Monday, February 11, 2013

Product Review: Stevia-Sweetened Beverages

Recently, with the negative buzz about both sugar and artificial sweeteners, I've found myself studying and looking more toward Stevia; A truly natural calorie-free sweetener. While the ideal is to shun all forms of added sugars and sweeteners and consume fruit when sugar cravings hit, I think most of us can identify that this is not always realistic.  Using myself as a guinea pig (which I often do), I recently tested 3 beverages containing Stevia. My results are as follows:

The first product tested was Zevia, a Stevia-sweetened soda. Zevia comes in 15 different flavors, including "Dr. Zevia" and "Mountain Zevia" (I'm sure you can tell which popular sodas are being emulated here).  I tried Orange Zevia.  While my initial impression was that it definitely tastes different from Orange Soda, not as sweet, it was something I felt I could get used to fairly easily.  I will admit though, I'm not a huge soda drinker, so I may not have scrutinized as much as some would.  One thing to note is that Zevia also contains a a small amount of a certain sugar alcohol called Erythritol.  However, there are claims that Erythritol is unlike its mean cousins (the other sugar alcohols) in that it apparently does not have any negative side effects associated with it.  It is derived from fruits and vegetables via a natural fermentation process.

The second product I tested was Vitamin Water Zero.  Vitamin Water Zero comes in 7 flavors.  I tried "XXX", which is an acai-blueberry pomegranate flavor that is enhanced with antioxidants.  The other I tried was "Squeezed" which tastes like lemonade.  I loved both flavors!  If it were not so expensive, I would probably be drinking it more often.  Vitamin Water Zero also contains Erythritol as a secondary sweetener.

The third product was Crystal Light Pure.  I know what you're thinking..."Chemical Light?  Seriously?"  The truth is, this product is far from the original Crystal Light.  Not an gram of aspartame and it's naturally flavored!  Pure comes in 5 flavors and I've tried 3; "Tropical Blend," "Strawberry Kiwi" and "Lemonade."  My favorite is "Strawberry Kiwi."  This is something that I actually keep in my cupboard and drink regularly whenever the craving hits for a sweetened beverage.  Honestly, it helps me stay adequately hydrated, as I'm not always great about drinking my water.  I do, however, make it half strength and that's perfectly fine for me.  The one caveat is that Pure does contain a tiny bit of actual sugar - 15 calories worth (4 grams) per 8 ounces (full strength), which I do not consider to be a scary amount.

So, there you have it.  If you're anxious to get away from the good old "diet soda" but don't think you can give it up, give these products a try and see if they may work for you!  Let me know what you think if you do try them.