So far in my discussions of sweetening food, I’ve mentioned the good (dates and blackstrap molasses), the bad (agave nectar, HFCS), and the ugly (white table sugar). Is there, however, a “neutral” sweetener out there? Something that sweetens your food and may not have health benefits, but won’t hurt you through a myriad of side effects?
As much as possible, I try to bake treats using date puree now (recipes at the bottom of this post). Dates are extremely sweet naturally, full of antioxidants, add moistness to baked goods, and deliver their sugar with fiber. Sometimes, however, I want something sweet and convenient to add that doesn’t impart its own flavor. Honey, for example, has great sweetness, is natural, and has a tiny amount of antioxidants. It does have a distinct flavor, though. So I have been using stevia to sweeten my morning cup of Choffy. Then I watched this video from Dr. Michael Greger, who I highly respect, about the various powder sweeteners on the market, and I learned about erythritol, sold as Zsweet. He says it is “Harmless. Found naturally in pears, melons, and grapes, absorbed in the intestine so it doesn’t have a laxative effect, and it’s excreted virtually unchanged in the urine.” Since he says the “jury’s still out” on stevia, I thought I’d give erythritol, Zsweet, a chance.
The bag arrived yesterday. It is white and powdery, less crystalline than table sugar. As for the taste–yes, sweet–but I will tell you that, especially eaten alone, it creates an odd, slight cooling effect in your mouth. Kind of like after you’ve just brushed your teeth with mint toothpaste (which worked perfectly when I used it to make Mint Chip Spinach Cupcakes). It does work perfectly to add a little sweetness to my morning cup of brewed cocoa beans, which can be a little bitter on its own.
Zsweet measures and bakes just like white table sugar, but my preference will always be for baking with whole food sources, like dates and bananas, for sweetness. For the occasional “spoonful of ‘sugar'” to sweeten beverages, though, I will try erythritol for now. I hope to wean myself from the need to sweeten my brewed cocoa beans in the morning.