I have a very rocky relationship with alternative sweeteners. The thing is, I know I use to like the common taste they all seem to have.
Once upon a time when I was a young slightly more healthy child, I actually enjoyed the taste of aspartame. I would often get these cheap fruit flavored club soda drinks that my grandma got me hooked on that were sweetened with aspartame.
I can remember that I could tell that it tasted different from sugar, but it was a flavor I enjoyed, I didn’t so much view it as a failure to taste like sugar, but it’s own unique flavor.
But then.. came puberty. And with it, so many new and old amplified health issues. The worst of these; the chronic migraines.
It didn’t take long to to discover aspartame was a trigger for me. What was once a sweet flavorful nectar to me morphed into a poison. Now, I’m not saying aspartame is a poison, I’m not going to get into the controversy surrounding many sweeteners, that’s not what this post is about. But when it takes no more than a few sips of something to send hot iron picks into your skull about an hour after ingestion, it doesn’t take long for your brain to develop an instinctive revulsion towards the substance.
So now, every time I taste that sickeningly sweet aftertaste that just clings to your tongue, my body enters a state of dread. It might be entirely possible that I even experience a placebo effect and develop migraines even with non-triggering sweeteners. Though I’ve been tested on placebos before without results so perhaps not.
So.. what is my situation with sweeteners now that I’m starting keto? Here’s a breakdown of what I have tried so far and the results;
Aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal); 100% confirmed migraine trigger, discovered early on, avoid at all costs.
Acesulfame potassium (Sunett/SweetOne); Less common and usually paired with other sweeteners like sucralose due to a bitter aftertaste in large amounts, I’m pretty confident Ive confirmed this one as a migraine trigger.
Sucralose (Splenda); This one I’m still running the trials on. As seen in the featured image provided, I recently purchased a bottle of liquid sucralose. Why not Splenda? Because most granulated sugar substitutes have undesired additives if even in small amounts, and I wanted to try it in it’s pure form. It doesn’t take much, two super tiny drops were enough to equal the usual 4 spoonfuls of sugar I put in tea (yeah I know it’s a lot, I grew up on southern styled sweet tea). I’m.. not sure if this one is a trigger yet or not, I tried it once so far and didn’t seem to get an immediate migraine? But I’ve been hesitant to continue since I’ve been having a bit of a bad month. It’s difficult to rule something as a trigger or not when you have other unknowns interfering. Taste-wise.. It doesn’t taste like sugar, it’s much much sweeter for sure, but it’s not quite as bad and off-putting as some of it’s distant cousins. I’ll try this one again when I can.
Erythritol+Stevia (Truvia, Stevia In The Raw); Though entirely separate substances, I’m placing these two together because they’re so commonly combined. Both Truvia and Stevia in the Raw are advertised as Stevia based sweeteners, but the main bulk is made up of erythritol. I still need to try Stevia in it’s actual true form one day to get an opinion of it, but I know for certain whether it’s a migraine trigger or not, I cannot stand erythritol. It has the exact overly sweet filmy aftertaste of aspartame.
Sorbitol; I’m not certain you can even get this in any bulk form to use as a sweeteners. Sorbitol is most commonly used in gums. You likely mostly see it in gums and not much else because..well.. like a lot of sugar alcohols, it has a laxative effect in large amounts. And that is why whether it is a trigger or not, I’m marking this one off of the list.
Xylitol; Another sugar alcohol, while less potent than sorbitols effects, can also cause digestive issues. Though not common, I know that you can find this one in bulk if one so chooses to use it as their sweetener of choice. Commonly used in gums and toothpaste for it’s dental health benefits, I’m not sure if this one is a trigger or not.. I still have some Spree gum sitting in a closet so I might need to add that to the trial list. Taste-wise, xylitol is the only sweetener I’ve had thus far that tasted exactly like sugar to me with no aftertaste.
Monk Fruit; This is a new one for me. A bit pricey because it can only be legally cultivated in China, I recently ordered a bottle of pure liquid monk fruit extract I’m waiting to come in so I can try. A word of warning to anyone looking to try this rising star; a lot like Stevia most of the granulated forms out for it are bulked primarily with erythritol and very little monk fruit extract itself.
So that about sums up my experience with sweeteners so far. Now, it’s true that many folks on keto proclaim that after a while they feel no need for a sweeteners, and that’s great.. I hope for that to be the case for me eventually. But sugar is an addiction, and I’m hoping an artificial sweetener will help take off the edge while I adapt.
No really, it is, try going a while without any carbs, ANY carbs, and you’ll start showing the common signs of addictive withdrawal. Don’t get me wrong, I love my carbs. I love sugar, and I love noodles a little too much. But.. the human body isn’t actually accustomed to the sheer amount of carbs we ingest. From a evolutionary perspective, it’s not natural for us just yet. We’ve had more time to adapt to the consumption of milk as adults than we have high carbs, and we’re still working on that.
And that is my sweetener dilemma..