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Swerve Sweetener: A Healthy Sugar Alternative?

By Fitoru | 25 September 2019
Brown sugar in a wooden bowl and some lumps and granules of white and brown sugar scattered on the side

Whether you’re trying to manage or avoid diabetes, start a new diet like the keto diet, or just be healthier, natural sugar substitutes are valuable assets. Detoxing from refined sugar is the first step to a whole new way of eating, feeling, and being, and the right sugar alternative can make that transition so much easier. When browsing among this category you may come across Swerve sweetener and wonder: what’s in Swerve that makes it sweet? What isn’t in Swerve that keeps it healthy? Is it the ultimate sugar replacement or are there better, more keto-friendly options out there (like stevia)? We have the answers to these questions and more. 

The Hindrance of Hidden Sugars

Regardless of whatever diet you’re attempting to adhere to, most of us are consuming too much refined sugar and corn syrup thanks to their hidden inclusion in unexpected food sources. Some of the biggest culprits for hidden sugars include: 

  • Low-fat yogurts
  • Sauces like ketchup, spaghetti, and barbecue sauce
  • Fruit juices and sports drinks
  • Flavored coffees and milks
  • Granola, protein, and cereal bars
  • Pre-made soups
  • Canned foods like fruit cocktail and baked beans

Even when you’re trying to eat well, “low-fat” on labels doesn’t necessarily mean low-sugar, and even some zero calorie sweeteners may contain preservatives or other artificial ingredients (Splenda for example is a blend of sucralose, dextrose, and maltodextrin, and it is not recommended for keto diets). Even when you know to skip buying regular sugar at the grocery store and avoid foods visibly dusted with confectioners sugar (powdered donuts or a king cake if you’re down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras) doesn’t mean that you’ve cut out all the sugar in your diet. 

Once you get wise to reading food labels, you realize just how many food products you actually have to avoid to quit sugar. That leaves you searching for a sugar substitute that won’t derail your diet, but can also work well in homemade recipes. Which do you choose? Monk fruit sweetener, liquid stevia, erythritol? The following sections detail Swerve sweetener and compare it to other popular sugar alternatives.

The hindrance of hidden sugars

What Is Swerve Sweetener?

According to the Swerve company’s own claims, Swerve sweetener is a natural sugar alternative made from citrus fruits and starchy root vegetables. They assert that it’s free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, and flavors. With statements of “zero-calorie” and “non-glycemic,” the company assures us that this product is safe for those with diabetes because it has no adverse effect on blood glucose or insulin levels.

Are these claims true? Does it have the bitter aftertaste that some people experience with natural sweeteners like stevia? Is it a good sugar replacement for low-carb baking that can caramelize just like regular table sugar? Good for coffee, good for tea, good for you, and good for me? Let’s find out.

What Is Swerve Sweetener?

What’s in Swerve? Nutrition Facts

The three main ingredients that make up Swerve are:

  • Natural flavors: From citrus sources.
  • Oligosaccharides: Also known as inulin, a prebiotic fiber.
  • Erythritol: A non-GMO corn-derived sugar alcohol.

Swerve’s products include granulated varieties to match both white and brown sugar, and a softer confectioners-style sugar alternative. Each serving has between 3 and 4 total carbs (0 net carbs when in use), and promises that each product “tastes, bakes, and measures” just like regular sugar.

Natural Flavors

Natural flavors means that somewhere along the way a non-chemically created source is used. What happens to those ingredients between coming “from citrus” as Swerve’s website states and getting into your food is not public information, nor is it that closely regulated by the FDA in the United States. In this area there is a leap of faith involved, because there is a certain amount of chemical solvents used in these processes that we don’t have the full details on.

Oligosaccharides

Oligosaccharides (also listed as “inulin” on food labels) are a naturally occurring type of prebiotic fiber found in plants like onions, asparagus, chicory root, and legumes. Prebiotic fiber (distinct from probiotics, which are live healthy bacteria found in fermented foods like kefir and kimchi) feed the good gut bacteria you already have and help support comfortable digestion.

Erythritol

Since Swerve sweetener is a combination of erythritol, oligosaccharides, and those mysterious natural flavors, we come at last to the main event: the sweet stuff. The corn-derived erythritol looks, tastes, and bakes just like sugar but has significantly fewer calories. On top of that, erythritol is even sweeter than sugar, up to as much as 70%. 

However, like the “natural” sweeteners in Swerve, erythritol begins naturally but must be put through a manufacturing process to extract the glucose from corn, ferment it with yeast (which predigests it before it gets to you), and then crystalize it into granules. Nevertheless, it is non-GMO certified and doesn’t spike your blood sugar the way regular table sugar does.

The Safety of Swerve for Diabetes

Those with diabetes have to keep a very close watch on their blood sugar levels, and those who don’t have diabetes do too if they want to avoid becoming pre-diabetic or possibly developing type 2 diabetes. Swerve makes some pretty steep claims about having no adverse impact on blood sugar or blood glucose levels, so let’s investigate.

Erythritol has been studied in relation to pre-diabetics and was found to have no adverse effect on their blood glucose levels over the course of 2 weeks of daily consumption. Far from being detrimental, erythritol may even help improve dental health by reducing plaque and neutralizing harmful bacteria, even more so than xylitol in regards to children’s dental health. Safe for humans of all ages and in animal studies as well, erythritol comes with no red flags and a lot of benefits.

Oligosaccharides also show positive impacts on human health, especially in the area of our healthy gut flora, as seen in this 2009 study that showed inulin supplementation improved the profile of participants’ gut population in as few as 16 days. There is also evidence that inulin can help reduce insulin levels, a boon for all but especially those managing diabetes. These studies indicate that the ingredients in Swerve sweetener are not only safe, but could improve your health in multiple ways, with no side effects beyond mild digestive discomfort, and even then only when taken in large doses.

Swerve vs. Stevia: How Do They Compare?

Stevia is also a sugar alternative that’s safe for kids, diabetics, pregnant women, and even pets (if they accidentally get into a tin of muffins or something). Does either one outperform the other?

Stevia comes in both refined and whole-leaf options, with the whole-leaf one being less processed and 100% natural. If getting clean food is what matters the most to you, stevia may be the better option, but it also has a slightly bitter aftertaste that for some ruins the whole point of a sugar replacement. 

Swerve sweetener, on the other hand, has superior taste and the consistency that allows it to replace sugar without any extra steps or considerations, although there are a few unknowns when it comes to the processing of ingredients. If taste and convenience are what matter most to you, Swerve may be the best choice. 

That being said, there’s no reason you can’t have both in your kitchen, and use each where it’s best suited based on your recipe needs (and sweet tooth).

What's in Swerve? Nutrition Facts

Sweeter Than Sugar

At the end of the day, there is no question that natural sweeteners like stevia and Swerve (erythritol) are better for your health. Artificial sweeteners have shown carcinogenic effects, detrimental gut health impacts, and time and time again are linked with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and other dangerous metabolic disorders. 

Sugar addiction is real. Whether you’re on a low-carb, low-sugar diet like keto or are just interested in maintaining better health, weening yourself from refined sugar to natural sweeteners is important. Just because you cut out processed foods doesn’t mean you have to go without cookies, cakes, and treats. You just have to make them yourself to ensure that what you’re eating isn’t hurting you.

Swerve is often found in health food stores like Whole Foods and can be easily bought online via stores like Amazon. If you’re interested in finding out for yourself just how like regular sugar it can be, Swerve sweetener could be as close as right around the corner.

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