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Erythritol vs stevia: what’s the difference?

by Drew B

 

Sugar has been linked to some of the biggest health challenges of our times and as a result, sugar free diets have become more popular than Bintang singlets on tourists in Bali.

But many of us want to avoid the dodgy taste – and potential side effects – of artificial sweeteners.

So, where do we go for our sweet hit? Luckily, there are delicious, natural sweetener alternatives like erythritol and stevia. Both are natural, plant-sourced sweeteners that can be used as healthier substitutes for sugar. And neither have any calories.

So, erythritol vs stevia: what’s the real diff?

To answer that, let’s look at:

  • where they each come from.
  • how they’re made.
  • why they’re both perfect (in their own unique ways) for making our delicious drinks naturally sugar free.


Stevia: more than 500 sweet years of natural goodness

Let’s start with a little history (not the boring kind, we promise). Stevia sweetener is made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant: a South American member of the sunflower family.

Indigenous people in Paraguay and Brazil have known about stevia for a while now. They’ve been chewing its leaves and using them to sweeten their medicines and teas for more than 500 years.

The modern world has learnt a thing or two from them. So today, Stevia rebaudiana is grown and harvested mainly in Brazil, Paraguay, Japan and China.

How stevia is made

Curious about how the stevia in your drink is made? Here’s a quick overview:

  1. The leaves of the stevia plant are harvested and dried.
  2. The dried leaves are steeped in hot water to make an extract.
  3. The extract is then filtered and centrifuged to create pure, concentrated stevia that’s ready to use.

It sounds complicated, but it’s a pretty simple process that doesn’t involve adding any artificial nasties at any point. In fact, it’s a lot like the process for making other plant-based extracts, like vanilla.

A little goes a long way

The natural plant compounds that are responsible for stevia’s sweetness are called steviol glycosides. Each one has its own unique flavour profile, and different combinations can provide different tastes and sweetness intensities.

Generally speaking though, stevia is a whopping 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar! Despite that powerhouse sweetness however, it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels or insulin response. Nor does it cause cavities and or other nasty side-effects.

In fact, one study showed that stevia may even have a positive effect on insulin levels. And that study joins more than 40,000 others that concluded stevia is safe to use in foods.

And because your body doesn’t store or break down stevia, it literally has zero calories. That all means you can get the sweetness you crave, without worrying about what it’s doing to your body or your diet.

The only downside? Sometimes it can have a slightly bitter aftertaste and feel a bit astringent in your mouth.

 

Erythritol: fermenting starches for the win

‘Erythritol’; might sound a bit science-y, but it’s actually as natural as they come. It’s a type of sweetener known as a ‘sugar alcohol’ – and unlike stevia, erythritol is a relatively new kid on the block.

Scottish chemist John Stenhouse was the first to discover erythritol in 1848. Then, over 100 years later, scientists found it in yeast-fermented blackstrap molasses. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that Japanese food techies began to sell it as a sugar alcohol in Japan. 

After that, it took off around the world – and the rest, as they say, is history.

How to make erythritol 

Erythritol is made by fermenting the sweet, natural starches in fruits like pears and melons. ‘Fermenting’ means that good bacteria eat the starch and turn it into erythritol, removing all the sugar.

Again, this sounds a bit complex, but really, it’s just like the fermentation process for everyday favourites like yoghurt, wine and beer. It’s all #science!

 

Erythritol tastes – and feels – like sugar to your mouth

At only 70% of regular sugar’s sweetness, erythritol doesn’t pack anything like the same sweet punch as stevia. But it makes up for that in what food techies call ‘bulking properties’. In short, this means it feels and tastes the same as sugar to your mouth (which means no aftertaste, woo!)

Other than that, erythritol has many of the same benefits as stevia. It also doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes or insulin response, and nor does it have calories or nasty side-effects.  

That’s because your body absorbs about 90% of any erythritol you eat into your bloodstream before it gets to your gut. From there, you get rid of it in your pee. So, unlike some other sugar alcohol sweeteners (xylitol and sorbitol: we’re looking at you), you don’t absorb erythritol into your digestive system. In short, no gassy upsets for you.

Stevia vs Erythritol: the lowdown

TL;DR? We get it – there’s a lot to take in. To make it super easy, here are all the differences between stevia and erythritol neatly summed up in one simple table.

Erythritol vs stevia comparison table
Stevia Erythritol

Used as a natural sweetener since...

the 16th century

the 1990s

Made by

drying and steeping stevia leaves, then filtering the extract

fermenting natural starches in fruit and veges

Sweeter than sugar?

Yup: 200-300 times sweeter

Not quite: only 70% as sweet 

Broken down by your body?

Nope, passes straight through 

Only about 10% breaks down

Aftertaste?

Can have a slightly bitter aftertaste

No aftertaste!

Mouthfeel

Can be slightly astringent

Spot on, just like sugar

Stevia vs erythritol? For our all-natural Nexba sweetener, why not both?

Nexba is the top-secret natural sweetener blend we add to all our drinks to make them naturally sugar-free. And we make it from both erythritol and stevia. 

Why? Well, it took us six years to find the perfect, safe, natural substitute for sugar. We needed one that would taste great AND match how sugar feels in your mouth as closely as possible.

Stevia alone sometimes leaves an aftertaste and doesn’t quite feel like sugar in your mouth. Meanwhile, erythritol alone can’t provide the intense sweetness.

When we combined both, though? THEN, we were onto something. Our winning blend packed a powerful punch of healthy sweetness with zero ick factor.

The icing on your cake is we tweak this formula for every product we make. We don’t just take it easy with our magic formula, we fine-tune it so the mouthfeel and sugar flavour ain’t just sweet but is totally adorable to tastebuds. That’s Nexba’s gift to you.

And the results? Well, they’re nothing short of incredible.

Tempting your taste buds?

Wanna taste the Nexba Naturally Sweetened difference for yourself? Find out where to buy Nexba’s range of naturally sweetened drinks including:

  • soft drinks
  • tonic waters
  • sparkling waters
  • kombucha
  • kefir
  • tepache 
  • switchel 



Drew B
Drew B

Author




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