There are a few more choices these days in the search for something sweet. With diabetes on the rise, amongst other increased health concerns, never before has there been such a concentrated effort to find alternative, natural sweeteners. No longer do consumers have to choose between the pastel pink, blue or yellow packets of artificial sweeteners to satisfy their palates, thanks to the stevia plant.
While relatively unheard of until only recently, stevia seems to be the newest answer to feeding America’s sweet tooth, while also fulfilling the growing concern or requirement for things to be “all natural”. Stevia is a plant that grows in South America and parts of western North America, and is purported to be 30x sweeter than sugar in its natural state and the extract (the constituent known as Reb A) is up to 300x as sweet. Because of it’s potency, consumers should experiment with possibly using less than they would with regular sugar as too much stevia produces a strong after-taste. Some companies producing powdered stevia (extracts) are: PureVia, Reb-A, Rebiana, Sweet Leaf, and Truvia.
There has been some controversy about the use of stevia – and it was only approved in the last few years here in the United States as a food additive. It seems that the US is about the only country to have an issue with stevia. It has been used for hundreds of years without side effects, but then again with the intensity of the American sweet tooth, perhaps the call for some caution and moderation is not out of place.
Stevia is being trumpeted as an the all-natural, no-calorie alternative. As the body does not metabolize the glycosides from the stevia leaf (or any of its processed forms), it imparts no caloric effect on the body. Studies have shown that stevia doesn’t adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics. Some research has shown that stevia has possible benefits in combating obesity and high blood pressure.
What reports often do not tell us is whether or not the studies were done with whole leaf stevia or the extract of the plant. As any scientist or herbalist can tell you, the two are not always the same. I recommend using the whole leaf, as Mother Nature knows more about how and why whole leaf tends to work better and be gentler to our bodies.
With companies like Coke and Pepsi hoping on the “natural” bandwagon (Sprite Green, SoBe Life Water), we will soon be seeing stevia in numerous every day products. When you see stevia listed in loose leaf teas, you are getting loose leaf stevia.
So I would certainly try and experiment with stevia if you are looking to cut out unrefined sugars and aspartame from your diet. Do try to use a smaller amount – allowing the taste buds as your guide (with the proper amount, you shouldn’t have an aftertaste). So relax with your favorite cup of tea and enjoy the sweet things of Life!
Madam Potts blog, Mad Pots of Tea!
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