Stevia is a sweet extract from the stevia rebaudiana herb, nearly 300 times sweeter than sugar, used primarily in South America, Japan and slowly becoming more popular in the US. Stevia has been tied to weight loss and lowering uric acid levels, as well as presents itself useful in diabetes, high blood pressure and heartburn treatment.
Extracted from the stevia leaves, the rebaudioside crystals, also termed rebaudioside A, or rebiana, exist as a great alternative to man-made artificial sweeteners. For sweetness, stevia can be used in coffees, teas, baking, and has been used for diabetes treatment in Japan.
In addition to this sweet ingredient, stevia, like all plants, contains a number of non-active compounds that add to the health benefits with few side effects, so it’s important to be educated when purchasing stevia. Refining and manufacturing any plant or herb into a marketable product could negatively affect its natural health uses.
In the United States however, the acceptance of stevia has been very limited by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA maintains its classification of stevia as a food additive and it was originally only available as a dietary supplement.
You can find stevia in health food stores or on the internet in powder and liquid forms. Because the marketplace can be unregulated, be aware of what you’re purchasing to chose the whole, safest, purest, most useful form. Avoid refined stevia products termed PureVia, Truvia (made from only the two sweetest compounds of the stevia plant) and SweetLeaf. Aim to get the most natural, unrefined forms of the herb. Sometimes claimed to have a metallic aftertaste, often dependent on processing, consider trying different brands of stevia to find what suits you best.
Undoubtably, stevia is a much healthier alternative to the typical toxic artificial sweeteners on the market today including Equal/aspartame, Sweet’n Low/saccharin and Splenda/sucralose, to name a few. Potently sweet and calorically insignificant, stevia can be a part of your coffee, tea, juices, soups, salad dressings or baked goods. Used for hundreds of years in South America and by diabetic patients in Asia for decades, stevia can be a natural way to satisfy a sweet tooth!
Do you use stevia? I’d love to know, comment and share!