Friday, December 7, 2012

Non-Sugar Sweetener Types: A Diabetic's P.O.V.


I looked up at the sweeteners on the shelf at the grocery store and saw one that I hadn't seen in the past: Monk Fruit in the Raw.  I was thoroughly excited, and immediately grabbed it up.

See, I'm a type 1 diabetic, and have been since age 4.  It wasn't until around 5 years ago that I got my first insulin pump, which allows me more freedom with which foods I place in my body... and when I can eat them, so I spent the majority of my life having to stick to strict dietary guidelines.

This isn't a plea for sympathy - not at all!  I actually think my diabetes has caused me to live a healthier lifestyle than the average non-diabetic in this country.  Rather, it's needed to explain my excitement over finding a new type of sweetener.  I've been raised on artificial sweeteners, because I couldn't use normal sugar in daily food and drink items.

Try to tell a kindergartner to stay away from sugary drinks at a birthday party.

I dare you.

Ah ha ha!  Yeah, right!  Anyone who claims it's possible to keep children away from them is either naive or lying.  And don't even get me started with middle school and the pressure to fit in there...

Regular cokes and sugar sweetened kool-aid were a no-go.  I got the diet stuff, or I got nothing.  This didn't bother me, for the most part.  To be honest, having grown up with diet drinks has caused me to look at the regular ones with that same "Eew... you drink that?" look that everyone else uses with diet drinks.  You enjoy what you're used to.

That being said, I know my sweeteners.  I had diabetes before aspartame (the blue stuff) was a popular item on store shelves (It was approved for store shelves in 1981, then released in 1982, but it wasn't until a few years later that it really picked up in popularity.).  I began with saccharin (the pink stuff), and I didn't like it.  It had a really yucky aftertaste.  It was better than nothing, though.

Well, you know... except that it causes cancer in lab animals... and it takes bad.  

I went on to use aspartame.  It was much preferable. When sucralose (the yellow stuff) came out, I was very excited.  Indeed, when I became pregnant with my daughter, I switched over entirely, since sucralose doesn't cross the placental barrier, unlike aspartame, which has been found, even if it was in minute amounts.  It was artificially created through replacement of three specific hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with variants of the element chlorine. Not perfect, but a step up from the pink and blue stuff, at any rate.

Later, I tried Stevia sweeteners (the green stuff).  Stevia is a natural sugar alternative, so it's it's totally green.  I grew a plant at home, and I bought packets of the powder form.  Stevia has one benefit that the other sweeteners don't - natural fiber.  It was a far healthier choice, of course, but I couldn't handle it.  The problem I had with stevia is the same as what I had with saccharin.

Gross aftertaste.  

As much as it pained me to go back to something artificial, I couldn't stand the aftertaste.  Some people like it.  I'm glad they do, and I wish I did, too.  Strangely, as much as I hated the powder form, I really liked sucking on the fresh leaves.  If I had a sudden craving for something sweet, I'd just go out and pick a green leaf from my stevia.  This was a step in the right direction.  Plus, as an added bonus... I discovered that preying mantises loved to perch on my stevia plant, so I attracted some garden friendly insects at the same time.


That wasn't enough, though.  I needed to feel I could use it daily, and with pleasure....And that brings us back where we were at the beginning of this post.

I took out a packet of Monk Fruit in the Raw.

Henceforth, we will call this "the orange stuff".

Monk fruit grows on a tree, while stevia is an herb.  There was a chance that this might change things for me... maybe cause the sweetener to give off a little less of that aftertaste, or even none at all!

I crossed my fingers. 

The texture of this sweetener is very similar to that of stevia powder: dense and very finely ground.  As I dropped 1/4 of a packet into my coffee (daring, when we consider that I'm a coffee fiend, I know).  I always start with less than I think I'll need.  You never know what you'll get with non-caloric sweeteners, after all!  It dissolved quite well.  Better than sucralose, which is what I mostly use.

Then came the taste test.




I needed more sweetener.  1/4 of a packet was not enough.  I went up to half a packet, and recognized that the sweetening effect was much better.

My review?

Monk fruit sweetener has that funky aftertaste... just like stevia powder.  The good news, though, is that the aftertaste isn't nearly as strong.  It's something I could get used to if I tried.

I now need to evaluate whether or not I'll make that effort.  I know I should.  Health, after all, is a pretty strong priority, and environmental health is one, as well.  Anything that comes from the earth is going to have less of a negative effect on it than its man-made alternative.

But will I do it?  I'll certainly try.  It's worth the effort, all things considered.  What would you do in this same situation?  No wrong answers here, by the way.  Everyone is different.

If it doesn't work out, though, I discovered that the In The Raw sweetener brand makes an agave sweetener, and we all know how much I like agave nectar!

Of course, I highly doubt that one falls into the "non-caloric" category.  I'll need to take a look.

No comments:

Post a Comment