For a long time, people who wanted to cut sugar from their diets used artificial sweeteners.
Saccharin, cyclamates and aspartame were easy, but they posed real concerns about health. Now there’s a new trend towards Stevia.
To call Stevia new isn’t exactly right. It’s been used in South America for over 1,500 years. It began being used in Japan in 1971 and was introduced in the U.S. in the 1980s.
But competitor companies tried to fight its use, and it was only allowed to be used in a highly processed version.
Not All Stevia is Created Equally
Today Stevia, which is a sweet herb, is widely available in different forms. Unfortunately, not all of them are healthy.
Some Stevia is highly processed while other kinds are more natural.
Stevia contains 2 glycosides:
- One is called rebaudioside. It’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
- The other is called stevioside. It’s less sweet, and even a little bitter.
When Stevia is highly processed, chemicals are used and all the stevioside goes away. What’s left is rebaudioside.
Knowing if your Stevia is all rebaudioside or if it contains stevioside helps you choose the one that is healthiest.
3 Types of Stevia (from good to bad)
Green Leaf Stevia
Green Leaf Stevia is hardly processed at all. The leaves of a Stevia plant are dried. Then they’re crumbled and ground into powder. What’s left is a little bit bitter. It’s 30 to 40 times sweeter than sugar. This is the best type of Stevia.
Some companies take the sweet rebaudioside out of the Stevia and only use that part of the plant. It’s much sweeter, but doesn’t have the health benefits that Green Leaf Stevia has.
This is the most processed form of Stevia. It’s made using chemicals in a 42-step process. Some of the chemicals are toxic, or cause cancer. Altered Stevia has extra ingredients such as dextrose and sugar. These make it 400 times sweeter than sugar.
Benefits of the “good” kind of stevia
Some studies have shown that using green leaf stevia can cut the risk of breast cancer.
Another showed that when it’s used with other cancer fighting natural materials, it raises antioxidant levels.
Still others have linked Green Leaf Stevia use to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
What to look for on the label
If you want to use Stevia as a sweetener, you should know what to look for on food labels. Here’s how to make sure you’re buying the real deal.
The first thing you need to know is that Truvia isn’t the good kind of Stevia. Its ingredients list shows that though it does contain Stevia leaf extract, the first item listed is erythritol. This is a chemical sweetener.
If the first thing on an ingredient list is something other than Stevia, don’t buy it.
The best way to make sure that you’re getting the right kind of Stevia is to grow your own plant. You can also buy fresh or dried Stevia leaves online. Then you can grind the leaves yourself.
Yours in Health,