Sugar substitute nonsense has to stop somewhere

This is the third of a three-part series for our Wheat and Chaff category, which focuses on the misinformation that makes basic life decisions so very difficult. We will take a slew of topics over time — most with a high degree of debate and misinformation — and try to provide the brass tacks of unbiased information. Don’t follow the fadish misinformation of the Internet. Find facts that can empower you to your healthiest, best life. Check out Part 1: EFFin A rules to sugar, and Part 2: Sugars by any other names.

There is no way I can be “unbiased” about artificial sweeteners. I don’t like artificial, I don’t use much added sugar, so it’s easy for me to turn my nose to the whole thing.

I like real sugar, plain and simple. I love to challenge people who argue otherwise, because at just 15 calories per teaspoon, what’s wrong with it?

“Nothing–in moderation,” says Lona Sandon, R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The naturally occurring sugar in an apple is fine, but if we can reduce some of the added sugar in our diet, we can remove some of the empty calories.”

My point in parts one and two, exactly.

But if you are at this third part of this three-part series, you deserve the best I can give you to separate the wheat from the chaff for those who want a best- alternative from the sweetener category.

For starters, I understand the provocative debates about the health impact of most artificial sweeteners. I’ll deal with aspartame as its own subject some day. For now, let me just say, if you can choose a natural alternative over a chemical one, why wouldn’t you? To that end, I’ll focus on the best of the best in this and leave the rest behind.

So let’s focus on the best of the best. Stevia, Monk Fruit and Truvia.

Stevia in the Raw’s ingredient list  is fairly simple: dextrose and stevia leaf extract. What is dextrose? Sugar. See the pattern here? There’s more dextrose than the plant. But, the good news is dextrose is naturally created within our body and in small doses can be relatively helpful. Compared to other sugars it’s just wonderful.

Stevia plants have been used for 400 years to sweeten foods so that’s a nice track record. The Bride tells me it has the faintest oddity in taste, but she’s gotten used to it. All things considered, it’s not a bad choice.

Truvia is also in the mix, according to experts.

“Truvia’s one of the most promising alternatives out there,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Healthiest Meals on Earth. “Right now, it looks safe. It tastes just like sugar and has almost no glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar.”

Not bad, all things considered, but read the fine print a second time: “Right now” she says. Right now, it looks safe. They all do at the start right? I’d probably opt for something with more information.

Consider Monk Fruit (source: medicaldaily.com):

monk_fruit

“Now monk fruit, a melon cultivated by Buddhist monks at one time or another in certain types of China, is gaining popularity as a flavorsome and healthier alternative to aspartame.

Chinese law that prevents monk fruit from being grown outside of the country. This combined with the intricate process involved with monk fruit extraction makes it a pricey commodity.”

Pricey’s not great. And if you can’t get it naturally, you are left with a processed product like Stevia and Truvia.

Mother Nature Network reports: Monk fruit extract is now sold commercially under a few brand names in the United States, one of which is Nectresse (from the same people who brought you Splenda). A glance at Nectresse’s ingredient list reads: erythritol (a sugar alcohol), sugar, monk fruit extract, and molasses — meaning that you’re not exactly getting as natural a product as you might have hoped. The most “natural” version of monk fruit sweetener that I have found is Monk Fruit In The Raw, which contains only dextrose and monk fruit extract — still not perfect, but getting there.

See, even the “natural” and “raw” products add a bunch of crap including, of all things, sugar! But like Stevia in the Raw, Monk Fruit in the Raw has dextrose, which as far as sugars go is, as Nonie used to say, “eh.”

Still, the processed process continues. Consider the people who combined monk fruit and stevia, calling it Zevia (do these folks need some new names or what?)

“We feel like we’ve really cracked the code,” Zevia CEO Paddy Spence told Reuters. “Using the two side by side, we were able to get a higher level of sweetness without the bitterness.”

Cracked the code huh?

OK… Why not?

My advice? Well you knew that back in part 1. But if like The Bride you’re going to opt for a zero calorie alternative, these listed above aren’t bad and getting better.

The one constant through all of this, when you pull the wheat from the chaff is this: Moderation. And moderation is far less than you think.

Be healthy. Live long. Love.

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