Stevia is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family and is related to both lettuce and chicory. It grows wild in parts of Paraguay and Brazil and goes by the name, Stevia rebaudiana. For centuries, native people of South America employed it for various medicinal and nutritional purposes. Now, stevia is commonly used in homes all over the world as a flavor enhancer for drinks and in some healthy recipes as an alternative to sugar.
After decades of research and consumption, many health conscious consumers are convinced that stevia may be the one “good” sweetener available today. The plant's extracts are much sweeter than sugar, but do not impact blood glucose levels negatively. Pure liquid stevia has zero calories and registers zero on the glycemic index. This makes it a solution for diabetics and anyone trying to generate natural weight loss. Also, the fact that it can be a completely natural alternative to artificial sweeteners makes stevia even more popular.
Why is Stevia Better than Sugar?
The stevia herb’s extracts are 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Approximately ½ teaspoon of clear liquid stevia equals one cup of sugar. The flavor of stevia is not exactly like sugar, but might be thought of as tasting like nectar or even licorice. In addition to enhancing the flavor of teas and juices, many people use it for cooking and find that it remains stable at high temperatures.
Not only does stevia help lower calorie consumption and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, it also contributes to healthier organs. As the pancreas absorbs the stevia extracts, it is gaining quality nourishment. This is the opposite of artificial sweeteners that are treated like foreign substances by the body and eliminated as waste.
Is liquid stevia better than powder stevia?
In 1984, Dr. Tei-Fu Chen perfected an extraction method for stevia without using chemicals. Today, this method is accepted as the best way to produce liquid stevia. Powder stevia, on the other hand, may often be produced with a chemical process that diminishes the healthy benefits. Some new “stevia” products on the market are not considered the same as pure stevia extract. While they may be a step up the nutrition ladder from sugary or artificially sweetened products, the benefits of stevia are minimal in these highly processed foods and drinks.
In 1994, the herbal manufacturing company, Sunrider, led by Dr. Chen, successfully petitioned the FDA to allow the use of stevia as a “dietary supplement” in the United States. More recently, some forms of stevia have been approved as “food additives”. Companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi are coming out with new soft drinks, juices, and other products made with some form of stevia rebaudiana. There are also new brands of stevia being advertised on television, but they should not be confused with pure stevia extract. Even though stevia can now be legally marketed as a dietary supplement, advertisers are forbidden to call the real stuff a “sweetener”, as that would make it a “food additive”.
Author Cliff Smith is one of the owners of BestHealthFoodStore.net, a health food store online where you can find liquid stevia and hundreds of other healthy products not sold in typical retail stores.
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