What is the difference between natural and artificial sweeteners and why do you use the sweeteners that you do?
We've been asked quite a lot about why we say our products use “natural sweeteners” and what this means.
We only use natural sugar substitutes (inulin, erythritol and stevia) to sweeten our products, and the Food Standards Agency in the UK requires us to state this on our packaging.
Our main objectives when selecting the sweeteners we wanted to use were:
- Taste – they had to taste just like sugar!
- Natural ingredients
- GI – zero GI or as close to it as possible
- Zero impact on blood sugar (and zero fructose content)
This meant that we discounted artificial sweeteners right way. In addition to the fact that they don’t use natural ingredients, they leave a bitter aftertaste, and have also had plenty of bad press. We won’t go in to it as we avoid them anyway!
So, then the battle of the natural sugar substitutes began.
We really wanted to use one of the lovely “natural” sugars, but unfortunately they all had their downsides. Coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, cane sugar, barley malt, brown rice syrup … all of these had a GI ranging between 35 to 55, so had to be taken out of the equation.
Agave, with a GI of 15, seemed like a good alternative. However, it’s not just the GI that makes sugar harmful, but the high amount of fructose. Fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin in the short term, but when consumed in high quantities it leads to insulin resistance. Agave has 70-90%fructose (which is actually higher than normal sugar which has 50%).
So, we were finally left with sugar alcohols… whist these sound rather “chemical” they are actually made from natural ingredients (plants, fruits, vegetables), and do not contain sugar or alcohol as the name may suggest. They also have the added benefit that they do not contribute to tooth decay.
Not all sugar alcohols are the same though – some have quite high GI levels and some have laxative effectives. We didn’t one any of these! Finally, we did find a silver lining at the end of the race Erythritol … a sugar alcohol which has 0 GI, 0 impact on blood sugar, 0 calories, 0/minimal laxative symptoms/no bitter aftertaste.