Is Stevia The Right Sugar Substitute?

Is Stevia REALLY The Perfect Sugar Substitute?

Due to high reader responses, this post is a follow up from April

Is Stevia The Right Sugar Substitute?

By now, you’ve probably heard of the latest sugar substitute to hit mainstream trend, Stevia. Let’s spend a few minutes to explore this trend, and decide if it’s a good option for our pantries.

For starters, what is Stevia and why all the craze?

This plant based non-caloric sweetener is made from a South American herb, called Stevia rebaudiana. The herb undergoes processing to yield a glycoside that is known as Stevia, and is up to 200 times sweeter than the typical table sugar.

Sounds great! What’s the problem?

On the surface, this seems like a perfect alternative to the pink/yellow/blue bags of artificial sweetener, that we have heard is loaded with cancer causing risks, or the dreaded white table sugar that is often times synonymous with growing diabetes reports. The trouble is that in order to survive harvesting (from various sources with a variety of growing methods), processing (protocols differ depending on the country of origin), and the time it takes to travel from the grocery store shelves to our tea cups, is the additional ingredients have to be added to our once unadulterated, earth grown, sweet herb. Thus, the packaged stevia, isn’t necessarily “all natural” as mass marketing has lead us to believe, but rather it’s loaded with things like erythriotol (a sugar alcohol), natural flavors (what ever that may be), and dextrose (a glucose derived extract from corn, rice or wheat). But, what about the historical use of the plant dating back more than 1,500 years, you may be asking yourself. Unfortunately, current research has lead to health concerns and political controversies, which leads to further skepticism. The FDA has fluctuated their official stance on Stevia since the early 90’s. In 2012 the FDA made an official comment on the crude Stevia plant, “Among these concerns are control of blood sugar and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.” Despite these concerns, Stevia remains an FDA approved sweetener.

Is there really such a thing as a “perfect” substitute to sugar?

So, Stevia isn’t “all natural”, but it is non-caloric and it can be used is much smaller amounts than white table sugar with a powerful sweetness. A no-calorie source of sweetness seems to be a viable alternative despite the aforementioned additives. In addition to the FDA’s concerns, an additional risk is that Steviahas the potential to interfere with medications, such as those used for blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin, anti-fungals, anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, anti-cancers, anti-virals, appetite suppressants, calcium channel blockers, cholesterol lowering drugs, fertility agents, and diuretics, to name a few. Despite this understanding, it is suspected that Stevia remains a better sweetener alternative than those pink/blue/yellow bags found stuffed in the sugar bins at our favorite restaurants, due to it’s natural origins.

What’s the moral of the story?
Now that we are all properly discouraged, let’s get down to the nitty gritty truth… MODERATION IS KEY.

What we put into our bodies, is our daily fuel for establishing and maintaining health. If we continuously nurture and support our bodies with proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise, we can mitigate most lifestyle illnesses. Thus, an occasional sweetened snack (regardless of the sweetened source) shouldn’t be problematic. One of the ways we can satisfy our sweet tooth healthfully, is through eliminating massive amounts of sugar consumption, allowing our brains and bodies to correctly identify and process sugars when consumed. Additionally, there are several teas, foods, and herbs that we can incorporate into our daily consumption, to satisfy our sweet cravings when they do hit.

Stay tuned!
Tune in next week for some simple and delicious strategies to add flavor to our day, and to enjoy our favorite sweets!

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