Stevia is a non-toxic, natural sweetenerPosted on Oct 18th 2006 4:00PM by Daryl Kulak
Filed Under: Healthy Kids, Diet & Weight Loss, Celebs & Entertainment, Reviews & Products, Alternative & Green Health, Nutrition & Supplements
You've seen all the knocks against sweeteners by now. Refined sugar is causing a diabetes epidemic. Aspartame is a toxic manmade chemical and people are finding it's better used as ant poison than as a sweetener. And Splenda is proving to be as problematic as other artificial sweeteners, because it contains chlorine.
So are we stuck? Must we go through our lives without anything sweet ever again? I certainly don't plan to.
I found a sweetener that is not only completely natural (comes from the leaf of a plant) but it also stabilizes blood sugar and acts as an antiviral agent, in that it can stop the onset of cold or flu. It's called stevia (pronounced STEE-vee-uh or STEH-vee-uh).
I think stevia is the best kept nutrition secret in America. Here is a replacement for sugar that is not a manmade chemical, it is not toxic and is actually healthy.
I say America, because in other countries, it's no secret. Stevia is the number one sweetener in Japan, with the majority of the market. Even Diet Coke is sweetened with stevia in Japan. It's used extensively in South America and other places as well.
Why is America behind in accepting this natural, non-toxic sweetener? You can thank our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that. They made a decision to limit our access to stevia at exactly the time aspartame was being introduced. You can make your own decisions based on the story of aspartame and stevia in the early 1980s.
Stevia is possibly the most studied herb in the world. 900 studies have been done. Almost all of them have said that stevia is safe, but a handful of the studies hint at certain problems, which you can read about here.
Stevia has the ability to stabilize blood sugar. Whereas refined sugar causes spikes and drops in blood sugar, stevia can help regulate it. And stevia has strong anti-viral properties. That means you can use it to stave off a cold or flu, in concert with homeopathics and other remedies, of course.
You can buy it at most health food stores. Note that it is called a "dietary supplement," not a sweetener. That's the loophole that stevia makers must jump through to be able to sell it. Also, you won't see stevia added to any food products (soda, baked goods, etc.) in the U.S. because of the FDA rulings.
I use stevia everyday. I add a few drops of stevia liquid to water and drink several glasses each day. The liquid comes in various flavors - root beer is my favorite. I never drink soda anymore, my stevia water has been a satisfying replacement for that.
Stevia also comes in little packets, like sugar packets. These can be used to sweeten coffee or used in baking or anywhere else you might use sugar. Several stevia cookbooks are available. I've tried using the liquid stevia in cooking, with absolutely no success. I'm going to keep trying, though. The problem I've had is that I can't get the amounts right. Since the liquid is so concentrated, I always put in too little or too much stevia. Let me know if you've had any experience with this.
Another problem I have with stevia is the price. The 2 ounce bottles of liquid stevia are over $12. It seems really high, but it's good to remember that this stuff is very concentrated. I usually add 2 droppersful to a pint of water to drink. I'm guessing my pint of sweetened water costs about 70 cents or so. It's not bad when you think of it in those terms, but it's very frustrating to go to the store and have to pay so much for a tiny, tiny bottle. My guess is that stevia will become less and less expensive as more people start buying it. So buy, BUY!!
Oh, and if you don't want to pay big prices for stevia, you can grow it yourself. Stevia plants can grow pretty well in most parts of the country. The quality might not be as good (i.e. some bitter aftertaste) but it could be fun. Get stevia seeds here.
Overall, I'm so happy to have found stevia. I love my daily stevia-water drink - can't do without it. I wish I could get it to work in my baking, but that will just take experimentation.