In the context of a low carbohydrate diet we do not use traditional sweeteners like sugar, fructose, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup etc., because their calories is 100% carbohydrates. In order to make something sweet we have to use alternative no or low carbohydrate sweeteners.
Human beings react strongly to anything that tastes sweet, regardless of its physiological effects. It is true for sugar as well as artificial or “natural” low calorie sweeteners. Despite being considered safe, many reports sides effects like gastrointestinal upsets, headaches, increase hunger or weight stall. Many use them liberally with no reported issues.
After testing many sugar alternative on the market, I have concluded the following:
- When I started using artificial sweeteners, I thought it was the greatest invention ever. I started drinking diet soft drink, having sweet tea and baking low carbohydrate sweet dessert. The honeymoon lasted for months. Then, I started gaining weight on the same amount of food I was eating previously and I was feeling hungry all the time. It’s like my body figured it out: if it tasted like sugar, my body reacted like it was sugar. I also correlated drinking diet soft drink with headaches. I had to cut down.
- I realized I was addicted to the sweetness and/or the sweeteners. After that, I stopped using all sweeteners.
- After a long “detox” period, I started testing different sweetener on myself, parallel to doing research on what effects each one has on the body. At the same time I looked into their safety with long term usage.
- Now, I don’t use alternative sweeteners everyday. When I use it, I use the smallest amount possible for the food to be palatable. I have noticed that salt cut bitterness (think unsweetened cocoa) and that vanilla and cinnamon enhance sweetness. I also like to use ginger, nutmeg and cayenne. We don’t need to use a ton to have the effect. Most of the time, the food doesn’t even taste like vanilla or cinnamon, but adding them definitely enhance the overall sweetness of the food.
- The fewer sweeteners we use, the more sweetness we will be able to perceive.
- I use naturally flavored sparkling water with no sugar or artificial sweeteners instead of diet soft drink and I find them even more satisfying.
I think I’m on the sensitive side of the spectrum and I have settled on a blend containing two or three of the following ingredients: inulin, erythriol, stevia. If it’s mixed with anything else, I don’t touch it. I have found that stevia has a strong after taste of licorice to me, which is not ideal but it is self-limiting. In a blend it’s subtle enough for me to enjoy the food but I don’t feel like overeating it either. I like the taste and health benefits of xylitol, but I tend to go overboard after I use it for a couple of days. If I really feel like having something closer to the taste of sugar, which happens rarely, I might use saccharin (pink packet) or sucralose (yellow packet) but I don’t use the blue packets.
When I want a dessert, I will take some berries with a drizzle of cream and when it’s hot I use frozen berries. I like fresh cranberries as a snack. I also gradually moved from 70% dark chocolate to 85-90%, now 70% is too sweet to me. I can have a couple of squares of 90% without going over my carbohydrate allotment for the day.