Four Types of Natural Sweeteners
Since their introduction to the food market, low-calorie sweeteners made from low-carb sources have provided an exceptional alternative to table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. They are a great alternative for those looking for healthier options in the fight against obesity and diabetes or just for improving one’s personal health. Whether you're on a sustained low-carb diet or just want to curb sugar consumption, the number of available sweeteners can be overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of four of the most common alternative sweeteners and why they may be a good option for you:
Monk fruit is a small round fruit native to southern China. It has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine as a cold and digestive aid, and now it is also being used to sweeten foods and beverages. Monk fruit sweeteners are created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice. Monk fruit sweeteners are 250 times as sweet as sucrose, contain zero calories per serving, and do not boost blood sugar levels. Because of these core properties, monk fruit extract has become a popular sweetener for lower sugar food products.
Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol that can be found naturally in fruits like grapes or peaches, as well as in fermented foods like cheese or soy sauce. It is only about 60%-80% as sweet as sugar and often times is used in conjunction with other sweeteners, like monk fruit, to build a complete sweetness profile. Here’s the thing about sugar alcohols: they aren’t broken down by the body, and thus, are not counted toward the total net carb count. Since they are not broken down by your body and are poorly absorbed, sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal issues when consumed in excess. However, because erythritol is better absorbed into the bloodstream than other sugar alcohols, it has been shown to cause fewer gastrointestinal related issues, but sensitivity may vary.
Also known for the stevia extract or steviol glycosides, stevia is a sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant native to South America. For hundreds of years the glycosides have been extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant and purified for both medicinal and dietary use cases due to their antidiabetic properties. Similar to monk fruit extract, stevia extract is approximately 275 times as sweet as sucrose, does not spike blood sugar levels, and is considered “no-calorie” due to its significantly low calorie count.
Allulose is a sweetener that can be found naturally in dried fruit or brown sugar, but is considered rare, since it can only be found in select amounts of foods. Allulose is approximately 70% as sweet as sugar, has a low calorie count of just 0.4 calories per gram, and does not raise blood sugar levels. An interesting fact about allulose is its actually a single sugar and has the same chemical formula as fructose but has a different arrangement. This key difference in arrangement is the reason why allulose is not metabolized by the body and most of it is expelled though your urine.