The Low Glycemic Index Sweetener You Need to Know
Have you ever heard of thaumatin? If not, then read on to learn about this natural low glycemic index sweetener. It is a low-calorie protein sweetener and flavor modifier from the katemfe fruit, a fruit found on the Thaumatococcus daniellii plant common to the the West African rainforest.
Each fruit contains three large, shiny black seeds surrounded by transparent jelly. The aril contains the thaumatin, which has long been used as a culinary sweetener.
Recently, it has become an increasingly mainstream natural low glycemic index sweetener alternative to many artificially-produced low-calorie sweeteners on the market. It’s popular in Japan and throughout Europe in diet drinks and snack foods.
How is Thaumatin Different than Sugar?
Unlike most sweeteners, thaumatin is a protein, not a carbohydrate. Proteins, like carbohydrates, contain 4 calories per gram.
However, thaumatin has such a high potency sweetness relative to sugar (roughly 1600-2000 times sweeter than table sugar) that only a tiny amount is needed to sweeten foods. The amount of calories added to a food when thaumatin is used as a sweetener is negligible.
Thaumatin is also used to enhance flavors and mask bitterness. Although quite sweet, its sweetness builds slowly. It is metabolized by the body similar to any other dietary protein.
Is Thaumatin Safe?
Thaumatin has been tested for safety in both animal and human models and is considered safe at levels normally consumed by humans.
How Does it Impact Blood Sugar?
Because thaumatin is a protein, not a carbohydrate, it is metabolized differently than most sweeteners and has a different impact on blood sugar.
Rat studies have shown that thaumatin does not elevate blood glucose, nor impact body weight. Most sugars, by contrast, raise plasma glucose levels. Refined sugars in particular are known to lead to blood sugar spikes.
Additionally, table sugar contains 4 calories/gram. When used as a sweetener, sugar can add quite a significant amount of calories to the diet without offering much other nutrition other than fast energy.
Who Should Try It?
If you are diabetic or monitoring your serum glucose for other reasons, it is a wise choice to sweeten foods without worrying about blood sugar spikes.
Many prefer this sweetener to artificially created low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin. Others enjoy it for its long-lasting sweet flavor and flavor-enhancement capabilities.
Where Can I Find Thaumatin?
While it is still a bit more difficult to find than many sweeteners at local grocery stores, this natural sweetener can be found in some natural grocers and online.