Most people, including experts, would agree that a great way to improve health is to decrease your sugar intake. Cutting back on sugar would decrease your intake of calories that can cause excess weight as well as your chances of getting diabetes – both very serious problems in the U.S. as well as other areas.
Childhood diabetes has increased tenfold since 1985 and it is predicted that if this trend continues, one out of every three children born will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
About 65% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. And in the past 25 years obesity in children has more than doubled.
The average American ingests over 150 pounds of sugar annually!
Artificial sweeteners have been hailed at the great solution to replace sugar, however more and more information is coming to light that these alternatives are unsafe and even worse than sugar.
But what if there was a naturally sweet herb that has been used safely for decades in other areas of the world that could replace sugar? Well there is and it has finally started to catch fire in the U.S. It’s called stevia.
Using stevia as an all-natural alternative to sugar works fabulously well and has many benefits!
Stevia rebaudiana, is derived from a plant in the chrysanthemum family grown primarily in South America and Asia. Its sweetening qualities are complex molecules called steviosides. They are glycosides and make stevia up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. These glycosides don’t get absorbed into the body, they just pass through leaving no calories.
The advantages of using stevia are numerous. In its pure form, it’s non-caloric and doesn’t affect glucose levels, an advantage for diabetics as well as those suffering from candida. Also, it has no carbohydrates or fat. Unlike artificial sweeteners, high quality stevia has little aftertaste when measured properly. It has no known side effects like some chemical sweeteners and has been safely consumed around the world for centuries.
With the widespread use of sugar and artificial sweeteners at dangerous levels, stevia is a welcome option for those who want to use more natural ingredients with no known side effects, no calories, no carbs, no fat and no adverse effect on glucose levels.
The website www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, under the direction of the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine and National Center of Biotechnology Information, offers abstracts from stevia studies that indicate it may also aid in lowering blood pressure and regulating glucose levels.
Imagine, a sweetener with no side effects except perhaps good ones, complete with potential blood sugar-lowering properties! That’s stevia!
One thing you need to know about stevia: all stevia products are not the same.
I have been investigating various stevia products and have found some very important facts that you should be aware of regarding stevia – mostly that many of the stevia products on the market contain other ingredients than just stevia.
For example: Stevia in the Raw lists maltodextrin as the first ingredient.
You’ll often find maltodextrin in salad dressings, frozen yogurt, spice mixes, Cheetos, candy, baked goods, fat-free and sugar free products. You’ll even find it in meats, nutrition bars and many meal replacement shakes like Ensure and Advocare. There’s been a lot of exposure about the bad effects of MSG, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, but maltodextrin is found in even more foods, yet is still fairly under the radar.
Maltodextrin is just as bad, sometimes worse, than sugar. Easily absorbed carbs like maltodextrin and sugar get into your bloodstream fast and are often simply stored as fat.
Truvía is another stevia-based sugar substitute developed jointly by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill.
Truvía’s listed ingredients are erythritol (a sugar alcohol found naturally in small amounts in various fruits such as grapes and melons), stevia leaf extract and natural flavorings. In fact Truvia is 99% erythritol and about .5% stevia.
Erythritol is a naturally-occurring substance found in many fruits; however since it is present in such small amounts (less than .005% by weight) it is impractical to produce erythritol commercially simply by obtaining it through natural sources.
Cargill manufactures Truvia’s erythritol by processing corn into a food grade starch which is then fermented with yeast to create glucose and then processed further to create erythritol.
So Truvia isn’t really what it represents itself to be.
So, I switched back to the liquid pure stevia and have been on the hunt for a powdered stevia that is pure and that tastes good. I ordered an organic form of stevia that was just ground stevia leaf. It was a green powder from an on-line site. It tasted terrible.
Finally I found another site that looked promising and ordered a 1 pound bag. I’ve tried it and it tastes very good. It is pure organic stevia in a white powder form.
I recommend trying this.
You can find it at: http://www.emperorsherbologist.com/stevia-stevioside.php .
You only need to use a little bit at a time as it is very sweet. So it will last you a while.
You can also use the Sweetleaf brand, but read the label clearly to make sure it is pure stevia and not mixed with anything else as Sweetleaf also offers versions of stevia that are mixed with sugar. Sweetleaf stevia tastes very good and is also more readily available in stores.
There are other natural sweeteners that you can use. I don’t use stevia for everything. I have an array of different sweeteners that I use.
Another great option is Monk Fruit or otherwise known as Luo Han Guo. Luo Han means monk and Guo means fruit – thus Monk Fruit.
Again beware of many forms of this sweetener being called Monk Fruit, but mostly containing a sugar alcohol such as maltodextrine or erythritol.
Monk Fruit is also a zero on the glycemic index and one of the most exciting new sweeteners to emerge in the last few years. The plant is native to the Guangxi province in southwestern China.
I found a source of Monk Fruit without sugar alcohols made by Virgin Extracts ™ and you can buy it on Amazon – here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Virgin-Extracts-Concentrate-Stronger-Sweetener/dp/B00JMSIKBM/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1420134526&sr=8-8&keywords=luo+han+guo .
And here’s a new (at least new to me) natural sweetener you can try. It’s called Yacón syrup . Click on it and the link takes you to the Wikipedia entry about it. But in short, it is extracted from the roots of the yacón plant. The syrup is made with a similar process to maple syrup.
People in South America have eaten yacón for centuries because of its nutritional properties, few calories and low glycemic index.
The FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides sugars) in yacón aren’t fully digested. The body treats them as soluble fiber and they pass into the gut where they provide beneficial bulk helping the movement of waste through the intestine.
As well, I am told that they promote the fermentation of beneficial bacteria in the gut. As a result, they provide only about one third the calories of sugar.
Another huge benefit is that yacón is almost a zero on the glycemic index, making it suitable for diabetics. Tests have also shown other benefits including regulation of blood sugar and insulin levels and improvement in cholesterol levels.
You can order it on Amazon. It looks like a dark honey, but is about half as sweet as honey (and way lower than honey on the glycemic index). No bitterness or aftertaste. I am quite enjoying this new discovery!
I also occasionally use Coconut Palm Sugar, now available in many grocery stores and on Amazon. I also occasionally use Agave syrup. Both of these are a bit higher on the glycemic index so I use them less often, but they are still considerably lower than sugar.