September 06, 2018

Artificial Sweeteners Good For You? Part 2

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

In this article on sweeteners, I will present a few acceptable alternatives to the chemical slurries commonly used. There are six sweeteners to consider: stevia, stevia based alternative, xylitol, dextrose or pure glucose, and lastly, sugar and honey in moderation.

We’ll start with my favorite of the bunch, stevia. Stevia belongs in the herb and shrub genus in the sunflower family. It comes from the Central and South Americas. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, has no calories, no fat, carbs or sugars. It has a negligible effect on blood glucose, so diabetics and low carb dieters can use it without worry.

Japan began using stevia as an alternative to saccharin and aspartame. The leaves, extracts from the leaves and purified steviosides are all used as sweeteners. Stevia accounts for 40% of the sweetener market in Japan. So why isn’t it popular here in the USA? The FDA has banned the import of this herb. Why? To protect the market share of aspartame, promoted by Monsanto. How do I know? Well, I don’t for sure, but consider this. In the mid 1980’s, Celestial Seasonings tried to market some specialty teas with stevia as a no calorie drink. An anonymous complaint was made to the FDA, likely from the makers of aspartame. The FDA banned it as a sweetener, started search and seizure in manufacturing facilities and warehouses. In 1996 the FDA claimed the herb was a “non-safe food additive,” despite acknowledging its use throughout history, at about the same time aspartame was approved. The studies they cited were incomplete and absurd. The FDA refuses to read studies from Japan and Germany which show its safety and beneficial effects. After the decision to ban stevia, several members of the FDA panel left for high paying jobs at…Monsanto. Now do you get why?  Stevia can be sold as a nutritional supplement in the USA, but not as a food additive or sweeteners.  How those green packets are sold legally is anyone’s guess, I just hope they don’t disappear.

There are two general components in stevia; stevioside, which makes about 17% of the leaf, and rebaudioside A which is just 3-4% of the leaf. Stevia is sold in several forms. First, is the ‘tea’ cut, and is good for herbal tea mixtures. Second is natural stevia powder. It is the whole leaf simply ground up after drying, and is green in color. It has the most nutritional value, but has a severely bitter after taste, which most people do not like, including me. Next is the liquid stevia, sometimes blended with other ingredients, so check the label. Make your own more economically with stevia powder and purified water. Lastly is the white powder stevia. You want to verify the content of the white powder. If a label says 80% steviosides, it is really misleading, because stevioside is the least desirable of the sweetening components of stevia. It leaves more after taste and is cheap to buy. Rebaudioside A (Reb A) content is what you want to look for. 80% or more Reb A is pure sweetness, without the bitter aftertaste, and much more costly since it is only 3-4% of the leaf. If you buy cheap stevia what you get is stevioside, primarily.

Other benefits of stevia found in research include anti-inflammatory properties, immune support actions, and improvement in insulin resistance. I buy mine from Canada on the web at: It may seem expensive, but consider that you can sweeten a cup of tea by dipping a toothpick into the stevia and then swirl it in. I can sweeten a gallon of green tea (to ‘sweet tea’ status) with a quarter teaspoon.

Stevia based sweeteners such as Truvia by Coca-Cola and PureVia from Pepsi are just that, based on stevia, but not stevia only. So we have an FDA that has banned real stevia, but declares derivatives of stevia safe. Huh? There are no long term studies of these patented products, but my hunch is they are still safer than pink, blue or yellow. I’ll stick with the real stuff. Even the green packets are a stevia extract.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is not as sweet as sugar, and has significantly less calories. Note it is less calories, not “no calories.” That is because it is a sugar that is not completely absorbed by the intestines. It can have a side effect of gas and bloating due to the non-absorption, but that comes with extreme amounts generally over 30 grams a day. If you eat that much, you deserve some gas. Xylitol also fights tooth decay and ear infections with its antimicrobial actions that decrease bacteria. It is definitely a reasonably safe and beneficial sweetener.

Pure glucose (dextrose) is also a safe alternative. It is about 70% as sweet as sugar, so you will use more of it. It has calories, but it has no fructose, that very detrimental sugar you need to stay away from. Glucose can and is used by every cell in your body. Go to, you can buy it in bulk there.

Finally there is plain old sugar. Here is a list of sugars’ aliases: cane sugar, date sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, fruit juice, molasses, maple syrup, sucanate, sorghum, turbinado. They are all sugar, and all contain high fructose levels. Fructose is first stored in the liver as glycogen. When the liver is full it swells. It is then stored in the belly, buttocks, breasts and thighs (DUH!). When those are full, it goes to active organs such as the heart and kidneys, which adversely affects the entire body.

So, no, sugar is not good for you by any means. Cut out as much sugar as you can. But, it is still a safe thing to use in very limited quantities, and definitely safer than pink, blue or yellow.

Honey is another natural sweetener.  Honey has both sucrose and fructose, but unlike sugar, the bees have added an enzyme that has broken them down into simple sugars already.  The body can use each immediately, so the glycemic index is lower in honey.  A tablespoon of sugar has about 46 calories, honey has 64 calories.  The difference is honey is sweeter than sugar, so you actually use less of it, therefore you eat fewer calories.  It still has some fructose, so go easy with honey as well.

All things considered, stevia is your best bet for sweetening drinks, cereals and fruits. It isn’t easy to bake with, but there are cookbooks out there with plenty of recipes to get you started. Try it and save your body from the other sources of chemical pollution that damage your health: pink, blue and yellow.