Naturally sweetened, sugar-free drinks: how do they even work?

Posted by nexbaau on 3rd Nov 2020

The World Health Organisation recommends limiting ourselves to no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. However, many of us eat (and drink) much, much more- and it ain’t great for our health. In fact, sugar has been linked to some of the most common health problems of our times, including diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and even cancer.

And sugar-laden drinks are part of the problem. Studies have consistently linked sugar-sweetened drinks to weight gain and obesity because they add calories without helping us to feel full and satisfied.

It’s no surprise that more and more sugar-free drinks keep popping up on supermarket shelves and fridges. But are these drinks really all they’ve cracked up to be?

What are naturally sweetened, sugar-free drinks?

These days, you can find a sugar-free alternative for just about any drink you can imagine.

But most sugar-free drinks still contain sweeteners; they’re just sweeteners that aren’t sugar, and they can be either artificial or natural.

The natural ones that are used in sugar-free drinks – made from naturally sweet ingredients – can be broken down into two further groups:
  • ‘non-nutritive’: natural sweeteners that don’t affect your body like sugar does.
  • ‘nutritive’: natural sweeteners that aren’t table sugar, but still are loaded with fructose, the type of sugar that our bodies can’t metabolise.

Non-nutritive, natural sweeteners

Let’s be upfront: non-nutritive may sound bad, but they’re actually the sweeteners you want to look for. These sweeteners are natural ‘good sweet’ compounds that are extracted from fruits, veggies and other plant matter. They have no sugar in them, so your body doesn’t react to them the way it does to sugar. That’s what makes them ‘non-nutritive’ – they’re naturally sweet, but don’t trigger an insulin response like sugar and, to a lesser extent, nutritive, natural sweeteners do.  

Common examples include:

  • erythritol – only 70 per cent of regular sugar’s sweetness, but with a very similar feel in your mouth
  • stevia – 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar, but can feel a bit astringent in your mouth
  • xylitol – 95% of regular sugar’s sweetness, but too much can cause stomach upsets

Even though these sweeteners are ‘good sweet’ powerhouses, sadly most of the big drinks companies don’t tend to use them. In a bid for profit over health, they pump their ‘no-sugar’ drinks with artificial chemical sweeteners that can have some nasty health side effects instead.

Nutritive natural sweeteners

There are also a whole bunch of other natural alternatives to table sugar that all get their sweetness from their own natural sugars, like:

  • coconut sugar
  • date sugar
  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Because these sugars occur naturally, many folk consider them to be healthy. But your body can’t tell the difference between table sugar and ‘natural’ sugar. It still reacts to these sugars in the same way it reacts to regular table sugar. And they still contribute to your daily six teaspoon sugar limit.

So, long story short: we reckon it’s best to stick with the non-nutritive sweeteners.

Creating the perfect blend for a sugar-free drink

The Nexba nerds are on an ongoing mission to create healthy, sugar-free drinks that taste amazing. And more than six years of testing, research and development have led them to craft the perfect, sugar-free, natural sweetener blend.

It’s a clever combo of stevia and erythritol that steers clear of anything artificial, while still ticking the 100% sugar-free box. Stevia brings the big, sweet punch, while erythritol mellows out the flavour and creates the right texture in your mouth.

As a result, Nexba drinks taste and feel exactly like sugar to your tongue, minus the dodgy side-effects.

That’s why we describe our drinks as ‘good sweet’ – they have all the taste of regular sugar, with none of the issues.