We are now eating more sugar than ever.
Not only is sugar present in our favorite sweets like cookies, cakes and ice cream, it’s hidden in common food favorites like ketchup, barbecue sauce, canned or packaged fruit, cereal bars and yogurt.
Consider this statistic: Americans consume more than 140 pounds of sugar a year, reports the United States Department of Agriculture – which is a 20 percent increase in sugar consumption since 1970.
These snow-white sugar granules are anything but pure as they contain empty calories, contribute to obesity, disrupt your insulin metabolism and make your body better at storing fat.
Health- conscious consumers typically use natural and artificial sugar substitutes to sweeten their drinks and to help win the war against the negative effectives of sugar.
Although these artificial additives have been approved and declared safe for human consumption, there are benefits and potential health risks associated with these sweeteners.
While natural sugars such as fructose, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup and agave have their pros and cons, not all artificial or sugar-free sweeteners like stevia and aspartame are created equal.
Here are a few stevia vs aspartame facts:
- Stevia is an herb made from the leaves of a bush found in Paraguay that is 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia consumption decreases the urge for sweets and is the second most popular sweetener in the United States behind sucralose.
- Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet or Equal, is composed of aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methyl ester. The methyl ester or methanol in aspartame breaks down to create formaldehyde in the human body.
Because a high rate of sugar consumption is linked to conditions such as fatty liver disease, Crohn’s disease and a decline in your long-term health, you should consider the follow sugar substitutes that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your weight and well-being in check.
- Safety: Stevia is often seen as safer due to its natural sourcing.
- Health Impact: Stevia does not affect insulin metabolism, making it a better choice for managing blood sugar levels. Aspartame’s breakdown products prompt caution among health-conscious individuals.
In essence, stevia is favored for its natural composition and minimal impact on metabolism, while aspartame’s synthetic nature and potential health implications warrant careful consideration.
What Is Stevia Made From?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana). The active compounds that give the stevia leaves their sweetness are called steviol glycosides, the main ones being stevioside and rebaudioside A. These steviol glycosides are over 100-300 times sweeter than sugar but contain no carbohydrates or calories.
To make purified stevia extracts for use as a sweetener, stevia leaves are dried and subjected to water extraction, clarification/filtration, ion exchange, and crystallization to isolate the sweet glycosides. The final product is a white powder extract that is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and mixes well in beverages or recipes.
So in summary – stevia sweeteners come from natural extraction and processing of compounds found in the leaves of the stevia plant.
What Is Aspartame Made From?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener made from two amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine. During manufacturing, the two amino acids are chemically bonded together through a process that results in a new molecule not found in nature – aspartame.
Specifically, the aspartic acid and phenylalanine undergo an enzymatic reaction that links them together. This process isolates the new aspartame molecule which is then subjected to purification and crystallization to produce the final sweetener powder.
So unlike stevia, aspartame is not extracted from a plant. It is chemically manufactured from amino acids to produce a sweet-tasting synthetic compound.
Check out the infographic below and decide for yourself who wins the stevia vs aspartame debate: