The Best Protein Powder Without Sucralose Or Stevia
Struggling to find a protein powder without stevia or sucralose? Sucralose is the most common artificial sweetener used in protein powder. Stevia is the most popular “natural” sweetener. Although both may seem like attractive alternatives to sugar, they are not. Not only do they taste terrible, but they may also be bad for your health.
What is sucralose?
Sucralose is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener. It was accidentally discovered in 1976 and popularized in the early 2000s by Splenda, the sweetener in the little yellow packet. Sucralose is unique among artificial sweeteners because it is made from real sugar. A multi-step chemical process tweaks the chemical structure of sugar, making it hundred of times sweeter and virtually calorie-free.
On paper, sucralose is a great alternative to sugar and a tool for weight loss. It is cheap, easy to make, and offers the sweetness that we crave, without the calories. Unfortunately, however, the benefits of sucralose are too good to be true.
Why is sucralose bad?
Several studies have found little to no relationship between changes in body weight and the use of low-calorie sweeteners. That is, people who replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose lose, on average, less than two pounds. One study suggests that people who use low-calorie sweeteners may actually gain weight because they indulge themselves (they eat more high-calorie foods) after having “saved calories” with their diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, etc. Another study suggests that using artificial sweeteners can actually cause sugar cravings, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Sucralose is therefore by no means a slam dunk when it comes to weight loss.
There are other health-related reasons to avoid sucralose. For instance, researchers believe that artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of our gut microbiota and cause glucose intolerance. Glucose intolerance is an umbrella term for metabolic conditions that cause higher than normal blood glucose (sugar) levels. It can lead to type 2 diabetes.
What is stevia?
If a protein powder does not contain sucralose or another artificial sweetener, it probably contains stevia. Stevia is an inexpensive zero calorie sweetener derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant. It is over 100 times sweeter than table sugar, and a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. It is therefore no surprise that this sweetener has found its way into protein powders looking to please health conscious consumers.
Why is stevia bad?
Although it is is sweet, stevia has an unpleasant bitter aftertaste. Unlike sugar, it activates bitter taste receptors in addition to sweet taste receptors. Many protein protein powder brands work like mad to mask these off-flavors, and it is causing them quite the headache.
Stevia is also extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant using chemicals like ethanol and methyl alcohol. This, one could argue, makes it barely more natural than sucralose and the other artificial sweeteners that it seeks to replace. In fact, a recent class action lawsuit filed in California reached a $6.1 million settlement because it was ruled that the company in question falsely labeled and advertised its stevia sweeteners as natural.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
If not stevia or sucralose, then what do you use?
drink wholesome is made with monk fruit, also known as luo han guo. A relative newcomer to the world of low/zero calorie sweeteners, monk fruit sweetener is derived from a sub-tropical melon-like fruit native to Southeast Asia. The sweetener is created by removing the seeds and skin of the fruit, crushing the fruit, and collecting the juice, which is then dried into a concentrated powder. As far as low/zero calorie sweeteners go, monk fruit is the most natural and best tasting. It actually tastes like sugar!
Given that monk fruit sweetener has only been commercially available for about a decade, its impact on, and association with, chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes has not been well documented. That said, it has been safely used in Asian cuisine for centuries and has no known side effects, even when consumed in large quantities. Moreover, small randomized trials have shown that monk fruit sweetener does not negatively impact blood sugar or insulin levels.
*In case you were wondering, few companies use monk fruit because it is expensive.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.