Not to beat a dead horse. I really don’t have an obsession with sugar substitutes. Or sugar, for that matter. But I am quite thorough and happen to have a dose of “perfectionist” in my personality. So, basically, this subject cannot die until I’ve covered it one more time.
Conducted under sterile conditions in a highly controlled environment, this Experiment should settle with finality all questions you’ve ever had about Natural Sugar Substitutes.
So, without further adieu, I give you,
The Natural Sugar Substitute Files
Hypothesis: Natural sugar substitutes are great alternatives to real sugar, both in nutrition and in taste. And will allow me to eat mass amounts of cookies, cakes, ice cream and soda without putting on a pound.
1. Research Truvia and Stevia on the internet. Because if it’s on the internet, it has to be true.
Truvia was developed by company giants, Cargill and Coca Cola, as an alternative to aspartame. Coke plans to add Truvia to Coke-brand diet sodas, as well as food.
According to the official Truvia website : Truvia is made from the stevia plant. It’s made with a process whereby the leaves are steeped, much like tea.
The ingredients of Truvia are Erythritol, rebiana and natural flavors.
Erythritol is an all-natural, non-caloric sweetener, used as an ingredient that provides bulk for the tabletop form of Truvia™ rebiana. Bulking agents are additives that increase the bulk and contribute to the texture of a food. Erythritol has been part of the human diet for thousands of years as it is present in fruits such as pears, melons and grapes, as well as foods such as mushrooms and fermentation-derived foods such as wine, soy sauce and cheese. It is added to foods and beverages to provide sweetness, as well as to enhance taste and texture.
Truvia claims to be better than other stevia-based sweeteners because, unlike most stevia-based sweeteners, which are typically a mixture of many components from the stevia leaf, Truvia™ natural sweetener is made with rebiana, the best tasting part of the stevia leaf.
One packet of Truvia provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar.
Reported side effects of Truvia include a decreased lactose intolerance, bad breath, back, neck and shoulder pain, mouth itch, hives, gas, diarrhea, cravings for carbohydrates.
There have been some reports of early tests showing some decreased fertility in rats. After 10 minutes of Googling and still finding nothing substantial and conflicting information, I decided that Coke doesn’t want us to know about the rat infertility, so it’s making it hard for me to find this info.
Both Truvia and the Pepsi-developed version called Pure-via have received FDA approval and are “generally recognized as safe.”
According to the Stevia website, Stevia is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green Stevia rebaudiana plant have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar.
Stevia has not been approved by the FDA as a food additive, only as a supplement. Meaning, it cannot be sold in food in the U.S. at this time, only by itself.
There are no reported side-effects or dangers of stevia known at this time, and it has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
2. Buy some Truvia and Stevia. (I told you this would be scientific!)
Both were available at Kroger. Truvia was with the sugar and sugar substitutes. Stevia was in the Natures Market. That seems significant, somehow, but I’m not sure why.
I totally don’t know what I paid for the Truvia, but the website said it is $3.99 for 40 packets. That sounds about right. So let’s go with that.
I bought the powdered form of Stevia Plus because it looks like sugar (as opposed to the liquid) and it has probiotics. (that’s the “plus” part). It was $9.99 for 4 ounces. I think the packets were cheaper.
3. Have members of the Cooper family taste the Truvia and the Stevia using their choice of fingers, strawberries and coffee.
First Truvia. (isn’t this exciting?)
Rebekah: Finger Test–“Tastes like Splenda”
Strawberry Test: “It’s good. Can I have more?” Ends up eating several strawberries and four packets of Truvia. (Mom cringing watching her precious daughter consume four packets, while thinking about infertile rats)
Jon: Finger Test—“Are you sure this is safe?”
Strawberry Test—“It has a lingering aftertaste. It doesn’t taste natural. It tastes chemically” (Chemically: scientific word for “like it’s made from chemicals”)
FFG: Finger Test—“Yep, tastes like a sugar substitute.”
Strawberry Test—“Yep, still tastes like a sugar substitute.” (makes” eewwww “face)
Rebekah: Finger test—“Tastes like Truvia…no, wait, I don’t like it…YUK. Mom, why can’t we just eat sugar?” There was no strawberry test. Joins Elijah on the trampoline.
Jon: Finger Test—“I like this. I’d eat this.”
Strawberry Test—“This is good. Yeah, I’d definitely eat this.”
Finger Test: Cautiously stuck finger in her mouth and made sort of a funny face.
Strawberry Test: Finished all of Jon’s strawberries dipped in Stevia. I asked her if it was good, and she smiled and said, “Yes.” Though she still had a cautious look on her face. I think she was thinking about infertile rats.
The Finger Test—“Very sweet with a bitter aftertaste”
The Coffee Test—“My coffee is undrinkable. Therefore, I must dispose of coffee.” I didn’t actually say that, I was just thinking it. I was in the room alone. I think in complete sentences.
4. FFG’s General Observations.
A. The fact that Coke is having to create an entirely new sugar substitute to put in its products substantiates what I’ve suspected all along: Aspartame is pure evil. And honestly, something about Coke being behind the manufacturing of Truvia makes me suspicious of its safety. Maybe because Coke doesn’t really have the reputation for producing natural, safe or nutritious food???
B. Truvia is FDA approved, but Stevia is not? Is not Truvia made from Stevia? I’m so confused. Me thinks big business may have some pull on the government. I know, radical concept. Call me crazy.
C. I generally support any measure taken to decrease the world’s rat population. Heaven knows, we don’t need so many rats running around. But my heart does go out to the little Rat Mommies and Rat Daddies who are trying so hard to get pregnant with Rat Babies, yet making no connection to the funny tasting white powder that has been inconspicuously sprinkled on all their Rat Food.
D. Decreased fertility….hmmmm…this could save Jon from having to see a certain urologist for a certain surgery that I’ve been bugging him to get for a certain number of years. (Note to self: Put mass doses of Truvia in Jon’s food)
E. Why does Rebekah know what Splenda tastes like? I don’t serve Splenda. I don’t own Splenda. The only time Rebekah eats out is with me, so she should have no access to Splenda. Is Rebekah leading a dual life? The other, wrought with sugar substitutes????
F. “Generally recognized as safe.” I don’t know about you, but I’m a little leery consuming something that is only “generally recognized as safe.” Diet Coke: Generally Recognized As Safe doesn’t sound like a great ad campaign.
G. Truvia, Stevia and Pru-via would be great baby names if the fertility thing backfires and we get pregnant with triplets.
5. Conclusions: Neither Truvia nor Stevia taste all that great and neither one tastes as good as sugar. I never baked with it, or put it in ice cream…so I guess the jury is still out on whether you can eat mass quantities of baked goods and still fit into your jeans.
I suppose if there is some medical reason why you cannot eat sugar, then I’d recommend one of these. Otherwise, I would recommend what I’ve been recommending all along: Cut down all processed foods to an absolute minimum in your diet. When you crave something sweet, stick with natural sweeteners like honey and pure maple syrup. Or better yet, just eat fruit.
And if you really need a chocolate chip cookie, for the love of all that is right and good, just make you some really good organic homemade chocolate chip cookies with real sugar, and call it a day.