Sweetener Survey Results!
Remember the sugar survey I made you take? Well, the percentages are still changing as more people vote, but the top two have consistently stayed the same: pure cane sugar and stevia. I apologize to the honey and agave nectar lovers out there – I unknowingly kept you people from having your voice heard. So sorry. I dedicate this photo to you…
For those of you that occasionally use stevia (a zero calorie sweetener extracted from the stevia plant), you may have noticed a couple new kids on the block: Truvia and PureVia. I was curious to find out the difference, because I noticed the prices varied among them, so I went to work.
Truvia is a stevia-based sweetener that Cargill and Coca Cola Company rolled out in 2009. It is made from a combination of erythritol and stevia (actually, “stevia” is the genus of 240 plants; the name of the zero calorie sweetener is called Rebiana, but people use the names interchangeably)
Erythritol is a zero calorie sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are made from fermenting plant sugar with a natural culture, filtering it, and allowing it to dry into crystals. Unlike other sugar alcohols (like xylitol and sorbitol), erythritol is mostly absorbed in the small intestines, so it has less of a laxative effect. There are no known side effects or dangers to using erythritol, other than a chance of stomach discomfort in sensitive individuals.
PureVia is PepsiCo’s version of a stevia-based sweetener that was released shortly after Truvia. It is a combination of erythritol, isomaltulose, and stevia.
Isomaltulose is also manufactured through bacterial fermentation of sucrose. It is absorbed (like sugar) as sucrose and fructose, but has ½ the calories and has a low glycemic index. The glucose in isomaltulose enters the blood stream slowly, in the form of a carbohydrate, providing a steady stream of energy. Since Isomaltulose doesn’t spike insulin, the body can better oxidize fat for energy. Some studies suggest better sport performance and higher fat burning rates among athletes drinking beverages sweetened with isomaltulose due to its steady, functional carbohydrate energy supply.
So, what sweetener is the right sweetener? Is it sugar? Is it stevia-based sweeteners? Maybe Splenda or agave nectar? Conventional wisdom says anything can be bad for you if you get too much of it. We all get plenty of sugar in our every day diets, so try experimenting with cooking with stevia. Give agave nectar a try on oatmeal. Sprinkle some Truvia on your tart strawberries. Put honey in your tea. A little of this and that occasionally isn’t likely to hurt you. It is when we do too much of one thing that we have to be careful.