I have always despised the flavor of alternative sugars. This article is about the first zero-carb sugar that I ever really liked.
“Despise” may sound exaggerated, but I use that word carefully: It’s a flavor that I really, really hate. I find it astonishing, for example, that anyone cannot tell the difference between diet soda and regular soda. The diet version seems to sear my tongue at the very first sip, and even the tiniest amount fills my mouth with a nasty flavor that lingers for minutes.
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, as an adult, I immediately knew that I would reduce my sugar intake. And with my aversion to fake sugars, I figured that I just wouldn’t get to enjoy sweet flavors very often.
As I dove into the diabetes online community — a totally incredible resource, by the way, worth far more to me than anything I ever learned from my doctor or endocrinologist — I noticed with trepidation how enthusiastic everyone else was about alternative sugars. It seemed like everyone’s favorite hobby was baking low-carbohydrate sweets at home, something that I had no interest in doing.
I wasn’t enthusiastic, but I figured that I might as well give alternative sugars a shot. I already knew that I hated Sweet’n Low, Equal, Splenda, and the like. And so I started ordering and tasting ones I’d never tried, newer and trendier alternatives. I gave stevia and erythritol and others a fair shake, but they all had nasty chemical flavors, or strange aftertastes, or both. No thank you. Around this time I figured that if homemade stevia cookies and cake was the best I could look forward to, you could count me out. I’d splurge on real sugar treats from time to time, and usually just pass on dessert.
The first alternative sweetener that I found more than halfway tolerable was monkfruit powder. Monkfruit has a powerful sweet flavor. It is subtly but identifiably distinct from sugar, and it still has a hint of a weird aftertaste. This was a partial success, the first sweetener I tried that I thought was actually good enough to use. But I didn’t love it.
Finally, I found a winner.
Allulose is my favorite zero-carb sweetener. My reasons are incredibly simple: Of every alternative sweetener I’ve tried, it tastes the best, which is to say that it tastes the most like true sugar. There is no aftertaste, no chemical flavor, no strange mouthfeel issues. I have dumped huge amounts of allulose into my tea in the name of science, and have never noticed an off-flavor of any kind.
Allulose is not quite as sweet as sugar, and even if you add extra to a recipe, it never will be as sweet as sugar. It’s also not quite as delicious as sugar. It tastes like actual sugar that has been somehow dulled or muted. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for me. Anyway, ever since reducing my carb intake, it definitely takes less sweetness than it used to in order to satisfy my sweet tooth.
When I’ve cooked with allulose I’ve been extremely pleased with the results. The texture is not different enough from granulated sugar to make much of a difference, as far as I can tell. You could easily fool an unsuspecting guest, especially in recipes like pudding that don’t require any starch or starch replacements. It’s also available as a liquid sweetener — an instant simple syrup replacement for cocktails.
The blood sugar effect is, from what I can tell, nonexistent. My continuous glucose monitor (CGM) line doesn’t budge. Your mileage may vary, of course — there’s no telling how any one person might react to a new ingredient — but I couldn’t be more pleased about its blood glucose impact.
And guess what? Allulose might be kind of healthy, too. I admit that didn’t know or care about any secondary health impacts when I fell in love with allulose — it doesn’t spike my blood sugar, and that’s good enough for me. But allulose may have a host of other metabolic health benefits. Dr. Peter Attia has written a long and exceedingly detailed essay on the subject. While most of the encouraging study of allulose has been in rodents, one meta-analysis of human trials found that allulose may actually reduce post-prandial glucose levels.
I’ve tried several brands of allulose, some with fancy brand names and packaging, some without. I haven’t discerned a difference from one brand to the other, so now I buy in bulk, usually whichever vendor happens to have lower prices at the time.
Maybe in the future, we’ll have an even better option, an alternative zero-carb sweetener that is exactly as sweet and delicious as sugar. But in the meantime, allulose is a pretty great replacement, good enough to have turned me into an alternative sugars believer.