On fresh fruit, in coffee or whipped into baked goods, we can't get enough sugar. The problem is refined, processed white sugar isn't good for us at all due to it's high calorie count and negative impact on blood glucose levels. Sugar substitutes aren't a much better option -- while they may lack in calories, they're made from chemicals whose long-term effects on our health aren't yet known.
One of the best natural options out there is stevia.
There are many ways to sweeten food these days. While the most common has always been cane sugar, many foods and drinks today are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose and aspartame. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers these ingredients relatively safe, many people are still looking for a more natural and healthy option.
Stevia the sweetener is produced from the leaf of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana). Also referred to as sweetleaf, this plant is a member of the sunflower family native to Paraguay and has been used both as a food additive and as a folk medicine for more than a 1,000 years in South America.
What makes stevia extract sweet? These leaves contain compounds called glycosides that make it taste sweet. The most prevalent of these compounds are stevosides. Stevia leaves can be up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, making it an ideal natural sweetener.
Stevia Nutritional Information
There are three main benefits to choosing stevia over refined white sugar or artificial alternatives.
First and foremost, stevia products are made from all-natural plant extracts -- read packaging carefully to make sure no chemical additives were used. Secondly, stevia contains no calories, which makes it a great sugar substitute for those looking to lose weight, as calories lead to weight gain. Third, you don't need as much of it to get the same desired flavor.
There have been some studies related to stevia and its effect on blood sugar. Some report stevia doesn't impact blood sugar in the way regular sugar does, making it ideal for those living with diabetes. It has also been used as a folk remedy for diabetes. While it's recognized as safe for consumption, even by those with diabetes, there isn't substantial evidence at this time to prove it's beneficial as a treatment of any kind for those with this disease. If you have diabetes, speak with your doctor about using stevia in place of sugar.
How to Use Stevia
There are no known negative side effects related to stevia at this time. If you're interested in giving it a try, here are some suggestions:
Change out the sugar in your baking recipe for stevia (follow conversion recommendations).
Top fresh fruit with stevia and grill. Serve with Greek yogurt for a delicious dessert.
Add liquid stevia to cold beverages or even smoothies.
Try stevia instead of sugar to make more waist-friendly candies.
A pinch of stevia can help counteract any tartness from fresh tomatoes in pasta sauce or soup.
At eVitamins, we carry a range of stevia products, including liquid extracts and naturally flavored options. Pick some up today and make the switch. Stay well!