(Health Secrets) Is there safe no-calorie sweetener? Stevia has stood the test of time in many parts of the world where it has been in use for decades and in some cases centuries. Stevia is particularly popular in Japan where it has been available since the 1970’s. In South American countries, Stevia has been used for centuries to sweeten yerba mate, a traditional drink. Stevia is a safe no-calorie sweetener in Europe, Australia, and in China and the entire Pacific Rim. Where Stevia is popular it has been consumed in massive quantities reaching several thousands of tons annually for the past twenty years with no negative effects.
Stevia is an all-natural herbal sweetener. It has been stringently examined in dozens of tests around the world and found to be non-toxic. The surprise is that Stevia is a lot more than just a safe no-calorie sweetener.
Research has shown that Stevia is an adaptogen that normalizes blood sugar levels, raising them if they are too low and lowering them if they are too high. This makes it an aid for both diabetics and hypoglycemics, and everyone who wants to avoid weight gain. Stevia has regulating effects on the pancreas and intestinal tract, and is helpful for those with Candida. Stevia normalizes blood pressure, making it helpful for those with hypertension as well as those with low blood pressure.
Stevia acts as a general body tonic and toner, improving energy levels, stamina and mental clarity. It inhibits bacterial growth in the mouth, helps prevent cavities, tones the gums, and provides all the benefits of xylitol without the downside associated with sugar alcohols. Stevia can be added to your homemade toothpaste and mouthwash.
Want to rejuvenate your skin? Include Stevia in your facial mask to soften and tighten the skin and smooth wrinkles. Its anti-bacterial qualities work to relieve blemishes, acne, and lip or gum soars. Stevia gets rid of dandruff, makes your hair shiny and lustrous, and even helps it retain its natural color when you add it to your shampoo. When used on cuts and wounds, Stevia promotes rapid healing without scarring.
Compare these benefits to what you get from the use of white table sugar– weight gain, cavities and blood sugar spikes! Stevia is 200-300 times as sweet as sugar, with none of its drawbacks. And compare it to artificial no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame (Nutra-Sweet and Equal). Aspartame is a known chemical excitotoxin, meaning it excites brain cells until they die. Aspartame has been shown to be carcinogenic, and to causes seizures, nerve damage and premature death. It destroys kidney function too. As a general rule, nothing artificial should be put into your body — ever.
Stevia rebaudiana is a shrub that grows naturally in the southwestern U.S. but originated in Central and South America. There are several hundred species of the plant and only a few produce leaves with remarkable sweetness. Stevia is a complex plant with dozens of different glycosides involved in its sweetness. The most important of those are rebaudiosides, steviosides, and dulcosides. Although you could use fresh or dried leaves from the Stevia plant, what is available in stores is powered extract or liquid concentrate. These extracts contain several several glycosides, including steviosides and rebaudiosides.
Stevia extract sold is available in health oriented grocery stores, and most conventional grocers carry it as well. Look for it with the other sweeteners. It is created by boiling Stevia leaves in water, although some concentrates also contain alcohol. The liquid concentrate works especially well in drinks. The powdered extract also dissolves quickly and may be the better choice when you are trying to replace sugar in recipes.
Since Stevia extract is 200 or 300 times as sweet as sugar, use it very sparingly and let your taste buds be your guide. Before long you will get the hang of cooking with Stevia, which maintains its sweetness well when heated. The only drawbacks of cooking with Stevia are that it does not caramelize as sugar does and it will not brown when used in such things as meringues.
The taste of Stevia is slower in its onset and lasts slightly longer than that of sugar. When used at high concentrations, Stevia can leave a bitter aftertaste. If you detect this taste, it means you have put in way too much.
Wondering why you still see lots of products made with aspartame everywhere and very little made with Stevia? There is political side to this story.
In 1991 the FDA received an “anonymous” industry complaint and restricted Stevia, calling it an “unsafe food additive” and claiming that toxicological information on it was inadequate to demonstrate its safety. This ruling violated the FDA’s own guidelines under which natural substances used safely prior to 1958 should be given GRAS status (generally recognized as safe).
Since Stevia is a natural substance, it cannot be patented as artificial sweeteners are, and there are no huge sums of money to be made by the company that holds the patent or by its shareholders, as is the case with artificial sweeteners. Promoters and many consumers of Stevia believe the FDA acted in response to pressure from the makers of artificial sweeteners in restricting Stevia. It acted to protect those who stood to gain, a group that included prominent high placed officials. Arizona congressman Jon Kyl called the FDA’s action against Stevia “a restraint of trade to benefit the artificial sweetener industry”.
Following passage of DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994), the FDA was forced to allow Stevia to be used as a dietary supplement, although still not as a food additive. This position highlighted the FDA’s effort to protect the artificial sweetener industry because it simultaneously labeled Stevia as both safe and unsafe.
In late 2008, the FDA declared “no objection” approval to GRAS status to Truvia, a brand of Stevia developed by Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company, and to Pure Via, a brand of Stevia developed by Pepsico and the Whole Earth Sweetener Company. This decision gave big food conglomerates a lock on products containing Stevia for the foreseeable future.
Recent research abstracts on Stevia:
Photo by Earls37a