There. I’ve said it. I hate Splenda. Yes, I know everyone thinks Splenda is practically the same as sugar and tastes the same as sugar, but it’s not and it doesn’t. Splenda (the brand name) is sucralose, which is a chlorinated sucrose product. It is not natural and it most definitely has a funny taste to it. Now, stevia is natural and is a completely different story, but I still don’t like it.
I’m not sure how it happened, but Splenda appeared and all of a sudden the little yellow packets were a godsend. People started dumping it into iced tea and baking with it and then Splenda came out with a baking blend of Splenda and brown sugar and the food world went insane. I think Splenda seemed more natural because the tagline used to be “Tastes like sugar because it’s made from sugar” AND the proportions were more equal to sugar. Where a pinch of NutraSweet was the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar (or something), a teaspoon of Splenda was the same as a teaspoon of sugar. Want to know why? Because the Splenda people added water-soluble fillers to their product. Ta da!
Now, I’ll admit, I jumped on the bandwagon for a while. I think it was when I had the brilliant idea to go on the South Beach diet. So, I put Splenda in my coffee. And I drank it, because Splenda was allowed where sugar wasn’t. And when I gave up on the South Beach diet (because it’s a little bit crazy, although the concept in general makes sense, and because I’m lousy at diets in general), I went back to sugar and decided Splenda tastes funny. It tastes like chemicals. Because it’s a chemically altered product.
There are dozens of sugar-free, diet-friendly, blah blah blah recipes out there that call for Splenda. These recipes also tell you that people won’t know the difference because Splenda tastes like sugar. It’s all a lie, unless you’re one of those people who exclusively uses artificial sweeteners. In that case, you definitely won’t be able to tell any difference with Splenda-sweetened products. You’re just used to it.
A friend of ours found out she has gestational diabetes, and one of her friends (totally not me) said she would gladly bake her desserts made with Splenda so she could satisfy her sweet tooth. My first thought after hearing that was, really? Feeding your body desserts made with artificial sweetener is better than fruits or honey-sweetened treats? I mean, I know nothing about being pregnant, but I would rather forgo soda altogether than ingest the diet versions. No one would dream of baking with Equal or NutraSweet because those have the stigma of being made of chemicals and are artificial. I’m betting that most people don’t realize Splenda isn’t all that different. Different chemicals, yes, but it’s not any more natural.
So, then I started wondering if there is such a thing as a healthy sugar. I know there’s honey and maple syrup, but are they better than sugar? Less refined? I also remember an old co-worker praising agave syrup in her raw food desserts. Like chocolate “pudding” made with avocados, agave syrup, and cocoa powder.
I found agave syrup at Trader Joe’s one day. I picked it up, not knowing much about it other than the fact that it’s used in a lot of raw food recipes (being processed at a temperature below 118F), which makes it sound healthy, and it’s derived from a plant (I guess kind of like stevia?) It tastes like a sweet syrup, but without the underlying flavors in honey or maple syrup, which makes it nice and neutral. It’s supposed to be good for diabetics due to its low glycemic index. I’ve been using it in my coffee instead of sugar and I can’t really taste the difference. I’ve also used it in place of sugar for poached pears and a fruit tart. Aside from the fruit tart getting more liquidy than usual, it all tasted fine. Sweet and fine and not chemically altered.
Now, I am by no means an expert on artificial sweeteners. The things I know are from the internet, and we all know how reliable the internet can be. But I’ve always been suspicious of Splenda, because my tongue was telling me that it didn’t taste like sugar, so reading what I’ve found makes sense. I also suspect people have embraced Splenda because it has no calories, unlike honey and agave syrup. If you’re dieting, “0 calories” probably means more to you than “natural sweeter”. By all means, go for it! Embrace the artificial sweetener in the neutral yellow packets. Just stop trying to tell me it’s natural and tastes just like sugar.
In the end, I just really wanted to rant a little. To vent. I’m not judging you for enjoying your Splenda. Unless you’re looking at it as a health food instead of a diet aid. In that case, I probably am judging you a tiny bit. But only in my head.