Monday, March 18, 2013

Tastes just like the real thing...

Well loves, today I got an Influenster VoxBox (more on that later!) and inside was this box of Nectresse sugar packets.  Now, I've acutally received samples of Nectresse before and, like most of the sugar subs I recieve, it went right into my "I'll-try-you-when-I'm-really-desprerate" box.   In the first place, I'm not a big sugar consumer.  Between myself and my husband, a 5lb bag of standard white sugar lasts between 6 and 8 months in my home.  Occasionally longer and most of the use of it is generally reserved for when others visit us and want something sweet.  My personal sweetener of choice is raw honey but as I'm trying to start slowly veganizing my life, perhaps it's time to start looking at some alternatives.  This bag of Stevia in the Raw and the packet of Pyure Stevia sweetener were things I've been holding onto but haven't really gotten around to using.  

Here we have a picture of all the different sweeteners in a nice little line.  From the bottom, we have: white sugar, Stevia in the Raw, Pyure Stevia and Nectresse.  Each were portioned to equal the sweetness level of 2 teaspoons white sugar.  Off the bat you can see that the Nectresse and the white sugar share the most similar texture; granulated. The Stevia in the raw is almost powder like and it's very light. Even though it measures just like sugar the pile seems larger becuase it's make up of fluffy balls which remind me a bit of styrofoam.  The Pyure brand Stevia is a fine powder.  Now, I've obviously used sugar before and I know what it tastes like.  I've also used Stevia in the Raw for desserts.  While I don't mind it for that purpose I find that for everyday things, like tea for example, the aftertaste is evident.  I made the mistake with a Pyure packet once of assuming packs for packs and after stirring two of them into a cup of tea I had to throw it out. It was completely undrinkable.  It does not measure the same as sugar, despite being stevia.  Looking at the two now, I'm guessing this is for texture reasons.  So now let's face them off, shall we?

Up first is the Stevia in the Raw vs. Granulated White Sugar.  So how do they stack up?

Texture:  The sugar is a fine granule while the Stevia has a flaked or sort of ball like appearance.  It's reminiscent of fake snow. The Stevia is also MUCH lighter than the sugar.

Color:  They're both white but while the Stevia is opaque the sugar is transluscent.

Dissolvability:  The Stevia dissolved much more quickly.

Health factor: The Stevia is fat, calorie, and sodium free. In fact it's basically made of nothing. The package lists it as natural, organic, and made of natural cane turbinado sugar.  Apparently it is a renewable crop with minimal environmental impact. It's sweeter than sugar, so less can be used and thus less grown. It is also vegan. So how does white sugar stack up? There are 16 calories in a teaspoon of white sugar. So out the gate it's a loser on the health front. It also has no fat or sodium though. To me, caloric intake is only half the battle and I don't mind sometimes to eat more calories vs eating something with a lower nutritional content.  This is sugar though, so let's get on with the environmental impact! According to a 2004 WWF article, sugar may be responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop, due to its destruction of habitat to make way for plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals, and the polluted wastewater that is routinely discharged in the sugar production process. Ouch. White sugar is also not always vegan.  That white color you see is often the result of bone char.  :/ Ew.

Taste:  So on the taste front I'm going with sugar.  Obviously, I like it the best of all these or I wouldn't go to so much trouble to find a substitute!  The Stevia in the raw has an odd sweetness to it followed by a slight bitter after taste.  It's great for baking or places where a sweetness is needed but the flavor will be masked. I definitely wouldn't use it in drinks though.

Alright here we have Nectresse and Pyure brand Stevia.  We've been through the whole Stevia thing before. This is not different in composition from the Stevia in the Raw, it's just different texturally so let's put it head to head against the Nectresse.

Texture: The Nectresse is granulated, like real sugar. The Stevia is a fine powder.

Color: The Nectresse is a little orange-y and is translucent like sugar. The Stevia is white.
Dissolvability: The Stevia dissolved much faster with this as well but it's a powder so that's expected. I found that the Nectresse dissolved very similar to real sugar.

Health Factor: Both are calorie, fat and sodium free. Nectresse is actually made from Monk Fruit so, like Stevia, it's plant based and completely natural. It's not made of chemicals like some other sweeteners. It is also gluten free and as a bonus, the monk fruit it's made from has been used in Asian medicine for years (so it's kind of healthy?). I can't find any evidence that it's not vegan but I'm not 100% certain it is either. There are no non-vegan ingredients but for safety's sake we'll call it a maybe. 

Taste: The Pyure Stevia is disgusting. Non-edible. Even IN things I couldn't do it. I don't know if it's the difference in brand or the difference in texture but while the Stevia in the Raw has a sweetness up front and a bitterness after, it's cousin Pyure is all bitter. Yuck.  The Nectresse was a pleasant surprise. It really does taste VERY similar to sugar. It is a bit more sweet. It's kind of like a pixie stick at first! But there is literally NO aftertaste.

Final thoughts: If you're looking for a healthier version of sugar, then Nectresse will be your new best friend. I found it by FAR the most sugar-like and it's also supposedly great for baking, which Stevia is kind of a fail at.  Health wise, it may even be better for you than the Stevia since recent studies have linked Stevia to having a mutagenic effect inside the body.  It was even banned in the US in the early 1990's.  The monk fruit in Nectresse has been used for many years in Asian medicine BUT that doesn't mean there aren't side effects that we may find out about with it later as well.  On the other hand, it's other contents: molasses, sugar (a SMALL amount), and sugar alcohol are all things I recognize.  Myself, I think I'll stick with honey for now! But Nectresse would definitely be my second in line! :)

Have you tried any of these? What did you think?

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