August 19, 2012

Truvia Review

In my ideal world, there would be an endless supply of Japanese sweet potatoes, almond butter, and Broadway's Yirgacheffe. I would have a VO2 max of 90, David Rudisha's stride mechanics, and Killian Jornet's climbing legs. I would work in a shop where everyone tipped, appreciated espresso, and didn't demand sweeteners. 

But that is utopia, and utopia is not reality. In reality, I have to pay for groceries, my stride is awkwardly loopy, and people do want to sweeten their coffee. Those first two things are neither here nor there (I've devoted too many words to my legs flailing already), however - this is about sweetness. 

Or rather, it's about a certain sweetener: Truvia, which sent me some of its product to try. 

Although, to be honest, I'm not trying Truvia for the first time. It and I actually go back several years, to a time I cynically refer to as my "get ripped or die trying" period. I pounded weights, treadmills (how this whole running thing got started, actually), protein shakes, and all sorts of pills with dubious claims. 

I also sweetened a great deal of my food (never my coffee, however), to make up for the fact that much of what I was eating barely deserved the title. My sweetener of choice was Truvia, because unlike most other (Splenda, Sweet 'n Low, Purevia, etc.) packets, it contained no dextrose or maltodextrin, two starches processed to the point that they're metabolized like sugar. 

This is, to me, still a decided positive. Truvia's ingredient list reads as follows: Erythritol, Rebiana, Natural Flavors. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, and passes through the body, unabsorbed. (This means that Truvia, despite what the box says, is basically non caloric.) Interestingly, there is also evidence that it might be good for dental health. Rebiana is stevia extract, which gives Truvia its name. There is a rather massive body of research on the health effects of stevia, and its safety, but I won't go in to it. Suffice it to say, unlike sucralose and aspartame - which are, at best, not actively dangerous - stevia might do some good things for you. Natural flavors are... something. 

On taste, it's important to note that, since both erythritol and stevia exist naturally, they've not been created to simulate the taste of sugar. Some find erythritol to have a slight mint taste to it, and stevia has been compared to licorice, and called slightly metallic by its detractors. Together (and along with "natural flavors"), the blend masks those stronger flavor notes, and the taste reads as rather directly sweet, with only a tiny hint of mintiness left over. 

In coffee, I'd been told that the resulting flavor is similar to sugar, and all other assorted artificial choices. Still, I had to investigate, and so I recruited some people I know, and a decent amount of customers. Some could tell a difference, but with the exception of one Splenda fanatic, no one found the difference substantial. That is, no one thought Truvia tasted significantly better or worse than the other options. It sweetened the coffee, and not much else. 

That, I think, is what people wanted, provided they wanted their coffee sweet at all. Since I don't, my tasting impressions were tempered somewhat. I found it similar in sweetness and flavor (not much besides sweet) to other packets, although not the sort of thing I'd use myself. 

To be axiomatic, this is the sort of thing that people who like this sort of thing will like. If they're looking to avoid calories, don't trust artificial sweeteners, and still want to sweeten their coffee, this is probably the best choice out there. 


  1. Interesting. The licorice-like aftertaste is a dead give away for me that a stevia extract has been put in the product...and I hate that. I not only hate the aftertaste, but I hate how I feel afterwards too. Stevia illicts some sort of negative reaction in me, where my stomach feels upset and overall I feel highly wired, in a bad way. I know others that instantly get headaches if they so much as chew gum with Stevia or an extract in it. I'm not saying it is necessarily "bad" for you, but the reactions I've gotten from ingesting it make me wary and keep me away. Just 2 cents!

    1. Yeah, I've heard all of those things as well. There are endless accounts of aspartame and sucralose induced headaches and digestive upset too. I'd rather just take my coffee black. (Of course.)