those little pink and blue packets.
Monk fruit is touted as the origin of this sugar alternative. And monk fruit is great. Another name for it is luo han guo — a sweetener I talked about here as an alternative for those who don’t tolerate xylitol or stevia.
But Nectresse doesn’t just contain monk fruit. In fact, monk fruit isn’t even the first ingredient, nor the second. First on the list is corn-derived erythritol. And after that? Sugar. Yes, actual sugar. Then monk fruit.
So Nectresse doesn’t pass my muster. Erythritol in a tiny amount wouldn’t be the end of the world, but as the primary ingredient, along with sugar, I’d pass on Nectresse.
Monk Fruit in the Raw
Another monk-fruit based product, this brand also contains corn-derived dextrose. It’s used to thin out the product, which would be otherwise be too concentrated. Dextrose is the sugar molecule from corn, or glucose. So Monk Fruit in the Raw isn’t on my list for that reason.
Stevia and Xylitol: Still great choices
Despite the new players, I still stand by stevia and xylitol as my picks. I’ve used both for years with my clinical clients. As always, check your brand’s ingredients. It’s best if you can find 100% stevia. Stevita Simply Stevia and Stevita Liquid Stevia contain only stevia-leaf extract. Many other stevia brands add erythritol (not my favorite ingredient). Still others add dextrose. Read more in my earlier post on stevia.
Xylitol is easier to find in pure form, but since it is a sugar alcohol, some people are sensitive to it; over-consumption can cause gastrointestinal distress. And be sure you buy birch-based (sometimes called hardwood-based) xylitol. If the package doesn’t specify, it’s likely made from corn. The Xyla brand is a good choice.