With the flood of alternative sweeteners on the market in recent years, you would think at least a few of them would be healthy. For example, more people are switching away from Splenda, the very popular artificial sweetener in the little yellow packets, to Whole Earth, a zero calorie option in similarly sized green packets.
To be perfectly honest, I got pretty excited when I first learned about the Whole Earth sweetener. The company markets its products as completely natural. A cursory search indicates that the flagship product is made with a blend of stevia and monk fruit extract.
The same is emblazoned on the front of the box (400 packets) or jar (spoonable style) with the USDA Organic and NonGMO Verified stamps of approval.
Whole Earth Sweetener
Mmmm. Nothing artificial? Sounds great!
However, before buying some to try, I dug in further to take a peek behind the marketing spin.
Is the Whole Earth Sweetener 100% natural as advertised?
What I found is that Whole Earth actually has a number of sweeteners. At the time of this review, the offerings include: (1)
- Stevia leaf and Monk Fruit Sweetener
- Raw Sugar and Stevia Baking Blend
- 100% Erythritol
- Organic Agave 50 (50% fewer calories than pure agave nectar)
- Organic Honey 50 (50% fewer calories than honey)
- Turbinado Raw Cane 50 (packets of “raw” cane sugar and stevia blend)
Options 2 and 6 are easily dismissed because they are made with refined sugar (“raw” turbinado sugar has most of the molasses removed and is in no way comparable to sucanat).
The third option is a no-go because it is made with erythritol, a sugar alcohol with potential side effects.
Option 4 is not healthy because agave nectar is highly processed and not much better than the big bugaboo high fructose corn syrup.
Option 5 is made with processed honey. Unless honey is raw, it should be avoided.
This leaves us with option 1, the stevia and monk fruit blend. At face value, it looked good to me, so I investigated further.
Feeling encouraged, my hopes were, unfortunately, quickly dashed. Here’s the composition of the Whole Earth stevia and monk fruit blend sweetener.
Erythritol, Stevia Leaf Extract, Natural Flavors, Monk Fruit Extract.
You really have to wonder HOW Whole Earth Sweetener Co. gets away with marketing a product as a stevia/monk fruit extract sweetener when the VERY FIRST INGREDIENT is neither of these!
This is yet another example of why you must dig deep…reading ingredients and inquire about processing before jumping on the bandwagon of a new product.
Is Whole Earth Sweetener Safe?
It seems that Whole Earth is using the same marketing ploy as Swerve sweetener. This product markets itself as a natural option too… “ingredients found in select fruits and starchy root vegetables, and contains no artificial ingredients, preservatives or flavors”.
Examination of the label uncovers that the stuff is primarily erythritol, a sugar alcohol with the potential for negative side effects including disruption of beneficial gut microbes.
While some diets like Trim Healthy Mama and the author of Wheat Belly see no problem with erythritol, I personally don’t feel it is safe.
In my view, most people take a far too flippant attitude toward the health of their beneficial gut bacteria. Do they not realize that these little critters control the vast majority of your immunity, thus determining whether you are healthy or not?
No thanks…I’ll pass on the erythritol!
The “Natural Flavors” Rabbit Hole
The “natural flavors” in the Whole Earth stevia/monk fruit blend are a big no-no too.
In fact, there are more natural flavors in this sweetener than monk fruit extract!
Natural flavors are the big catch-all ingredient for food manufacturers. It is a mystery mix that can include all sorts of industrial additives that companies don’t have to disclose on labels. Manufacturers produce many of these using toxic processes and dangerous chemicals and solvents. (2)
Is Whole Earth Sweetener Healthy?
If you are trying to get off sucralose, aspartame, and other artificial sweeteners and need a zero calorie option, the Whole Earth stevia & monk fruit extract blend is a definite improvement.
However, you should ultimately be looking to only use 100% truly natural alternative sweeteners.
Wouldn’t it be great if Whole Earth came out with a stevia/monkfruit blend with nothing else in it? Or, a sucanat/stevia or maple syrup/stevia blend where you could use half as much in your baking or on your pancakes? These types of products would be truly helpful as well as healthy.
Relying on a currently compromised product like the Whole Earth stevia & monk fruit blend should be a temporary step only. Your use of a product like this should be as brief as possible as you continue to move toward conquering sugar addiction for good.
(1) Whole Earth Sweetener Co.
(2) Natural vs Artificial Flavors
Upset Stomach and diarrhea for over 2 weeks!!! I bought this at Costco as it is marketed as all natural…BS!!! Since I started using it I have had the WORST stomach upset and 2 weeks of not being able to hold anything in my stomach. Not even water. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me up until now that I just read this. The only new ingredient in my daily life is this Fake “natural ” sugar. I only used 1 spoon in my morning coffee for the last 2 weeks and have been having such horrible stomach problems and I never get sick.
I hope more people find the truth about this scam before buying so they don’t get sick as I am.
So tell me Sarah. what would you recommend to replace all these sweetners? I put 2 twin sugar packs in my coffee every morning.
I bought a box of whole earth sweetener and half the packs are empty!! With prices the way they are not good.
The fact is, pure stevia and monk fruit have two issues. One is they are quite expensive. The other it it takes a tiny amount of them to sweeten, so many companies use fillers, and erythritol is cheap. If it comes from a non-GMO source, i consider it to be an acceptable option, assuming that i don’t use too much. I certainly prefer it to maltodextrin, which seems to work its way into so many different sweeteners.
I’m afraid, at least for those of us who are insulin resistant and sugar/sweetener addicted, there is no good option for a sweetener. Even natural sweeteners like honey, true maple syrup, or molasses will cause issues for us.
Research is showing us now (what they have covered up for years) that aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners have some major problems and they aren’t really all that beneficial. They are saying now that when our tongues taste sweet it is relayed to the brain to prepare for sugar, and so insulin is released and our bodies prepare to store fat. This is true whether we taste cane sugar, honey, aspartame, or whatever (including fruit, although fruit has fiber that is helpful in slowing down the process). I honestly don’t see how we can say those sweets are a problem, but stevia, monk fruit, erythritol or something similar is fine. Our bodies don’t differentiate.
I am sweet-addicted. I also am overweight and trying to lose by keto. Many people are successful with keto by using these other things. I am doing okay, but i am also struggling more and moving more slowly so i am trying to work my way to a point where i no longer use these things. I believe even my blend (which is less erythritol and more stevia/monk fruit than a commercially prepared blend) is messing with my progress.
Thank you for the article of good info (as always!) Sarah.
Hi Sarah, I love your research. I have been trying to find an alternative to sugar. What are your thoughts on “Just Like Sugar?” What do you recommend? Thank you for anything you can tell me.
Sarah Pope MGA
I haven’t looked into that one! Sounds interesting … I will have to check it out.
Have you investigated BochaSweet? It is touted as the Supreme Sugar Replacement, which can be used in the same amount as sugar in recipes. I have been debating whether to order it; the cost is quite expensive, but may be worth it.
Your article is very informative. Do you have any information on D-Mannose used for UTI’s. I have been using it for a few months. Apparently it is some sort of sugar that attaches to the bladder walls used for prevention of UTI’s. My experience is that it is working so far, but I worry because D-Mannose is a sugar and do not know how long term use might affect me. Any help?