Who doesn’t like sweets? Evolutionarily speaking, our brains are hard-wired to find and consume the most caloric-dense foods—which in many cases are high in sugar. However, we now live in a society where food is widely available to most, so we no longer need sugary foods to maintain daily activities. In fact, we know our bodies suffer from eating too much sugar, but we still go for that second scoop of ice cream, that third cookie after dinner, anyway.
According to a study published in 2014, consuming too much added sugar leads to high blood pressure, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, effects which are all linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. The natural question that arises, then, is whether it’s possible for us to satisfy our sugar cravings without negatively affecting our health. Thanks to advances in chemistry, that answer is yes! The two sweeteners that we choose to use at BUBLUV® to deliver delicious boba without compromising health are monk fruit and erythritol.
What is monk fruit?
Monk fruit is a small, round fruit grown in Southeast Asia that contains a special type of sugar compound called mogroside. When monk fruit juices are concentrated, we can extract the mogrosides, and the resulting sweetness level is 250 times stronger than regular sugar. Also, because of how mogrosides pass through our digestive system, monk fruit extract has a zero on the glycemic index with no carbs and no calories, so it won’t spike our blood sugar. In fact, research has even shown that mogrosides can lower blood sugar by activating a protein in charge of the energy balance in our bodies. Mogrosides also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, as they can reduce the concentration of free radicals (by-products of our bodies’ metabolic processes that can cause inflammatory diseases like Alzheimer’s, asthma, and various cancers) and inhibit the release of inflammatory factors.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there are no downsides to monk fruit. Like most non-traditional sweeteners, monk fruit leaves a slight aftertaste. Also, because of how intensely sweet it is, we only need a fraction of what we would usually use in regular sugar to achieve the desired sweetness level. This means if we were to use it at home, it would be very difficult to control the portion size when using it in its pure form—we would need some extremely tiny spoons. Moreover, monk fruit is picky about the surrounding climate and hard to grow, so it can be expensive compared to other sugar substitutes.
What is erythritol?
Erythritol is a sweetener found naturally in fruits and veggies that’s been used since the 1990s. It’s a sugar alcohol—a modified form of carbs—that stimulates the sweet taste receptors on our tongues with zero on the glycemic index and no blood sugar spikes. This is due to how erythritol passes through our body: it’ is absorbed so quickly into our blood that it doesn’t even get the chance to be converted into energy. Because erythritol is a type of carbohydrate, though, it’s not completely calorie-free, but at 0.2 calories per gram (vs 4 calories per gram for regular sugar), it’s very close. Additionally, erythritol can’t be metabolized by the bacteria in our mouths, so we don’t have to worry about the cavities that might come with our sweet tooth.
The main concern people have with erythritol is its impact on digestion. Sugar alcohols have the reputation of causing gastrointestinal problems like bloating or nausea, but in the doses found in normal food products, this effect is negligible. In a protein bar, for example, there are usually around 10 grams or less of erythritol added, and it takes 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight for males and 0.8 grams for females for any issues to occur. To do some quick math, you would have to weigh less than 15 kilograms (33 pounds) before sugar alcohols could negatively affect your digestive system. Moreover, erythritol is shown to affect us much less than most other types of sugar alcohols. In a study published on Nature that compared the digestive effects of sugar alcohols with table sugar, participants experienced significantly fewer symptoms when consuming erythritol compared to xylitol, if at all (20 and 35 grams of erythritol didn’t even affect most participants).
To summarize, sugar substitutes can be a good option for us to satisfy our sweet tooth without having to worry about the adverse health consequences of sugar. At BUBLUV®, we’ve tried countless recipes with the help of our food scientists and decided on a blend of monk fruit and erythritol that tastes delicious and has no weird aftertaste. We also have measures to control the amount of monk fruit and erythritol added, so you don’t have to research the different forms of monk fruit extract to use at home or calculate your erythritol intake with distress. Lightly sweet and delicious, now you can enjoy boba tea guilt and worry-free!