Customer: “Hi, may I please have an Americano with low-fat milk?”
Barista: “Of course! Would you like some sugar?”
Customer: “No thank you. Actually, do you have any alternative, artificial sweeteners?”
Artificial sweeteners are an extremely hot topic in today’s society. Intentionally created for those who cannot consume sugar on a daily basis, they are most commonly utilized by those who are watching their calorie intake. Replacing the basic table sugar with artificial sweeteners are believed to be beneficial to some, but not by all. In fact, the misconceptions associated with artificial sweeteners are that they are correlated to cancer and other progressive diseases; however the FDA has proven these theories to be negative. Due to the prevalence of artificial sweeteners through ads, displayed in food establishments, and by word of mouth, I decided to conduct research on the topic in hopes to spread some light on the truths regarding these sweeteners.
Two of the most common artificial sweeteners used today are Monk Fruit and Stevia. Although seemingly similar, these sugar replacements do promote different outcomes.
This fruit originates from Southeast Asia and can be described as a small, gourd-like, light brown sphere. In its natural state, the fruit spoils quickly, however it is deemed 150-200 times sweeter than sugar when broken down into its extracts. This artificial sweetener contains zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero sugars, and zero harmful side effects. So what else could possibly be in it? This artificial sweetener is high in its antioxidant properties and controls blood sugar levels. However, the fruit is difficult to grow and cultivate therefore leading to a higher export cost and elevated prices in the markets.
This artificial sweetener is native to South America and is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia shares many of the same properties as monk fruit: zero calories, zero carbohydrates, and zero sugars. Yet, Stevia has some potential disadvantages that users should be aware of. Side effects that are gastrointestinal related and allergic reactions are commonplace results of the sweetener. Similar to monk fruit, stevia is aslo expensive and therefore raises prices for general users.
Therefore, when it comes to choosing between the two sweeteners, consumers choice is impacted by price, taste, and availability.
It is important to note that there are a plethora of natural alternatives which can be used as sweetener agents. Fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar, although containing sugar, are found in natural forms.
Being mindful in picking artificial sweeteners, and limiting them when possible, is best for the consumer in order to avoid high levels of unnecessary sugar intake.