Swerve is a highly refined sweetening agent that has gained a mass following of enthusiastic users who feel it is a safe alternative to sucrose. It is marketed as the ‘Ultimate Sugar Replacement’ and is also certified as being GMO-free. The product is a combination of erythritol, oligosaccharides, and natural flavors.
Unlike many other sucrose substitute sweeteners, it does not leave a bitter aftertaste. It looks and tastes like sucrose. In recent years, Swerve has become very popular for baking. It is also favored by diabetics because it has no effect on insulin or blood glucose levels. It can be used just like sugar and measures out at a cup for a cup when using in recipes.
What Exactly is Swerve?
The main ingredient of Swerve is erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. The sucrose alternative was created by Catherine Wilbert, N.D., for PhytoCeutical Formulations. Erythritol is created through a process known as batch fermentation. It is gathered by fermenting the natural sugars found in corn cobs, sugar cane stalks, or birch wood leftovers. The steam from the fermentation process is then collected to form sugar alcohol. Overall, Swerve is non-glycemic, non-carcinogenic, and non-allergenic. It has the status of generally recognized as safe (GRAS) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is widely used in Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. After processing, it is only about 60 to 80 percent as sweet a sugar so additional additives must be added to create the taste that most people desire.
What Exactly Are Sugar Alcohols?
Sugar alcohols, also called polyols, are a class of sweeteners which include lactitol, xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol. Although sugar alcohols are referred to as ‘alcohols’ they contain no real alcohol. They are manufactured by using microorganisms to break down fruits, vegetables, bark, and sugarcane. Once the fermentation process is complete, the after product appears as white crystals that resemble pure granulated sucrose.
Additional Ingredients in Swerve
Oligosaccharides: The sweetener substitute also contains oligosaccharides which are natural and an additional bonus obtained from the fermentation process. During the manufacturing process, they use chicory to obtain the oligosaccharides. They also occur naturally in some fruits and plants. Oligosaccharides have been found to promote healthy digestion and boost immunity. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Natural Sweeteners: Unfortunately, the natural sweeteners used to create and enhance the flavor of Swerve are not disclosed by the manufacturer. However, they are supposed to be derived from natural fruit and vegetable sources. Unfortunately, the natural additives may not be so natural in reality and are usually obtained through industrial means and may pose their own set of dangers. However, the ‘natural additives are supposed to not contain any hidden monosodium glutamate (MSG) but they are still largely known.
Swerve Contains no Carbohydrates
The carbohydrates in the sucrose substitute are obtained from erythritol. Interestingly, erythritol is non-caloric. It is absorbed through the small intestine but eliminated completely by the body so it never has a chance to metabolize which means it contributes no calories to the body.
Highly Digestible and Calorie-Free
Unlike many other sweeteners, the sweetener substitute is highly digestible because the body predominately absorbs the substance in the small intestine. Any excess is excreted in urine. This means that very little, if any, ever reaches the large intestine to cause upset. Since the substance is not metabolized it has no calories.
Benefits of Swerve
- Natural: It is made through a fermentation process which gains the natural sugar found in corn and other substances.
- Heat Stable: It is stable up to 160 degrees Celsius which makes it ideal for baking.
- Non-Carcinogenic: Research indicates that the substance has no cancer-causing properties.
- Non-caloric: Sugar alcohols are naturally low-calorie, but erythritol contains absolutely no calories.
- Non-glycemic: It is ideal for diabetics because it does not raise plasma glucose or insulin levels.
- Easy Digestion: Unlike many other sugar alcohols, erythritol is easy to digest. The small intestine readily absorbs it. Only a very small percentage of the substance reaches the large intestine so it does not cause diarrhea and other symptoms which are characteristic of other sugar alcohols. Erythritol is far easier to digest than xylitol.
- Antioxidant: Erythritol is actually beneficial for your health. It successfully fights free radicals which are the main culprit in the aging process.
- GMO-Free: Although Swerve is typically processed from corn, it is labeled as being made from all GMO-free substances.
Metal Contamination Concerns
Although, when considered casually, erythritol might seem like a natural sweetener miracle. Who doesn’t want to consume the sweet stuff with no calorie risk or blood sucrose spikes? However, as with all highly processed substances, the manufacturing processes are not without risk.
Erythritol is processed from dialdehyde starch. The process requires high temperatures to create a chemical reaction with a nickel catalyst. The nickel is of primary concern. In recent years, acidic foods such as bone broth and tomato sauce, have been shown to contain high levels of nickel from the foods processing steps. At this point, it is unknown if there’s any heavy metal contamination occurring in the processing steps used to create alcohol sugars but there is a real concern that some of the nickel may be leaching into the final product.
Xylitol, also an alcohol sugar, is extremely toxic to dogs and, perhaps, other pets. Eventually, when consumed by pets, it causes severe hypoglycemia, liver failure, and death. During an extensive 53 week study, researchers showed that erythritol does not appear to have the same fatal effects as xylitol on pets.
Although, compared to other sweeteners, Swerve appears to be safe. Ultimately, only long-term use will reveal if there are any significant health risks that can be associated with the substance. Many individuals who cannot consume real sucrose due to diabetes or other health concerns are readily using the sweet sugary substance.