Apr 142011
NuNaturals Stevia

NuNaturals Stevia

In my reading today I came across this cute but important little chart entitled “How to Choose a Sweetener” from the BeFoodSmart website. I’ve never heard of this site before, but as I’m very concerned with the chemicals in my food, I will definitely explore BeFoodSmart more in the coming days.

I made the switch 5 or 6 years ago to stevia in my morning pot of tea. I used to use a tablespoon of sugar, because I couldn’t stand artificial sweeteners. Back then, only a handful of companies made stevia packets, and some of those were bitter or off tasting. I tried several before settling on the NuNaturals brand, which I buy in bulk from Amazon.

Now, this does still have additives, because stevia is so sweet you have to mix it with a filler. I’ve bought pure stevia before, and it’s almost impossible to measure properly because you need so little to make something sweet.

I have not tried the new stevia products on the market, including Truvia and others. The NuNaturals Stevia that I use is still sold as a dietary supplement and not a sweetener because the FDA approved a single compound in stevia, rebaudioside, for use as a sweetener. The more complete plant extract, stevioside, can only be sold as a supplement. (Don’t ask me why, I’m not a big fan of the FDA.)

Given a choice, I’ll always pick the most whole option.

Yes, I can hear the cynics out there saying, “If you’re so concerned about whole foods, why not grow the plant and use that?” I’ve thought about it, believe me, but this is where I’ve made a compromise based on time and convenience. If I can find a stevia plant this spring, I’ll try it in the garden and see how it does.

Now, a couple of my friends think the NuNaturals stevia is bitter, or has an aftertaste. Maybe it does, and I’ve gotten used to it because it was so much better than the other brands I tried years ago. I’d be curious if anyone else feels the same. Please let me know, or if you have another brand you prefer.

As for artificial sweeteners, I have a real problem with Splenda, so it annoys me how much it’s used in processed foods as a sugar replacement. Even places where you don’t expect it – like Emerald Nuts Cocoa Dusted Almonds. They’d be great if not for the aftertaste. I didn’t even realize they had sucralose (Splenda’s chemical name) until the aftertaste lingered in my mouth and I read the label. I felt so betrayed.

I don’t want to get into the scientific debate about Splenda – is it safe, does it make people gain weight, does it cause cancer, etc. That’s important, and a factor for me, but I don’t care for it primarily because of the taste (or more accurately the aftertaste), in addition to wanting to minimize chemical additives where I can.

Truvia and its competitors seem very like Splenda to me – one chemically isolated or altered ingredient.

Why can’t we just have less sweet products? Smuckers makes a line of lower sugar preserves. No Splenda added, just less sugar. I’m seeing lower sugar or no added sugar in other areas of the grocery store, too. I know sugar is structurally important in baked goods and preserves, so using less may mean altering the product in other ways. Depending on the product, I may not like those compromises.

Another alternative sweetener that I use is agave nectar, which I primarily use in combination with maple syrup on pancakes and french toast.

But again, agave is becoming a trendy sweetener so quality differs across the board, and production may not be sustainable if demand keeps increasing. We can’t win, can we?

All this being said, when I’m baking, I turn to sugar – granulated, brown, or powdered, depending on the recipe. I haven’t been brave enough to try baking with stevia, or any other natural replacement like agave. I have a stevia cookbook, but I hate to go through the effort of baking and then dislike what I’ve made, so I haven’t even tried.

What about you? Have you baked with a natural sugar alternative? Do you try to limit artificial sweeteners?

How to Choose a Sweetener
[Source: Be Food Smart]

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