Friday, April 19, 2013

From Sugar to Splenda to Liquid Stevia Sweetener: Why I Switched

Several years ago, early in my weight loss journey, I always used real sugar, honey, and agave nectar when I wanted something sweet. I added them to my tea, sprinkled or drizzled them on my grapefruit, and tossed them in my fruit salad. This was a great improvement over my previous morbid-obesity-inducing diet of candy bars, bakery cakes and packages of Oreos, but over time I realized that eating low carb is what truly works for me. I needed to get away from sugar and agave and all their carbs and calories, but still wanted to use sweetener once in awhile. Sure, I learned to drink my coffee black and my teas unsweetened. Yes, I started eating plain, delicious, naturally sweet fruits for my desserts. But on Medifast, fruit is something you add after the weight loss phase. And every so often, I like to sweeten something a bit: a cup of "dessert" coffee, a bowl of ricotta with cinnamon, or some light cream cheese to spread on my Medifast muffin.

Ever since switching to artificial sweeteners, I've loved the taste of Splenda. When I still drank diet sodas, I switched to Splenda-sweetened drinks. At one time I had six glass bottles of various flavors of sugar free syrups on my counters. For years I've kept a box of Splenda packets in my cupboard and a few little yellow packets in my purse, just in case. But recently, I started to wonder about the safety and possible side effects of ingesting this chemical called Splenda. While the Splenda company's website lists plenty of studies regarding the safety of their product, not everyone shares this opinion. The Truth About Splenda website discusses some of the concerns about the sweetener, including this study about possible side effects of Splenda. Many people claim to have gotten sick or to have various symptoms from ingesting Splenda, including everything from depression to rashes and from migraines to hair loss. It's anecdotal, but enough to concern me.

So what to use instead? After reading lots of articles including this Complete Guide to Sweeteners, I decided I should give stevia a try. Stevia is a plant that's been used as a sweetener for over a thousand years, so it felt safer and more natural to me. Granted, I am not picking and crushing stevia leaves into my food and the stevia we buy in stores *is* processed, but it is not turned into another chemical entirely. There are two different forms of stevia. One is based on a single extract from the plant, called rebaudiosides, and is FDA approved as a sweetener. The other is a whole-plant extract called steviosides and is sold as a dietary supplement (but still used by lots of people as a sweetener). I believe the latter is better, as it contains all the beneficial compounds in the stevia plant and not just one compound in isolation. There are very few reported side effects of stevia in what I have read, but those listed on WebMD include lowering blood sugar and lowering blood pressure! Those are both benefits for some folks, myself included. Studies even indicate that stevia may help treat insulin resistance and hypertension. You can read more about stevia and these studies in this excellent article: Is Stevia Healthy?

After deciding to switch to stevia, I tried Truvia. It came in little packets in the grocery store. Yuck! I hated it! It tasted excessively bitter to me. I tried several times and just couldn't enjoy it. I know that Truvia does not taste bitter to everyone, but to some the bitterness is very pronounced. So I set off in search of a non-bitter stevia. In my research I read that NuNaturals brand stevia (liquid) is not bitter, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered myself a little bottle of this: NuNaturals Pure Liquid Clear Stevia. I love it! It is not even the least bit bitter, is very sweet so you only need a few drops, and is made from the whole plant extract. It is so convenient to have it in a dropper bottle, so I can add one drop at a time to sweeten anything to taste. And I feel good knowing that it is not just a sweetener but a supplement that might help me keep my blood pressure down and blood sugar stable.

Last week I threw out all my Splenda packets. I am sticking with stevia from now on. This is a change I really feel positive about and intend to keep.

What sweetener do you use, and why?



24 comments:

David Dane said...

Lynn that is good you gave up the splenda, and the other artificial sweeteners. I found splenda was destroying my joints. It has and addictive quality to it that makes you crave using it. It also has an effect on appetite, in that it increases food cravings. It's hard to drink the stuff and not want to eat something very soon after you drink. I gave up the stuff three years ago... I won't drink anything with spenda, or other artificial sweeteners... Stevia is a great alternative.

