Do Meal Replacement Shakes Have Artificial Sweeteners?

One of the main reasons many people switch from their regular breakfasts and lunches is to help them reduce their sugar intake. But foods that are devoid of sugar tend to taste pretty bland. So how can meal replacement companies fix this? Do meal replacement shakes have artificial sweeteners or do they use an alternative method?

Most meal replacement shakes use artificial sweeteners to improve the taste of their product without increasing the number of calories. Shakes such as Rootana use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugars as a natural alternative.

Now that you know the answer, let’s take a closer look.

Do Meal Replacement Shakes Have Artificial Sweeteners?

If you are trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, then the meal replacement industry can be a bit of a minefield. Many meal replacement shakes use artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, while others use stevia, which some consider natural.

Artificial sweeteners are popular because they provide a zero-calorie way to sweeten the shakes and improve the taste. Helping to keep calories low, which is useful for weight loss. But it is not impossible to sweeten shakes without using artificial sweeteners. Rootana, for example, uses coconut sugar to sweeten its shake and still maintains a low sugar content.

What are the Different Types of Artificial Sweeteners?

This article by the Mayo Clinic lists all of the different forms of artificial sweeteners:

  • Natural sugars – Sugars from plants such as fruit juices or honey that have not been altered
  • Artificial sweeteners – Synthetic sweeteners made in a lab
  • Novel sweeteners – Natural sugars that have been altered in a lab (stevia)

There are benefits to using all three forms of sweetener. Natural sugars are, of course, natural and unprocessed. Coconut sugar is a natural sugar that is less processed than regular sugar and has a lower glycaemic index score.

Artificial and novel sweeteners can provide shakes with a sweetness that comes with no calories. This can be highly beneficial for people trying to lose weight, but not everyone like artificial sweeteners. Some people can have allergies, while others try to avoid lab-created food ingredients.

Is Stevia an Artificial Sweetener?

Stevia is a fascinating example of a sweetener that doesn’t fit into any category. The stevia plant is natural, and stevia is extracted from the leaves. So far, this would qualify as natural sugar.

However, the stevia you find in your meal replacement is not just a plant extract. It is a purified form of compounds found in the leaves. These compounds are extracted and then purified in a lab. This places stevia closer to the artificial sweetener list.

This confusion caused websites such as the Mayo Clinic to create a new category. The novel sweetener. This category considers stevia to be part natural and part artificial.

Incidentally, it is possible to get products that contain the whole unpurified stevia leaf. These would count as natural sugars. However, unpurified stevia leaf is currently not approved by the FDA, as there is a slight chance (according to WebMD) that it could cause kidney or cardiovascular problems [1].

Common Sweeteners Used in Meal Replacement Shakes

The most well-known artificial sweetener is aspartame, which is used in diet drinks to replace sugar. It was the subject of an utterly un-scientific witch hunt in the 90s but is perfectly safe. Aspartame is rarely used in food products as it is affected by heat.

For this reason, no meal replacement shakes use this ubiquitous sweetener. Instead, they use either sucralose or stevia.

  • Sucralose – Regular sugar (sucrose) is synthetically enhanced to be 600x sweeter. This means you require a lot less sucralose to sweeten your foods, which means fewer calories. If you like your tea with one teaspoon (5 grams) of sugar (16 calories), you could recreate that sweetness with 0.008 grams of sucralose (0.026 calories).
  • Stevia – Stevia (full name stevioside) comes from the leaves of the herb Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni [2]. Steviol glycosides are extracted from the leaves, purified, and then turned into powder. Stevia is around 300x sweeter than sucrose.
  • Coconut Sugars – Found in Rootana, coconut sugars come from the sap of the coconut tree rather than from the coconuts themselves. The sap is heated until all water evaporates, and you are left with granulated coconut sugars. They are entirely natural and very similar to regular sugar but less processed, and they have a lower GI score.
  • Allulose – A natural sugar found in sweet fruits such as figs. Allulose is not as sweet as sucrose but is much lower in calories. It is often used as a sweetener but does cause bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort when used.

What Sweetener is Used in Huel?

Most Huel shakes use sucralose as their primary sweetener. However, you can use the unflavoured and unsweetened Huel powder if you want to avoid sucralose. The downside is that it tastes incredibly bland!

What Sweetener is Used in Soylent?

The main sweetener used in Soylent is Allulose, but it also contains Sucralose, which is used to mask the bitterness of the vitamin and mineral complex and to help improve the overall taste.

What Sweetener is Used in Jimmy Joy?

The only sweetener used in Jimmy Joy is Sucralose.

What Sweetener is Used in BeNu Complete?

There are two sweeteners used in BeNu Complete; Sucralose and Stevia.

What Sweetener is Used in Rootana?

The only sweetener used in Rootana is coconut sugars. The only real food, completely natural sweetener on this list.

Benefits of Natural Sweeteners

Many people are deciding that they want to prioritise real food ingredients over products made in a laboratory. Natural sweeteners such as coconut sugars fulfil that desire. The process couldn’t be more natural. Remove sap from a coconut palm tree, lay it out flat, evaporate water using heat, and then add it to your product.

Manipulating sucrose or extracting Steviol glycosides from plants is unnatural, and this can make some people feel uneasy. If you are allergic to artificial sweeteners, don’t enjoy the taste, or just simply want to avoid overly-processed ingredients, then natural sugars are a better option.

Ways to Sweeten Your Meal Replacement Shake Naturally

Of course, there are a number of ways in which you can sweeten your meal replacements without resorting to artificial sweeteners. You can use coconut sugars like Rootana, or you can sweeten them by adding fruit, or other sweet natural foods.

The sugar in fruit (fructose) is still sugar, but it is accompanied by naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Check out our article on how to use Rootana for some cool ideas. You can also add higher-calorie foods such as peanut or almond butter if you are looking to gain weight, either to build muscle or as a healthy option when pregnant.

Do Meal Replacement Shakes Have Artificial Sweeteners? Final Thoughts

Most meal replacement shakes contain some form of artificial sweetener, with the vast majority using sucralose. Stevia is also popular, as it allows companies to claim that they use “natural” sweeteners, even though Stevia is closer to artificial sweeteners than it is to natural ones.

If you are aiming to avoid any form of artificial sweetener, then Rootana is your best bet. Rootana only uses coconut sugars, which are completely natural and minimally processed (they are dehydrated using heat). It also contains many health benefits, you can read about them here.

Fancy a walk? Did you know that Rootana is one of the best options for hiking nutrition? Check out our article here

References

[1] https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/what-is-stevia

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814611017559

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