Ditching Sugar But Still "Need" Sweet?

A short discussion about less-known all-natural diabetic-friendly sweeteners like eurythritol, stevia, monk fruit, and xylitol along with a few others.

Sugar SubstitutesSo you've decided, smartly, to give up sugar, but you've still got a yen for something sweet? Say no more. We Sugar Police were in the same boat. The good news is there are a wide variety of all-natural, non-caloric sweeteners available. And just by the way, all of the sugar substitutes mentioned here are diabetic-friendly, plus they can all be added to any drinks or foods. Furthermore, they're all good for baking.

The first, and my personal favorite, is eurythritol, also known as eurithritol. A sugar alcohol derived from plants, eurythritol is a safe and natural sweetener widely used in Europe. The best things about eurythritol are the taste -- which is very close to sugar -- and the safety. Also, no ill side effects like you can get with other sugar alcohols, namely malitol which is known to result in gastric distress, i.e., gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc. The only cons are that eurythritol's not quite as sweet as sugar (about 80% as sweet) which means you have to use more to get the same level of sweetness you're used to, and it can be a tad pricey. I expect the price to go down because more and more sweetener producers are incorporating eurythritol, often blending it with other sugar substitutes. Now Foods makes good, well-priced eurythritol crystals, or you can just do a search on Amazon for eurythritol -- you'll find lots of options.

My next favorite non-caloric sweetener is stevia. Stevia is an all-natural plant extract, and like eurythritol, has no known side effects. Unlike eurythritol, stevia is VERY sweet -- in its pure form, about 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar. One thing to note about stevia is, depending on the source and brand, it can have a slightly bitter aftertaste. Most stevia is not pure, so it's usually not that sweet, but even then, it is usually still much sweeter than sugar, a plus since you don't need to use very much.

TIP: Truvia, which you can purchase at most any grocery or health food store, is a blend of eurythritol and stevia. It takes advantage of the best qualities of these two good non-caloric sweeteners and combines them in, what is to me anyway, the best-tasting sugar-substitute on the market currently...and I've pretty much tried them ALL. Seriously...I have.

Another somewhat new natural sweetener on the market (in the U.S. anyway) is monk fruit extract. Monk fruit is a Japanese fruit that is very sweet, much sweeter than sugar. Brands include Nutresse (crystals), Monk Fruit In the Raw (powder), EZ Sweet (drops), and SkinnyGirl (liquid) which are good options, but EZ Sweet is my personal favorite because it has ZERO aftertaste and is very easy to dose out, although it's a little expensive and harder to find. Those who prefer the taste of natural or brown sugar should try Lankato's sweetener which is a monk fruit extract-eurythritol blend -- it's not as sweet as sugar, so again, you have to use more to achieve the same sweetness, but it's really good especially when you want that carmel-y taste that natural and brown sugar imparts.

Some new-to-market sweetener brands to be aware of... First is Just Like Sugar. This one is great because it truly is sugar-free. The ingredients are chicory root fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and natural flavors from the peel of oranges. To me, Just Like Sugar is not as sweet as sugar, but very close. Personally, I find JLS has a bit of an aftertaste, but that's just me. Note there are both baked-goods and table-top versions, so be sure to get the right one when purchasing. Next up is Sin Free Sugar which, according to their website is a blend of a non-caloric sugar called Xylose, brown seaweed extract and eurythritol. I've tried it, and I like it. The powder is very fine and dissolves easily. The only drawback is that, although they say it's as sweet as sugar, I tend to disagree. In my opinion, it takes a bit more Sin Free Sugar to equal sugar's sweetness.

One other sweetener worth mentioning is xylitol. Like its cousin, eurythritol, xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from plants. Safe and equally as sweet as sugar, xylitol has the distinction of being a known cavity-fighter. In fact, a lot of toothpastes -- especially the natural, health-food-store ones -- use xylitol instead of or in addition to fluoride to keep cavities at bay. One note about xylitol: it's not non-caloric. There are about 10 calories in a teaspoon, so if weight-loss is a priority, xylitol might not be the best option for you.

I haven't addressed the more widely available commercial sugar substitutes, namely the pink stuff, the blue stuff and the yellow stuff you find on most restaurants table-tops and in grocery stores. I may do a follow-up post about them depending on interest, so let me know if you're interested.

Anyway until the next post, y'all stay sweet! ;-)