Friday, August 3, 2012

Fee, Fie, Foe, Friday: The Coffee Sweetener Dilemma

What the heck can I stir into my coffee in the morning that won't rot my teeth, raise my blood sugar, make me fat, or give me some dread disease somewhere down the road? And doesn't taste weird?

This is probably over-thinking this, but I think I am a sugar addict. My husband says I'm crazy, but I find when I eat a sugar-sweetened dessert, or a piece of candy, I have to have MORE. I can never seem to stop at one serving. Always two and sometimes three. Which is why I try to avoid sugar as much as I can, without turning into a food hermit. According to what I've read from Gary Taubes, I'm probably right about the addictiveness.

I'm guessing I'm not alone, in wanting a little something to sweeten my day, considering how many sugar substitutes I can buy in a single supermarket on a single shopping trip. Aside from plain old cane sugar, there is a plethora of natural and artificial sugar substitutes and the sheer number boggles the mind. Back when I was an online member of Weight Watchers, and frequenting their community boards, there would be outright battles over what to use in place of the demon sugar. No one ever won.

Problem is, I still like my coffee sweetened, or some sort of a decent-tasting  dessert. I've got an arsenal of various sugar substitutes from the generally considered fake artificial, like the saccharine in the pink packets, the aspartame in the blue ones, and the sucralose in the yellow ones. Those are shoved way back in a corner.

Then there are the "alternative" sugars like the sugar alcohols erythritol, xylitol, and the polydextrose (yep, have them, too) and finally the herbal extract, stevia. I'm not even going to discuss the "natural" sugars like raw cane, turbinado, coconut, honey, molasses, and date. Which I also have some of each. What you see here is just from ONE partial sweetener shelf in my pantry. Oy. 
All are good, none are perfect for everything. Sigh.
My current leanings are to evict the artificial ones from their space, and stick to the more naturally occurring products. The problem is, no single sweetener is good for all purposes. I think stevia is revolting in coffee, but fine in smoothies and baking. Xylitol is good for baking and frostings, but can give a digestive upset in quantity. Erythritol is ok in coffee, doesn't give digestive problems, but can be grainy and has a cooling effect in some dishes. No one-size-fits-all here, no matter how much I wish it.

Maybe I'll just start drinking my coffee black.


  1. I use Torani sugar free syrups or buy sugar free syrups from Starbucks to flavor my coffee, along with a splash of cream (low carbin' it). Yes, they're artificial, but at the moment I'm more worried about what my sugar consumption (and associated weight) is doing to my body. The syrups are super easy to blend in, and you can play with flavors like hazelnut, or toffee. You can find little bottles of Torani at World Market if you don't want to commit to the large size, but there's less of a flavor selection. The Starbucks ones they'll sell you in the shops if you ask, except for the "special" flavors like SF Mocha, or the seasonal flavors. If you hunt hard enough you can find those online though...

  2. I have quite a collection of those flavors, too. I got most of them at Home Goods or Wegmans. Sadly, we don't have World Market of Cost Plus around here. I do use them occasionally, but I always wonder if the sucralose in them isn't just as bad as the various processed sugar and corn products. Right now I'm sipping a big ole mug of coffee with Truvia and cream as I low-carb it, too. You're so right about getting off the sugar wagon.

    No easy choices, are there?