Stevia, Natural Sweetener That's Sugar-free


Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana {Bertoni} or S. rebaudiana) a South American shrub whose leaves have been used as a sweetener for centuries by natives of Paraguay and Brazil, in more recent times in Japan (since the early 70s) and countless other countries.

Many of you are well aware of the use of this herb as a no calorie, non-insulin activating sweetener. It's 300x the sweetness of sugar yet is perfect for diabetics and others concerned with their sugar intake. Only a drop or two added to your cup of coffee or glass of ice tea will sweeten it right up.

Not all Stevia is created equally. Some brands will have a bitter aftertaste due to processing.
The more stringent quality control, separating out as much of the stems, roots and leaf veins as possible will have a much better, sweeter taste, without the bitter aftertaste.

Here in the U.S., you won't find this sugar alternative on the shelves next to Sweet'N Low (saccharin) or Equal (aspartame) because it hasn't received FDA approval as a sweetener. In fact it has been turned down three times, stating in 1994, that there wasn't enough data to conclude that the use (in food) would be safe.

Ironically though, the FDA has approved the isolated sweet compound of the Stevia plant, called rebaudioside A, can be legally used as a "natural" sweetener under the trade name Rebianna. Both Cocoa-cola and PepsiCo are now marketing products (Turvia and PureVia), that contain Rebianna.

But there is concern that once the compounds are isolated, rebaudioside A is metabolized at a different rate and the long term toxicity risks are still unknown according to UCLA Toxicology of Rebaudioside A: A Review.

The S. rebaudiana plant contains a number of elements, as do other herbs, that work in synergy; likely allowing healthful benefits with very few (if any) harmful side effects. Many times, non-active compounds provide a safeguard against the potentially damaging effects of the active ingredients. Manipulating natures' design is not always best and can result in unexpected consequences.

Hmm, is the FDA looking out for our best interest? Only if it's advantageous to their other priority of helping large corporations. How else can aspartame and saccharin along with many others get FDA approval but an herb used as a sweetener for centuries can't unless it's main component is isolated and trademarked?

For now Stevia can only be purchased as a dietary supplement usually found in health food stores, down the supplement isle or online.


2 comments:

  1. This is the first I hear of stevia. Living with my spouse who is diabetic, we try to find most of the answers. Thanks for this information!

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  2. This is the first we hear of stevia. My spouse is diabetic, and find new ways of changing our health and wellness lifestyle on your updates! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete