Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Skinny on No Calorie Sweeteners

My last post turned out to be much longer than I anticipated so rather than do a giant post, I did a long one and now a short one.  This one is on the topic of Low and No Calorie Sweeteners.  I highly welcome and encourage feedback.  If you have personal experience with one of the products discussed, by all means please add your knowledge and advice to the comments section!  We're here to help each other succeed, after all, and the better armed and informed we are, the greater we will succeed!

Now on to No Calorie Sweeteners...

Why did this all come about?  Because I LOVE coffee.  Adore.  Can't live without it.  But sugar is expensive (PointsPlus and calories/carbs) in the quantities I use when I drink my coffee.  I hate Splenda because it has a weird aftertaste.  Turns out that weird aftertaste is caused by the fact that to make it a no calorie sweetener made from real sugar, they chlorinate the sugar.  I don't know about you, but the smell of bleach hurts my nose, and I detest the taste of pool water.  Why would I want to add it to my food?

Nutra Sweet's aftertaste is just as bad, and it's totally synthetic.  As is Equal.  I'm not entirely into natural and organic, but in this case... I went there.  There are a lot of new products on the market, and it can be confusing.  I stood in the aisle at the grocery store for about 15 minutes trying to decide.  Sun Crystals, Truvia, Pure Via, Stevia, Blue Agave Nectar.  Which one?!  How do you pick?  Well... You can be like me and pick at random, or you can get a little more information and go based on recommendations.

So here's the low down on each one, with as much information as I have.  Some of the information is on the companies themselves.  As I've said, I'm not necessarily 100% green or organic, but many people who choose to use these products do so because of their company practices as much as anything else.  If that's not information you're interested in, just skip ahead to the next product!  I will, at some point, try them all, and in addition to choosing one to stick with, I will post my findings/decisions in future posts.

Sun Crystals
.  It's a natural product LOW in calories (5 per serving) made from the sweetest parts of the Stevia plant.  It has a texture and consistency closer to sugar (15 calories per teaspoon, which adds up when you're talking 2Tbsp per cup of cofee) because it's a mixture of pure cane sugar and Stevia.  What does it taste like?  No clue.  The company is a member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of their sales to environmental causes.

Pure Via.  It's made, like most of the natural, no calorie sweeteners on the market, from Reb A, the sweetest part of the Stevia plant.  This one wasn't the one I chose, so I can't comment on the taste.  This company claims to be "almost as green as [their] leaves."  Their packaging is 100% recycled cardboard, with 35% of that cardboard coming from stuff the rest of us put in our recycling bins.  They also use inks made from naturally renewable sources like soy and and other vegetable oils, making them that much easier to be recycled and turned into other products.

Stevia.  It's a plant found in South America where it's been used for years, decades, centuries, let's face it... forever... as a sweetener.  It's also been very popular in Asia for several decades, and makes up a large percentage of their sugar substitute market.  Some of the extracts have a tendency to be a little bitter in large quantities, hence why other products arose on the market claiming to be made from the sweetest parts of the Stevia leaf (again, Reb A).  This is a little misleading, though, because it's not so much a part of the plant as it is one of the 300 types of Stevia plant.  Still, I can't help feeling like it was one of the best kept secrets for so long!

Truvia.  This is the sweetener I went with.  Let me tell you... I love it!  It's sweeter than sugar, and there's no aftertaste like with Splenda, Nutra Sweet, or Equal.  It's already low calorie, but I use less of it as well.  Like Pure Via, it's made from Reb A.  It's also safe for use with people who are diabetic and is certified Kosher.  The company that produces Truvia has quite a bit to say on their website about corporate responsibility.  I won't try to paraphrase it here.

Blue Agave Nectar.  It's closer in texture to honey because it is, in fact, honey.  It comes from the Blue Agave plant.  yes the very same one used to make Tequila.  Don't let that throw you off, though.  It doesn't taste at all like tequila.  In fact, it has a very light, faintly sweet taste.  It's very clean, and has been used as a natural sweetener for diabetics for years.  It works great for baking!  I've personally tested this theory and had great success and much acclaim.

I definitely recommend you try and use what works best for you.  If you don't mind the tastes of Splenda, Nutra Sweet, or Equal, by all means use them!!  This is what works best for YOU!  I'm simply providing alternatives because I needed them and wished I'd had access to a post like this!  :)

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