Recently, I was asked by a member in the Healthy Gut community for my thoughts on Swerve. It’s a lab-made natural sweetener. I’ll let you ponder that statement for a second.

Made of ingredients derived from fruits and starchy-root vegetables, it is considered zero-calorie and claims to substitute for sugar 1:1.

It is called natural because the ingredients come from food and are not synthetic chemicals. That is the manufacturer’s definition of natural, not mine. Essentially Swerve is erythritol, a sugar alcohol, that is not absorbed into the body. It goes through the small intestines and is peed out.

Technically it is an oligosaccharide which means it can feed good bacteria . So far so good, right? Well, as a sugar alcohol, it can cause gas, bloating and gastrointestinal distress.

Erythritol apparently causes these symptoms the least in comparison to other sugar alcohols but that would be of little comfort to the persons that experience these side effects.

Maybe your thinking: “What’s a little gas – I’m getting “sweet” with virtually zero calories”

Well, there is no such thing as a free lunch – actually there is but that is how the expression goes. Since Swerve is a white refined product – just like white sugar – so it brings nothing to the body.

I’d rather have calories and have them mean something. Give me honey or maple syrup or coconut sweetener or sucanat. I’ll take the calories along with all the yummy vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Real natural sweeteners feed the beneficial bacteria, too, and provide energy and nutrients the body can use. They are also low glycemic so they don’t spike blood sugar.

I was not tempted to try this at all. But the baker in me started talking out loud. It told me I had to see how it performed and if it really did bake like sugar as the manufacturer claimed.

The Swerve experiment was born. I used the recipe for Crispy Oatmeal Cookies from A Pastry Queen Goes Green (see below).
I made it twice. Once with yellow-brown sugar (as per the recipe) and once with Swerve. I used a scale to makes sure all ingredients were the same. They were baked on the same tray in the same oven.

You can see visually the results from the picture above – they are not the same colour. That is okay – since Swerve is a white refined powder and not brown like the sugar I used for the other cookies, they would be lighter in colour.

I wish that were the only difference. Here are the results from a baking perspective:

  • The Swerve cookies did not spread like the other cookies. That is why they look smaller in the picture. They are thicker with a smaller diameter.
  • The cookies when made with the yellow brown sugar or with sucanat, are thin and crispy.
  • The Swerve cookies were tough and not as sweet so that means it is not a 1:1 substitute.
  • Most importantly, the taste is terrible – Swerve leaves an aftertaste that cannot not be easily forgotten.

Two normal cookies, some milk and then water could not get rid of the aftertaste. It was like it left a thin film on my tongue.

I was not expecting this. It is shocking to me that people online say they like it. I know people, who do not eat clean, have trouble tasting chemical aftertastes since their foods are full of them.

I also know people eat so fast that often their taste buds only pick up the frontend taste – in this case – sweet.

But I have never come across a backend taste like this.

So, because of the inferior baking properties and the bad taste, Swerve is not something I will be recommending. More importantly, I have to wonder why we need to even bother with creating products like this.

They are not natural by a normal definition (as in as close to the way nature made them as possible). They do not teach people how to eat properly – they actually teach people to think they can eat their cake and have it, too.  They can’t – that is a fact.

So let’s stick with the natural sweeteners and if we want to reduce calories, let’s just eat less.

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 30-36 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sucanat or yellow/brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Cream the butter and sucanat together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt together in a bowl. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Drop small balls of dough about the size of a half tablespoon onto a prepared cookie sheet. Press completely flat with a fork. You may need to wet the fork with water to prevent it from sticking to the dough. Cookies should be no more than a 1/4″ thick when flattened. Bake at 325 degrees F for 15–20 minutes or until golden. Let cool and store in an airtight container.