Lemonade is a favorite warm-weather drink all over the world. Traditionally made by pouring freshly squeezed lemon juice, water, and sugar, over ice, lemonade adds a lot of empty calories to the diet, so most dieters prefer to use low- or no-calorie sweeteners. But what can you do if you want the sweet-tart taste of lemonade without the sugar and also without Sweet ‘n Low, Nutrasweet, or acesulfam?
The obvious choice for a naturally sweet sugar-free lemonade is stevia. Liquid stevia extract is 100 percent natural, and it’s blissfully simple to use to make lemonade. Add a few drops, stir, and you’re done. There are, unfortunately, a couple of drawbacks to using liquid stevia extract to make lemonade.
One problem with liquid stevia is its licorice-like aftertaste. If you happen to like licorice, using stevia extract to make your sugar-free lemonade may be fine. But that leads to the other problem with liquid stevia.
Stevia is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. It is very easy to use too much. Too much stevia, surprisingly, carries a bitter taste that can be very hard to get out of your mouth. However, there is an almost sugar-free alternative,.
Powdered stevia sweeteners contain tiny amounts of stevia rebaudiosides, the plant chemicals that make stevia taste sweet. The powder in a stevia packet is actually 99.8 percent filler and only 0.2 percent stevia. The filler is usually some other sugar that is chosen to complement the sweetness of the rebaudiosides. Manufacturers in the US and Canada often use glucose, which is sensed on the tongue just a fraction of a second before the sweetness of the stevia rebaudiosides kicks in. Manufacturers in Australia and Asia use xylitol, a lower-calorie sugar that is manufactured from corn cobs. Powdered stevia products are not really completely natural, and they are not really completely calorie-free, but it only takes about 15 calories in sugar “filler” to carry the stevia rebaudiosides that will sweeten an entire pitcher of lemonade.
What if you simply don’t want any kind of added sugar at all in your naturally sweet sugar-free lemonade? Then the solution is to make your lemonade with “sweet lemons,” a relatively hard-to-find fruit born by the lemon species Citrus limetta. Once you find and buy the fruit, or after you pick your lemons from your own Citrus limetta tree, you will have to do your own squeezing to make a slightly greenish juice. The juice of the sweet lemon, however, is sweet enough to drink without sugar, artificial sweeteners, or stevia, and also high in antioxidant flavonoids and vitamin C.