Monday, August 19, 2013

Lily’s Dark Chocolate sweetened with Stevia

Lily's Dark Chocolate Sweetened with Stevia - Fair TradeLily’s Dark Chocolate Sweetened with Stevia is a fair trade chocolate bar that contains no added sugar. It’s 55% cocoa solids and has all natural and non-gentically modified ingredients. It’s part of their introductory line that includes four bars.

I’ve seen them in a few stores now, including Whole Foods. I understand that it’s particularly difficult for diabetics and others who wish to avoid refined sugar to find chocolate that truly tastes like chocolate. This bar sparked a lot of reading on my part, which means a lot of thoughts that I’ll express here on the subject of non-nutritive sweeteners and what constitutes a satisfying chocolate experience.

The Lily’s Sweets website has this to say about the chocolate bar:

Delicious, creamy, and indulgent, our Original flavor Lily’s is made with rich, stevia-sweetened dark chocolate, giving it every bit of the indulgence of other dark chocolates but with no added sugar. Don’t stop at one square. Since it’s sweetened with the all-natural, botanical sweetener, stevia, there’s no need to.

I have no problem with stevia in concept, it’s similar to licorice in that it tastes sweet and comes from a plant but has no calories. However, both in their natural form, have a noticeable aftertaste. In the case of stevia, I find it metallic and bitter, but not all people experience that; the newer stevia-enhanced sweeteners include erythritol as a base to combat those aftertastes. The extract, known as steviol glycoside, is 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Let me back up for a moment to address what’s in regular chocolate and why. In an ordinary dark chocolate bar that’s 55% cocoa solids, the other 44% is made up of sugar. (The remaining 1% may be emulsifiers and flavors such as vanilla.) For many people, anything over 70% cocoa solids is not just bitter, it’s too intense. In higher cocoa percentages, chocolate makers sometimes increase the amount of cocoa butter to dilute the dense flavors of the cocoa itself. But when you’re using a sweeteners that’s 300 times stronger than sugar ... that means that a value for value replacement would give you a 98% cocoa solid chocolate that might be sweet, but incredibly dense. 

So when using stevia instead of sugar, confectioners combine it with a low sweetness sweetener that adds bulk - basically it takes up the space that the sugar would have without adding a flavor of its own (milk does a really good job of this, too). Erythritol is only about 60-70% of the sweetness of sugar. Another bulking agent is called inulin, which is a soluble fiber that’s about 10% as sweet as sugar and has a smooth taste and texture.

The majority of the calories in good quality chocolate come not from the sugar but from the fat. But reducing the sugar calories does make a significant difference in the calorie count here. Most solid chocolate is between 140 and 160 calories per ounce. I calculated Lily’s at about 113 calories per ounce, but be careful since 85 of those calories are from fat. What’s truly startling about the bar’s nutritional panel is not just the calories, but the fact that a single 1.4 ounce serving has 50% of your daily recommended fiber.


The ingredients:

Unsweetened chocolate, inulin, dextrin, erythritol, cocoa butter, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavors, stevia extract, natural vanilla.

It’s a little odd that all the press and marketing on this bar talk about the stevia, but note that it’s the second to the last ingredient. The dextrin inulin and erythritol make up more than a third of this bar (from my calculations erythritol is 15% alone, and I reckon, based on the amount of fiber chocolate usually has that the inulin is about 22%).

The chocolate smells very rich, like brownies or hot chocolate. There’s no sweetness note to the smell but there is a hint of coconut. The texture is soft and easy to bite and though the melt is pretty good, it has a sort of gummy texture to it. It doesn’t quite melt like chocolate usually does, and I blame the lack of sugar, which is easily dissolved in water (or saliva) but erythritol is less soluble.

