Health Now Trending Sweets Video

Your ‘Zero-Calorie’ Sweeteners Aren’t Actually Calorie-Free

If you rely on Splenda as your go-to calorie-free sweetener, this video is going to rock your world.

Tom Scott teamed up with YouTube channel Technicality to create a bombshell video about the truth surrounding Splenda: each packet of this “calorie-free” sweetener actually contains four calories, but Splenda can still market itself as a zero-calorie sweetener thanks to loopholes in FDA regulations.

Splenda advertises itself as a low-calorie sweetener since it doesn’t use table sugar to sweeten your beverage or food. Instead, it utilizes sucralose, an artificial sweetener that contains zero calories and is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. However, Splenda also contains maltodextrin and dextrose (which is another way to say glucose, one of the basic sugars that make up table sugar). That dextrose, according to the video, is what makes up the calories in a packet of Splenda.

While the video does a great job of explaining the science of glucose and sugar and uses a well-cited test for glucose, it doesn’t explain why the dextrose is in Splenda in the first place.

Photo: Clay Junell on Flickr

Dextrose and maltodextrin are used as bulking agents in Splenda, since the amount of sucralose needed to sweeten the sugar is extremely small and doesn’t need a packet the size of Splenda’s to fit in. In other artificial sweeteners, including Sweet N Low, Sweet One, and Equal, dextrose is also used as a bulking agent, meaning that all of these artificial “zero-calorie” sweeteners also contain at least a couple of calories per packet.

Even natural zero-calorie sweeteners, like stevia or monkfruit, have some calories. They usually contain erythritol or xylitol, both of which contribute calories per gram in lower amounts than sugar, to help mask some of the off-flavor aftertastes the natural sweeteners may contain. Dextrose can also do the same thing in artificial sweeteners with bitter aftertastes, such as aspartame and saccharin.

While this all sounds scandalous for the alternative sweetener packets we know and love, we have to keep in mind that they are still much lower in calories than sugar packets, which contain 15-24 calories per packet. That’s at least four times the calories in any of the packets above, so at least Equal, Sweet One, Splenda, and the like aren’t as caloric as real sugar.

The next time you use a “zero-calorie” sweetener, however, make sure you add at least a few calories to the total count of your drink per packet.

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A Crash Course On Monkfruit, The Sweetener That Could Take Over Stevia

To sum up America’s taste preferences into a single sentence is incredibly simple: the country runs on sweet. We’re a nation of sweet teeth, as is evident by our sugar consumption and resulting demand for low-calorie, natural sweeteners. For a long time, stevia has been that low-calorie champion that we’ve all loved to put into desserts, drinks, and the like.

However, a new fruit – monkfruit, or Luo Han Guo, by its native Chinese name – is on the rise, and is set to take over stevia as the new sweetener product for the future. It’s already being utilized in the U.S. in a host of products, including all of the ones below:


Having been grown and eaten in China for hundreds of years, monkfruit was relatively easy to get into the U.S. market and approved for use as a sweetener. With cleaner processing, wider growth, and no bitter aftertaste, monkfruit is already growing in popularity and ready to take the sugar industry by storm. Here are some key things to know about this amazing, natural sweetener:


Like Stevia, Monkfruit Provides ZERO Calories 


Photo: Google Patents

Both stevia and monkfruit are very structurally similar. The source of their sweetness both comes from a class of compounds known as glycosides, which look like the compound shown above. Our bodies cannot break down these glycosides for nutrition, so we can enjoy all of the sweet flavor they provide without any damage being done to our waistlines.


Unlike Stevia, Monkfruit Has NO Bitter Aftertaste 


Photo: Eat Performance

Stevia usually has to be mixed with a sugar alcohol called erythritol (naturally found in grapes and melons) before being utilized, otherwise it gives off a harsh bitter aftertaste. Monkfruit does have an aftertaste as well, but it tastes like licorice, and isn’t bitter. While some sweetener companies have masked this licorice flavor by mixing monkfruit with other sweeteners like erythritol or dextrose (corn sugar), if you’re a fan of licorice, you can just use the monkfruit sweetener on it’s own!

Monkfruit’s Processing Method is Much Simpler than Stevia’s


Photo: GLG Lifetech

To make stevia extract, the actual leaves have to go through numerous washes and alcohol extractions — though not particularly harsh, it does take a while. Monkfruit’s processing is incredibly simple – after being crushed, the fruit is infused in hot water before being filtered and packaged as monkfruit sugar or liquid sweeteners. This method is much cleaner and more simplistic, giving it the edge over stevia when it comes to “minimally processed” and “clean label” definitions.


Monkfruit Doesn’t Pose Any Allergenic Concerns


Photo: Wicked Good Kitchen 

Some people with allergies to certain flowers have also reported allergic symptoms when consuming stevia. Monkfruit, however, has been safely grown and consumed in China and other parts of southeast Asia for centuries. One of it’s primary uses was actually medicinal, treating heat strokes, coughs, inflamed throats, and even constipation.


Overall, monkfruit is pretty similar to Stevia: both provide no calories and are derived from natural sources. However, monkfruit has a cleaner image than stevia because of its processing methods and lack of allergenic concerns. Considering monkfruit is already widely grown, and production is ramping up due to increased demand, we can look forward to seeing more of this clean-label sweetener in everything from juices to baked goods in the future.