I love my coffee sweet, but if I use sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave or any other source of sugar, I am susceptible to a major blood sugar crash and headaches. So I have searched and searched for a sweetener for my coffee that isn’t made by chemists (even though I was a chemist myself, years ago) and doesn’t mess with my blood sugar.
STEVIA and STEVIA BLENDS
The darling of the non-sugar, natural sweetener world, stevia is a great alternative to sugar. It has been deemed safe for regular use. However, some people cannot get over the flavor, which sometimes leaves you with a bitter aftertaste. Some people also react negatively to stevia if they have allergies to ragweed, since ragweed and stevia plants are closely related. One must also be careful when purchasing stevia products as many of them have other added ingredients. I personally feel that the slightly different flavor is worth cutting the sugar out of my coffee, and I have found that I notice the difference less and less over time. However, if I could find something that didn’t have that aftertaste I would be pretty excited. This quest led me to stevia blends.
The stevia blend I’ve been using is a mixture of stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Xylitol and erythritol and called “sugar alcohols” because they are alcohols that have been made from sugars (for xylitol, the sugar is called xylose). There is much controversy over whether sugar alcohols are healthy for us to consume. They are not digested in our bodies which can lead to gastrointestinal upset for some people. There seems to be some evidence potentially linking long term use of xylitol to a number of side effects such as Alzheimer’s, aggressive behavior, cancer, diabetes, and more. Most xylitol is produced from corncobs in China. I plan to phase out the use of xylitol in my daily coffee routine for these reasons.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to wean myself from sweetener in my coffee. I can’t drink it black, and just adding my usual healthy-fats creamer (with grass fed butter, collagen, and MCT oil) just doesn’t quite do it for me. Sigh. Life would be easier if I could just drop the sweetener.
But my eyes lit up when I recently came across a natural sweetener option called lucuma. Lucuma sweetener is the ground-up powder of the Pouteria lucuma fruit. The evergreen tree bearing this fruit grows in the Andes of Peru and Ecuador. It has been used there for hundreds of years for food and medicinal purposes. Lucuma is marketed as a superfood because while being sweet, it also provides 14 essential trace elements, is low in sugar, high in fiber, and studies have shown lucuma to have anti-inflammatory, wound-healing and skin-improving effects. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Upon opening the bag of organic lucuma I purchased, I got a whiff of the caramel/maple scent that many people use to describe it. This doesn’t bother me though, since both those flavors are tasty in coffee. As I mixed in my usual amount, which is about a half a teaspoon, I realized I would need to use a lot more lucuma than I do with my stevia blend. This makes sense since stevia is much sweeter than sugar, while lucuma is labeled as “mildly sweet”. I found that I needed a heaping teaspoon to get close to the sweetness that I am used to.
I found that adding this much lucuma did lend to a bit of undissolved powder settled at the bottom. That does not surprise me given the amount of fiber in this stuff. It really didn’t bother me though, since once I gave my cup a swirl it tasted just fine.
I’ll be honest, after going from regular sugar, to maple syrup, raw honey, to stevia blends and now lucuma, I’m ready to settle on the perfect sweetener for my coffee. I think the health benefits of lucuma are enough for me to work it into my routine. My plan is to take an organic, high quality stevia (not a blend) and mix it 50:50 with lucuma to make my own, perfect addition to my morning joe.
If you have other sweetener suggestions, questions, or comments, please share!