Science finally got sweets right.
What took so long?
Whoever coined the phrase “sweeter than honey” clearly never met sweet proteins. Did you know that there are certain plant proteins out there up to 5,000 times sweeter than sugar?
To put it another way, if sugar is a single-story house, sweet proteins are like the Empire State Building.
Our sugar addiction and the need for a revolution
American consumes per day
The future of sweet is here
Derived from about a dozen fruits primarily found in West Africa
and other equatorial environments, sweet proteins are a class of proteins that deliver a sugar-like sweetness but none of the negative health impacts.
Sweet proteins are basically nature’s candy. They taste like sugar but digest like protein. And a little goes a long way. In fact, some sweet proteins clock in at several thousand times sweeter than sucrose on a weight basis.
How sweet proteins work
How these tiny sweet proteins work is fascinating. It turns out they bind to, and activate, the same taste receptors (T1R2-T1R3) on your tongue that sugar does. But again they’re not actually sugar.
Plants are smart. And these plants basically figured out that humans & monkeys will go crazy for sweetness. So the plants evolved sweet-tasting proteins, not carbohydrates, within their seeds and fruit to fool us into eating them so that we’d ingest them, digest them, and “enhance their dispersal.”
They spread their seed. We taste sugar without ingesting sugar. We digest and metabolize sweet proteins just like any other dietary protein.
That means they never trigger blood sugar or insulin spikes, and they never get into your gut microbiome like sugar and every other alternative sweetener. Proteins break down into amino acids, which are literally the building blocks of our cells. Minus fat and water, our bodies are entirely built on proteins!
a tiny, sweet superhero
Oh, and because sweet proteins are so potent, you only need a tiny amount to get that sweet flavor you crave.
For example, 1g of brazzein (a protein we’ll get to shortly) is equivalent to a whopping 2,000g OF SUGAR! So you’re not going to protein-load and get crazy muscle-building benefits with this tiny amount of protein. But what you do get is sugar-like sweetness without any compromise to your health.
1g = 2,000g
The different types of sweet proteins
from the oubli fruit (sound familiar?), found in West Africa, 500-2,000x sweeter than sucrose, heat-stable, and highly soluble
found in the fruit of the West African shrub, Dioscoreophyllum cumminsii (serendipity berry)
2,000-3,000x sweeter than sucrose, derived from the fruit of the katemfe plant in West Africa
found in the berries of the Miracle Fruit plant, this one is kind of wacky; it’s not sweet in and of itself but binds to sweet receptors to cause sour-tasting acidic foods to be perceived as sweet. So, you can actually ingest miraculin and then fully chomp into a lemon without making a Warheads face because it’ll taste sweet. Cool, right?.
The health benefits of sweet proteins
Bodybuilders might be wondering if sweet proteins beef up protein count. And the answer is: no, not really. The portion sizes are too tiny—these proteins are potent, remember! A little goes a longggggg way.
But the way in which your body digests and metabolizes sweet proteins means they’ll have zero or neutral impact on your blood sugar, insulin levels, or gut microbiome. Plus, there are zero calories in sweet proteins compared to 4 calories per gram of sugar.
How sweet proteins can transform our health for the better
We’re biologically designed to crave sugar. But our bodies were simply never prepared for just how much sugar is so readily abundant in modern-day diets.
That’s why sweet proteins represent such a golden opportunity for the future. If we can collectively cut down on our overconsumption of sugar—without even making taste sacrifices!—then our public health stands to gain so much.
Sweet proteins aren't just better for you - they're better for the planet
Here’s the thing: sugar doesn’t just wreak havoc on your body. It can damage the planet too.
According to the World Wildlife Fund: “More than 145 million tons of sugar is produced per year in about 120 countries. The cultivation of sugar produces environmental impacts such as the loss of natural habitats, intensive use of water, heavy use of agrochemicals, discharge and runoff of polluted effluent, and air pollution. This leads to the degradation of wildlife, soil, air, and water where sugar is produced and of downstream ecosystems.”
The great thing about sweet proteins? (Well, another great thing, we should say.) They can be produced without damaging the planet. In fact, they can be produced without any land at all. Through the practice of precision fermentation, we can create sweet proteins that are eco-friendly and nature-identical. This well-established method has been around for decades and is essentially the same sort of process involved in producing wine, beer, or cheese.
Here’s how it works: you have a yeast, you feed it sugar, it ferments that sugar, you manipulate the protein strain for the output you want, then boom—you have a nature-identical version of the plant as it is in nature but without having to cultivate huge swathes of land to harvest it.
Did you know, for instance, that even just a 1% reduction in sugar cane production would result in 650,000 acres of land saved? By fermenting sweet proteins rather than growing more sugar cane, we can dramatically reduce the amount of precious ecosystem land dedicated to sugar crop farming.