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Sweet challenge

Last updated: May 2009

Calorie-free, plant-based Truvia is "a miracle of nature," the manufacturer says. It combines the sweetener rebiana, from the leaves of the stevia plant; erythritol, a natural sweetener typically found in grapes and pears; and natural flavors. One packet is supposed to be as sweet as 2 teaspoons of sugar (32 calories).

Rebiana had been permitted as a dietary supplement; last December the Food and Drug Administration approved its use in foods and drinks despite earlier concerns. Here's what our panel of tasters found:

Coffee and iced tea. The difference between Truvia and sugar was subtle, but some tasters said the coffee with Truvia was more bitter overall. The tea had a lingering sweet aftertaste.

Cornflakes with milk. Both sugar and Truvia dissolved nicely in the milk, but Truvia on cereal didn't taste quite like sugar and had a big, lingering sweet aftertaste.

Strawberries. We dipped half of each berry in sugar, the other half in Truvia. The look and texture of the sweeteners were similar, but Truvia had an artificial flavor and bitterness.

Shortbread cookies. We used a recipe from the Truvia Web site. (Our real-sugar version incorporated confectioners' sugar.) The cookies made with sugar were toasted, had a tender texture and buttery flavor, and were slightly sweet. Truvia cookies had some grittiness, along with that lingering sweetness.

Bottom line. Truvia could be a good choice, especially in beverages, for someone on a sugar-restricted diet. But it may not make sense if you're on a restricted budget: We paid the equivalent of 9 cents per packet of Truvia, compared with a penny for 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar.

   

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