This is the second part of a 5-part series of the definitive guide to sugar substitutes. This 5-part series covers several popular brands of sugar substitutes which include Splenda®, Stevia, Equal®, Truvía® and Sweet N’ Low®. In this installment, I will cover the latest craze in sweeteners – Stevia.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a genus of the sunflower and is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family. Though the botanical classification of the plant is called Stevia rebaudiana, it is commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia; it is widely grown for its sweet leaves. Generally speaking, the word stevia refers to the entire plant, but it is only some parts of the plant which are sweet. The sweet-tasting components of the plant are isolated from what is called the steviol glycosides. Once the steviol glycosides are isolated and purified from the plant the stevia sweetener as we find now in supermarkets can be produced.
The History of Stevia
As with so many “new” plants discovered, the stevia plant turns out to not be new at all. The plant was widely used by herbalists in Paraguay, and the South American naturalist, Bertoni, “discovered” stevia in the late 1800’s. Stevia is cultivated in Paraguay, Brazil, Japan and China, however, probably due to it’s recent popularity, stevia is also being cultivated in Canada, Mexico and California.
The Benefits of Stevia
Stevia is a natural sugar substitute with zero calories. Here are some of its other benefits:
Benefit Number 1 – Stevia Aides in the Treatment of Obesity – As a no-calorie sweetener, desserts may be prepared without the excessive calories of sugar.
Benefit Number 2 – Stevia Inhibits the Growth of Some Bacteria in the Mouth – Unlike the cavity causing effects of sugar, stevia can aide in the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease.
Benefit Number 3 – Stevia Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels (Good News for Diabetics) – Stevia has almost no effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. This is good news for those suffering with diabetes and hypoglycemia. (Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar glucose is too low, and is usually a side effect of diabetes medicines; stevia can help in the balance of blood sugar.)
The 2 Key Ingredients of Stevia
- Malodextrin – a filler added to prolong shelf life (also a type of sugar)
- Stevia Rebaudiana – the key ingredient of the stevia sugar substitute
How Sweet Is Stevia?
Stevia has a curious property of sweetness that I found. When you first taste it, it doesn’t taste that sweet on the onset – but – it appears that the sweetness increases gradually and tends to last longer in your mouth than sugar (and without the negative tooth-decaying effects of sugar.) On The Prosper “Sweet-Ometer”, my personal sweetness rating, I give stevia a 3-star rating (four stars being best).
Stevia rates (3 stars) • 2 packet needed to sweeten my cup of tea
How Affordable Is Stevia?
A 9.7 ounce of Stevia in the Raw® goes for $8.29. A servig is considered a teaspoon. In this bag, you get the equivalent of 550 servings, that is, 550 teaspoons of sweetner. Not bad.
In the next instalment of the series on sugar substitutes, part 3 of this 5-part series, I will talk about the sugar substitute known as Equal®. Until then…
Yours in health,
“The 12-Week Fitness Guru”
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