“Stevia is sweeping the natural-food industry. Consumers want to use it, stores want to sell it and manufacturers want to include it in their food and cosmetic products. Unfortunately, very few people know anything about stevia, the various forms in which it comes, how and when to use it or which forms offer the maximum benefits.”
– James May
What is stevia?
The stevia plant is a shrub native to Brazil and Paraguay. Stevia is also the name of a sweetener extracted from the leaves of this plant. In its powder form, this substance is app 200 times sweeter than sugar.
How is stevia made?
In the 1930s, chemists in France isolated stevioside, the compound in the leaves which is responsible for its sweetness. This compound is sometimes sold isolated from the leaves in a highly refined form. In other cases, stevia is made by crushing or distilling the leaves of the plant to form a powder or a syrup with an intensely sweet flavor.
Why should I use stevia instead of other sweeteners?
- The body processes stevia very slowly, which greatly reduces the risk of a sugar high.
- It has been shown safe for diabetics.
- Stevia is essentially calorie free, which makes it very popular with dieters.
- Research has shown stevia inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay, and in many countries it is used in oral-hygiene products.
- Stevia is not converted into glucose in the body, and therefore has a glycemic index of 0.
- Other benefits of adding stevia to the daily diet include improved digestion and soothed upset stomachs.
Is stevia safe?
Daniel Mowrey, Ph.D., a renowned scientist and director of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory, has written the following:
“Few substances have ever yielded such consistently negative results in toxicity trials as has stevia. Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on stevia extract or stevioside (the chemical giving the leaves their sweetness) at one time or another. No abnormalities in weight change, food intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme utilization or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing”
Stevia has been used for thousands of years in South America with no ill side effects, rather, these populations have much lower instances of the flu and other contagious diseases due to the anti-bacterial properties of the stevia supplement. Stevia has yet to be proven unsafe, though the FDA is still trying. Keep in mind that while stevia has not been FDA approved as a food additive (it is approved only as a dietary supplement), the FDA-approved aspartame continues to generate more complaints than any other FDA approved substance! Decide for yourself: which is safer? An extract from a plant leaf or a lab created synthetic substance?
Which stevia tastes the best?
Stevia comes in the forms of fresh leaves, teas, powders, liquid extracts and stevia blends. There are countless brands of stevia to choose from, each with different concentrations. In short, the quality of stevia products can vary greatly. The best quality leaves are imported from South America and Mexico, and are about 12 percent to 13 percent stevioside. The poorest quality, but most ample supply, is currently coming from China, where the leaves contain only 5 percent to 6 percent stevioside. A simple taste test quickly demonstrates the difference. Be aware that stevioside cut with maltodextrin does not dissolve very well in liquids, and that poor stevia products will leave a bitter aftertaste. Rejuvenation’s favorite brands of stevia are Kal Pure Stevia Extract (liquid) and JAJA stevioside.
If you are looking for ways to cut down your calories, lower your blood sugar levels or cut back on simple sugars, stevia may be your answer! Virtually all scientific researchers who have studied stevia and stevioside have attested to their complete safety. And what could be wrong about using an herbal extract versus synthetic artificial sweeteners? If you’ve never tried stevia, you’ll find it’s great in tea, coffee, dressings and marinades, and the brand “Stevia in the Raw” works great for baking as it’s equal cup for cup to sugar. Give it a whirl! And if you’re feeling really adventurous, try growing some of your own! More information can be found at www.stevia.net or www.stevia.com.
May, James. “The Many Benefits of Stevia”. Health Supplement Retailer – page(s) 60. March 1996
Stevia (flavored and unflavored) products can be purchased here.