Anna said...

Water, 20% pure grain alcohol, vegetable glycerine and natural flavors.

These are the ingredients listed. Is Stevia the alcohol?

ileana said...

trader joe's organic super stevia. I'll never forget the time I hosted a luncheon and Equal got spilt on my terrace and the next day there were hundreds of ants dead around it. Talk about an AHA moment. I know you're a Medifast enthusiast but I am of the persuation that our bodies do not recognize processed foods as Food so it stores it to figure out what the hell to do with it-what we eat tells the body to [depending on what] to burn, store or put on pending file-yes it is low calorie but is it really food? my tag line in every post should be 'Body is Boss'.- do what it wants from you and it will react accordingly- do the opposite and Mayhem and Foolishness will ensue. Jeh

Lyn said...

Anna~

No, those are the ingredients in the base. The bottle says, 200mg stevia extract per ml. Then it lists "other ingredients" you mentioned as the base. NuNaturals also makes an alcohol-free stevia liquid, which I am going to try when this bottle is gone.

Grace said...

Another good alternative is Luo Han (sometimes spelled Lo Han) which is monk fruit extract. My husband used to use Splenda a lot, but since starting to us Lo Han, he likes it a lot better. It is all natural and comes in several different forms.

Anonymous said...

Been using NuNatural Stevia for years. Powdered at home, liquid at work (no fuss, no muss, but the powdered is stronger). Unlike commenter above, I do not care for Trader Joe's -- it's cheaper, but doesn't have the sweetening power of NN. By the time I use enough, the bitterness kicks in. But NN is expensive -- I look for sales and stock up.

~babs

Taryl said...

I use stevia (the one from Vitacost is my favorite, closely followed by NuNaturals), erythritol when I need to bake, and liquid sucralose. I have other artificial sweeteners like granulated Splenda and xylitol, but those listed above have consistently been favorites :)

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's Organic Super Stevia user here too!

Hugs,
Noxie

CatherineMarie said...

I use sugar or honey. Stevia tastes too sweet to me. (I've been looking for a stevia plant, though, since maybe that will temper the oversweet). I can taste various fake sweeteners when I've used them, they just taste wrong.

Lori said...

I use stevia for the most part. We planted some in our garden last summer. I loved brewing it with my tea. Being from the south, I love me some sweet tea!!!
Lori

Lyn said...

Lori~

what a great idea! I am going to keep an eye out for stevia plants at my farmer's market this year.

CatherineMarie said...

Lori,

Where did you order it from? I want to try to grow some!

i should be full said...

I've been using Splenda for the past year and really enjoying it. But lately I've been concerned about the quantity of chemical I'm ingesting from the Splenda. I put it in my tea and when I bake oat bran muffins (my only allowed carb). I've never used chemical sweeteners before and it's a bit unnerving to me when I think about it. Luckily, I haven't had any side effects that I'm aware of.

But, when I tried Stevia it tasted terrible to me. I mean terrible. It tasted to me as though it was mentholated. Yuck! Everything tasted like a cough drop. But, I didn't try the liquid form, just the powdered stuff.

I think I'll try the liquid stuff. Just a small bottle, but it would be nice to move on from Splenda if I can.

Margaret said...

I'm not convinced.

With my own eyes, I watched my husband replace regular table sugar that he put in his coffee with Splenda and he dropped ten pounds in about six months. And he's never been over 180 pounds in his entire life (he's 5'11). He made the substitution because his dentist suggested it might be better for his teeth, by the way.

If it's something that obese people all agree is "evil" but is no problem to people not in the obese community, I am very skeptical. Seems like another "fat makes you fat" type myth in the making, another red herring.

Lyn said...

Margaret~

I think replacing calorie-laden sugar with *any* artificial, zero-calorie sweetener would result in much fewer calories ingested and therefore, possibly, weight loss. Lots of people have lost weight using saccharin, aspartame, stevia, etc or simply by not adding any sweetener at all to their drinks and foods.

