Many people like their food and drinks sweetened. That won’t come as a surprise to anyone.
There’s been a massive health cost though to our obsession with sweetness and the prevalence of sugar and other sweeteners in so much of what we eat and drink. Obesity has become commonplace, new diabetes cases are spiraling out of control and many other chronic diseases like heart disease are now strongly linked to our overconsumption of sugar.
Put simply, a high percentage of people would likely see a significant increase in their health and energy by reducing their sugar intake. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on sweetening your food and drinks. It just requires a simple change to a much healthier type of sweetener – stevia.
This page has a new type of zero calorie, low glycemic and intensely sweet stevia extract that many, myself included, consider the best stevia available. It’s free of alcohol, definitely doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste of earlier stevia extracts and makes a great replacement for unhealthy sugar.
If you’d like to lose weight, have more energy and lower your risk of serious diseases, it’s well worth ditching sugar and highly questionable artificial sweeteners for this new kind of stevia.
What is Stevia?
Stevia Rebaudiana is a small herb that grows natively in South America, where the bright green leaves have been used for centuries to sweeten foods.
Stevia is incredibly sweet and in raw form is estimated to be approximately 40 times sweeter than table sugar. Once concentrated into an extract, that level of sweetness can be in the vicinity of 200 times as much.
In Japan, stevia extract has been used as a sugar replacement since the 1970s and it now accounts for 40% of the country’s total sweetener consumption.
Interestingly, stevia became popular in the Japanese market after the artificial sweetener aspartame was banned due to health concerns. In all that time, there have been no commonly reported adverse effects of stevia. Far more than can be said for the most popular type of artificial sweetener – aspartame.
After dragging their heels on the issue for many years, the FDA approved stevia as a ‘dietary supplement’ in 1995 and finally as a food additive in 2009.
While many companies are starting to trumpet the use of stevia on their packaging, a closer examination usually reveals they have only added a miniscule amount of stevia to the main artificial sweetener. One notable exception is Zevia, a fully stevia sweetened cola that is the closest thing to a healthy soda I’ve ever seen.
Stevia Versus Artificial Sweeteners
While stevia is growing quickly in popularity, it is still dwarfed by the massive market for artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame.
There are potential health concerns associated with aspartame, commercially known as NutraSweet, and it took quite a murky path to approval. Regardless of whether you believe the Monsanto research showing aspartame is safe, or the record number of complaints and side effects reported to the FDA, there’s a very good reason to stop using artificial ‘diet’ sweeteners – they don’t seem to help you lose weight.
Recent research is showing that people who drank aspartame sweetened diet soda were more likely to be obese than regular soda drinkers. Diet soda has also been associated with a higher risk of diabetes.
By comparison, stevia has been used traditionally in South America for many hundreds of years and the extract has been popular in Japan since the 70s without reported side effects.
The justification for the long delay in stevia’s approval seems to be primarily a 1968 study where rats were given extremely high doses of stevia in a short period and were observed have fewer offspring. This study has largely been discredited as the amounts given were far and beyond what could possibly be used as a sweetener by a person.
More recent research published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Reproduction in 2008 found that stevia had no adverse effects on female mice fertility. In fact, in recent years there have been several research studies showing that, aside from its obvious value as a sugar replacement, stevia may have other health benefits.
One particularly interesting study showed people given small amounts of stevia before eating consistently had lower blood sugar after finishing a meal than those who were given sugar or aspartame.
Japanese scientists have also published research showing steviosides from stevia improved insulin sensitivity and may have applications for diabetes treatment.
What Is the Best Stevia?
If there was one problem with stevia as a sweetener that many people have mentioned in the past, it was that the first stevia extracts were sometimes reported to have a bitter aftertaste. However, new stevia glycerite appears to have solved this problem with a different extraction process that leaves behind the compound that was causing this problem.
After trying most of the popular brands out there, I’ve settled on this liquid version as it’s the best tasting stevia I’ve found. From all the positive reviews, it appears the bitter taste issue is old news and more and more people are enjoying the health benefits of stevia.
There are even a range of different flavors of stevia, like cinnamon, dark chocolate and French vanilla (particularly good) for adding different tastes as well as sweetness to your food and drinks. Stevia also last a long time, probably several months with a small bottle, and while it’s a little more than sugar, it could hardly be called expensive.
You can bake with stevia as well, though I personally don’t have much experience with doing so. This page has more information on measuring out the right amounts for various recipes and a helpful conversion chart.
Getting stevia into supermarket goods loaded with sugar would almost certainly be of great benefit to public health. Unfortunately, with toxic alternatives like high fructose corn syrup a few cents cheaper, it’s unlikely to happen without significant consumer demand.
That said, table sugar spooned onto food and added to beverages do represent a significant amount of the fattening sugars in our diets and here is an easy place to start reducing them with stevia.
The best stevia tastes great both mixed into food and added to warm and cool drinks. It’s portable, long lasting and using it instead of sugar is a simple step to losing weight and better health.