In the world of holistic health, stevia is polarizing. All will agree that refined sugar and artificial sweeteners wreak havoc on the body, and most will agree that raw honey has nutritive benefits, but when it comes to stevia, it isn’t so black and white. Is stevia a saint or a sinner? Well, in the words of Psych’s, Shawn Spencer, “I’ve heard it both ways.”
Stevia is a plant, similar in appearance to peppermint, that grows natively in the American Southwest and Central America. It is naturally calorie free, much like any other herb or spice, and has been nicknamed, “candyleaf.” It can be purchased in whole leaf form, powdered whole leaf form, condensed powder form, or in the form of a liquid extract.
Why are people afraid of stevia?
For starters, it is strangely reminiscent of an artificial sweetener. It’s zero calories, and usually sold in one serving packets. Fear also stems from the fact that stevia is frequently advertised in print and on television. This may seem insignificant, but fans of Michael Pollan will remember that one of his Food Rules is, “Don’t eat anything with a commercial.” In the majority of cases, this rule holds true. Take, Stevia in the Raw, for example. I’m sure you have seen commercials for this product, cited as a “healthy sweetener,” but did you know that it contains dextrose and maltodextrin, in addition to stevia? Other varieties of stevia contain stevia and ASPARTAME, yet still manage to market their brands as “100% Natural.” Are the trust issues behind stevia beginning to make more sense? Companies are urging people to buy a natural sweetener, but giving them a sweetener filled with refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Why are some people raving about stevia?
Stevia has a glycemic index of zero, making it especially appealing to those with diabetes, insulin resistance, and hypoglycemia. In a 2010 study, stevia, in contrast to other zero calorie sweeteners, did not cause people to overeat after consumption. It has been shown to have blood sugar balancing properties and level B effectiveness levels at lowering blood pressure. It is also a safe choice for those dealing with candidiasis, or, candida-yeast overgrowth.
Just tell me! Should I eat it or not?
Yes, you should enjoy stevia, and no you should not. This may sound confusing, but hear me out. Stevia, in its pure form, is 100% natural and completely safe, but big box brands like Truvia and Stevia in the Raw are not. When deciding which brand to use, label reading is key. You never know where you’ll find sugars and artificial sweeteners lurking around.
I find the most convenient way is to purchase a liquid extract. It is the most natural form of stevia, other than buying the plant, and, in my experience, results in a less bitter end product. If a liquid doesn’t suit your lifestyle, look for a powder that only has two ingredients, pure stevia extract and some form of fiber that makes up the body of the powder.
How Can I Use Stevia?
Stevia is my favorite way to sweeten up healthy tea and coffee drinks. Organic coconut milk, vanilla extract, and a few droppers of stevia in an herbal chai tea make a wonderful afternoon pick me up. Stevia is great for making chocolate bark or other desserts, and can even be used for baking with a few slight variations to the recipe.
Now, I want to hear from you!
Where do you fall in this stevia debacle? Are you a friend? A foe? A frenemy? Did this article alter your stance? If you are a fan, what are your favorite uses? Let me know in the comments below!
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