I also think plenty of "obese people" like and enjoy Splenda, and I'm not trying to demonize it. I'm making the best, most informed and what I feel is the healthiest choice for myself, putting information out there for people to consider. If Splenda works for you and your husband, that's great! I am glad he found a way to be healthier.

Margaret said...

Sorry, Lynn, that must have come across more harshly than I intended. I'm one of the "obese people" and I drink my coffee black, of course!

I just was expressing my ever growing skepticism about the myths that become sacred truth, until science catches up about ten years later and exposes it as all hype... The paleo faction, the real food faction, the extreme exercisers, and a bunch of others, all hit this same button in my head too.

I think I'm just sick to my back teeth of the hype. None of this has anything to do with you. Please accept my apology for coming across that way.

Lyn said...

Margaret~

no offense taken! I get tired of the hype too. A lot of people are sure they have The Truth, The Way, and every other way is wrong. Yet every five years there is some new craze that is The Way. I find myself wondering what it will be in ten years! I pretty much cobble together my own way of eating and try to make little tweaks that might improve my health.

I think we are all best off with moderation and trial-and-error until we find what works for our own bodies.

Thanks for coming back, that was nice of you and I appreciate your comment. :)

David Dane said...

I'll try this again... I have written in my posts that I have given up artificial sweeteners. I wrote that my joints were getting damaged because of artificial sweeteners. I also wrote that stevia was a good thing... You never let my comment get posted?

Lyn said...

David~

your previous comment is the first one on this page. Thanks :)

Diana said...

You probably don't remember but I told you NuNaturals Stevia a couple years ago. I love their stuff. Plus the company is right here in the Northwest in Eugene, Oregon so they have to be good. You should ask them if you can do a product review. They read my blog post about their product and asked me to do one but I don't do product reviews. Glad you like it.

Caroline said...

I'm a honey or maple syrup kind of person now. Only natural sugars (including fruit), and that's if I'm eating sugar, which I try not to do. The fewer grains and potatoes I eat, the less I crave sugar, so it's win-win. Though I've read that Stevia might be the only sugar alternative that's relatively safe, I think it's best for me to avoid it.

Amy said...

I have been watching a lot of documentaries on whole foods/natural foods and have learned that our bodies are not made to break down chemically or genetically modified foods. I was the hugest supporter of Splenda for years, it helped me loose a lot of weight, but have switched to Stevia after a cancer scare. I recently discovered a wonderful product called Sweet Drops which is liquid stevia with natural flavors like chocolate raspberry. A couple drops in my water is a real treat and totally guilt-free.

Ben said...

Splenda is produced by running electric current through table sugar, breaking off carbon molecules and attaching chlorine molecules in their place.

Splenda is a chemical relative of DDT.

Stay away from Splenda!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn! I know this is an old thread. I hope your journey is still going strong. I'm frustrated on my own journey, at the moment, but I haven't lost hope.

I am a longtime TJ's organic liquid stevia user. I have espresso every morning, and one drop of liquid stevia plays nicely with my coffee. I'd try others, but I'm satisfied with the flavor and sweetness, and TJ's is readily available to me.

I occasionally drink Hansen's diet ginger ale available at TJs. The sweetening ingredients are "Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium". It's a guilty pleasure, because I do NOT think it's good for me.

When soft drink companies are finally about to use stevia to sweeten drinks, I'll be happy. I suppose manufacturers will add nasty stuff to make stevia soft drinks more palatable to consumers who are used to artificial sweeteners, but one can hope!

As an aside: when we refer to artificial sweeteners, stevia should be considered a "non-sugar" or "alternative" sweetener, because it's not at all "artificial." It's quite natural and the leaves, if you crush and taste them, are EXTREMELY sweet! This comment isn't directed to anyone in particular, I just had to retrain my brain to refer to stevia differently, and not include it in the pack of artificial sweeteners.

While I wait for Hansen's to catch up and use stevia in their drinks, I've been experimenting with my SodaStream, adding grated ginger and stevia and a touch of vanilla to carbonated water. It's not the same, but it's delicious in it's own way. I'm trying to keep an open palate. :-)

Helen