Is Truvia a Healthy and Safe Alternative to Sugar?

Truvia is a non-caloric sweetener. It’s a “blend” type product made with three ingredients: 1) erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol, 2) stevia leaf extract, which is an herb, and 3) natural flavors, more on this in later on.

Truvia is marketed as a “natural” product, but this is deceiving because anything that’s derived from a plant or animal source can be called natural. That means caloric sweeteners like sugar and HFCS are natural, too. What’s confusing for most consumers is the fact that the term natural has absolutely nothing to do with processing. The product can be processed to death and still be natural.

Erythritol, for example, is a chemically extracted and fermented substance derived from corn. Since erythritol comes from corn it can legally be called natural, but it’s still a highly processed substance. Erythritol is about 1/2 as sweet as table sugar and belongs to a class of substances known as sugar alcohols. Most, but not all, sugar alcohols are easily identified by the “ol” at the end of the name. Erythritol is the least objectionable of all the sugar alcohols because it causes the least digestive problems. Other sugar alcohols can make you cramp, fart and poop a lot. Erythritol is different because it’s made through a fermentation process rather than a hydrogenation process, and the hydrogenation process seems to be the source of the digestive problems.

Stevia leaf extract is just .05% of one serving of Truvia. That’s not much, but Cargill gets to make a pretty big deal out of the fact that it’s using a natural herb in it’s product. The stevia plant has naturally sweet leaves that taste a bit like licorice. In the olden days, 10 or so years ago, stevia was a highly regulated substance that was mistakenly feared to be carcinogenic. You could only get it in health food stores in the form of crushed leaves (that look a bit like oregano) or as a liquid. Once Cargill and the other big food manufacturers got into the act, stevia got mainstreamed into grocery store products as a healthier and more desirable alternative to sugar.

And lastly, the term “natural flavors” is a catch-all phrase where small quantities of any substance can be included in a product without being listed as an ingredient. A non-caloric sweetening agent called Neotame is a suspicious substance that’s often included as a natural flavor. Neotame is a mega powerful artificial sweetener that’s in the same family as aspartame, an excitotoxin.  (FYI, Excitotoxins over stimulate and kill brain cells.) In fact, Neotame is so very potent that only the tiniest bit of it needs to be included to have a sweetening effect. This is important because stevia and erythritol aren’t really all that sweet.

So is Truvia a safe and reasonable choice? Sure. It’s not a toxic substance, but like any sweetening agent it might be a digestive irritant. This will be immediately obvious to you right after you use it. Pregnant women, infants and young children, and any one with neurological problems should avoid Truvia and any other alternative sweetening agent. For everyone else, the best advice is to limit the daily consumption of Truvia to 2 tablespoons per day. Got it? Just 2 tablespoons.

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