The chocolate profile is on the woodsy side, with notes of smoke and pecans. But the coconut flavors were pretty pronounced as well, though not in a bad way. The sweetness was odd. It was fine at the start of the chocolate melt, as the chocolate flavors are strong, but not too overwhelming. Later the aftertastes kick in. There are several of them, there’s a bitterness that could just be the chocolate, there’s a higher pitched sort of liquid metallic note like aluminum and then there’s a lingering sort of coolness. As long as I kept eating pieces, the aftertaste didn’t bother me, but after about five squares when I gave it a rest, it all came back.

I can acclimate to the aftertastes, I didn’t notice anything else associated with it, like being inordinately thirsty or making other foods taste strange. It is notable that some people are sensitive to erythritol and inulin, especially when consumed in higher quantities than, say, a breath mint. So if you’re considering this bar, start slowly. I can’t say for sure, but I think this gave me stomach cramps. Not the first serving, which was just a few squares when taking the photos. But later when I ate about a third of the bar on an empty stomach, I found it made me uncomfortably gassy.

For diabetics or other folks who need to watch their sugar, it’s a good alternative. I was really surprised that the calorie count didn’t ruin the fat content but it’s still not a magic product that gives you everything you’ve always wanted. There’s always a trade off. I’ll stick with moderate portions of good quality, high cacao chocolate.

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Name: Dark Chocolate Sweetened with Stevia
Brand: Lily’s Sweets
Place Purchased: samples from Lily's
Size: 3 ounces
Calories per ounce: 113
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, 6-Tempting, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:24 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     Candy

  1. Sounds like this bar would be good for people like myself who follow a low carb diet, as well as diabetics.  I’ll have to look for it.

    Comment by laffin on 8/19/13 at 6:07 pm #
  2. Whoa!  That is a LOT of fiber.  People that blindly munch down this candy bar are going to be in for a surprise if they’re not expecting that - many people don’t get that much fiber in a day (though they should), leading to a very unpleasant surprise.

    Comment by Albanyish Dana on 8/19/13 at 6:58 pm #
  3. Inulin is the primary carbohydrate in Jerusalem artichokes, and is what causes their aftereffects. Not called “fartichokes” for nothing!

    Comment by Bill Gunter on 8/21/13 at 7:03 am #
  4. I tried Lily’s crisp rice flavor, i ate small bites after meals with coffee.OH REALLY glad i did that after reading the review& comments.

    Comment by artemis on 8/25/13 at 12:24 pm #
  5. I’m pretty sure that I read that erythritol is not that likely to cause stomach discomfort (it’s decent for people with IBS)—inulin, however, was what probably caused any stomach discomfort you had.

    Comment by captainskyhawk on 9/02/13 at 5:08 pm #
  6. I was delighted to find these bars but they have caused me a lot of intestinal distress, ESP. Nasty gas, really bad.

    Comment by Teri on 1/19/14 at 2:38 pm #
  7. This is a fascinating and very in depth review. The part about Inulin and Dextrin being higher in the ingredients list than Stevia is also interesting. I run a stevia chocolate company here in the UK and the reason we have stevia lower than the dietary fibers in the ingredients list is because stevia is simply so strong you don’t need much, but it is still the primary sweetener. It’s interesting both in the review and a few comments talk about aftereffects such as a bad stomach, I have never heard of this. I am very keen to try a bar of lily’s now,

    Comment by GabrielPurdey on 3/10/15 at 1:28 pm #
  8. I purchase Lilys chocolates as well. They now have a milk chocolate that is delicious. I started buying the chocolate because they use Stevia instead of the other sugar alcohols that upset my stomach. Well, sad to say Lilys does the same! Stevia alone does not bother me. I use it in my coffee and to sweeten whipped cream and plain yogurt. The added sugar alcohol in the Lilys chocolate ruin it for me. I eat it sparingly. I would like to find a chocolate manufacturer that just sticks to the basics with the Stevia. If I want an upset stomach I might as well eat the regular sugar free candy at the grocery store.

    Comment by Shirlane on 4/21/17 at 3:43 pm #
  9. I am looking to buy the Lillys chocolate candy bars can you tell me where I could order them???

    Comment by Rose Yoder on 7/05/17 at 10:47 am #
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