Stevia’s a real sweetheart

Princess of sweet

Once upon a time, there lived  a magical sweetener, named Stevia. Cousin of Chrysanthemum and sister of Sunflower, Stevia was incredibly sweet. The truth is Stevia was 300 times sweeter than her ugly stepmother, Sugar. Better yet, Stevia was  sweet without any added calories. And best of all, Stevia was so much kinder than any of her catty artificial friends, who promise the same calorie-free hit but deliver nothing but trouble.

I’m referring of course to the shifty Splenda, Aspartame, Saccharine, Sucralose, and Acesulfame. Evidence suggests that these artificial sweeteners are contributing to cancer, brain disorders, and sugar dependency problems. They are used in soft drinks, packaged puddings and jellos and many other processed food that are labeled  sugar free.

Sugar imposters

Avoiding sugar

Artificial sweeteners are no-nos for kids or pregnant mothers.

Food processors of course know that people want to cut back on sugar. To hide the  sugar, they use different members of the sugar family in their foods. That way, sugar can be scattered across the ingredient list, not staring you right in the eye at the top.

Here are some of the more notorious of Sugar’s relatives:  Corn sweetener, Dextrose, Fructose, Fruit-juice concentrate, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup or HFCS (a particularly lethal individual),  Lactose, Maltose, Molasses, and  Sucrose. Whew!

But what if you crave sweetness once in a while? Well, you may have to make your own treats. I use maple syrup or honey in place of  white sugar. Even with these products, I’m still adding volume-for-volume the same number of calories.  To get ahead of the game, I reduce the amount I use in the recipe. And besides, these natural sweeteners come with benefits:  maple syrup is a tree sap full of cancer fighters and honey is baby food for bees, with many extras to offer people who eat it too. Maple syrup and honey are a good choice as long as the recipe calls for only a little sweetener.

If you need a lot of sweetener, though, try looking to our gentle Stevia for help. It’s natural, it has no calories, it’s safe, and if you use the right amount, it’s sweet without any aftertaste. For centuries South Americans have used  Stevia in herbal teas. Decades ago, Stevia made friends with the Japanese who even used it in Diet Coke! By 2000,  Agriculture Canada was experimenting with Stevia in various processed foods, as a safe, calorie-free substitute for sugar.

Stevia – it’s natural! Photo courtesy of healthFA.

Sugar politics

But if it’s so good, why aren’t food processors using it as a sweetener of choice here?

It comes down to money. You can’t patent a natural product. So years ago, Stevia’s rivals lodged complaints and Stevia  became illegal in processed foods in the US, Canada, and the UK. Until recently, artificial Splenda remained safe as Queen of Colas.

That’s why  I could  hardly believe who it is we have to thank for a new sweetener we have today, based on the Stevia plant…  Coca Cola! They came up with a way to harness the calorie-free sweetness of stevia  in a patented product called Truvia.  Truvia  is a spoon-for-spoon substitute for sugar. It’s in foods like  VitaminWater Zero, Sprite Green, and Blue Sky Free. Pepsi has also come out with a Truvia competitor. And in Canada I’ve spotted a similar product called Stevia Sugar in health stores. I’ve tried it and it’s great. I use the tip of a spoonful in my coffee and there’s no bitter aftertaste at all.

Stevia Sugar…, Truvia’s sister

Since 2008 when Stevia was approved for use in food in the US, Truvia has become the second best-selling sugar substitute, beaten only by  Splenda.

Side effects?

Studies show that Stevia is safe at normal consumption rates. Truvia might, however, cause diarrhea in a few people, especially people with bowel problems.  This problem comes from the sugar alcohol used to cut the sweetness of Stevia. But it takes an awful lot of  Truvia to cause this difficulty and, again, only in a few people.

So I say let’s give Stevia and her offspring,  Truvia and siblings, a whirl. Stay tuned for some recipes and more episodes in the Stevia Story. Good night and sweet dreams!

Sodas sweetened with Stevia, available in Canada

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. armedwithhealth
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 22:12:46

    Great article!

    Reply

  2. christian adventurer2
    Feb 14, 2013 @ 19:53:43

    Reblogged this on ChristianAdventurer2 and commented:
    Great article on an alternative to sugar! Check it out!

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Feb 14, 2013 @ 21:25:48

      Glad you liked it!

      Reply

      • christian adventurer2
        Feb 16, 2013 @ 18:51:51

        It was great. We just got the Vitamin Water and liked it. It’s a little too sweet for me but I can dilute it. I am interested in where Stevia got its start in what part of the world and how they used it. Did you find any research on that? I also found it interesting the woman who grew her own plants.

        Reply

        • Vinny Grette
          Feb 17, 2013 @ 10:41:32

          Hi Chis – Wikipedia says there are 240 species of stevia plants native to South America, Central America, and Mexico. The genus was named by Spanish botanist Petrus Jacobus Stevus in the 1500s. The Guarani people have used it for more than 1,500 years, The leaves have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten local teas, medicines and as a “sweet treat.” The exact structures of the sweet components of the plant were published in 1955. When in the 70s artificial sweeteners like cyclamate and saccharin were suspected of causing cancer. Japan began cultivating stevia as an alternative. Japan produced its first commercial stevia sweetener in 1971. The Japanese now account for 40% of the sweetener market.Today, stevia is cultivated all over East Asia. China is the world’s largest exporter of the plant’s sweetening compound, .

          Reply

          • christian adventurer2
            Feb 17, 2013 @ 20:15:05

            Great stuff! Thanks for doing my research for me. LOL.

            I am still so shocked that the government goes along with selling this crap all over the big box stories to pacify lobbyist and support big name pharmacological companies.

            I guess it is time for me to grow up but a huge chunk of me likes being in the dark. Staying in the light takes a lot of work. LOL.

            I do know that it scares the crap out of me seeing pharmacies going up on like every street corner. It seems like all new construction either turns out to be a Walgreen or a bank. Frustrating!

            I am still flabbergasted by your one reader’s comments on the bark found in the Amazon that cures cancer. It really is a buyer be aware world. I used Stevia in my tea today. It left a metallic type aftertaste in my mouth. I am going to try Truvia next or else its back to honey for this gal.

          • Vinny Grette
            Feb 17, 2013 @ 20:52:41

            Tea is harder to sweeten than coffee somehow. Stevia is great for sweetening whipped cream, plain yogurt, coffee and milk, puddings, etc…. it’s a new food, so it takes experimenting. Also, like any new food, it needs getting used to. The flavor is sweet but not the same as sugar (or honey). Honey tastes nothing like sugar or maple syrup, either. They are all unique 🙂 Anyway, good luck getting to know more about the foods we eat!

  3. curiousgiraffe
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 11:11:15

    Great post – am a big fan of stevia, and I totally agree – Truvia is great – it’s even granulated like sugar is, so you can dip your strawberries in it, and get that sugar look, same feel on your tongue, as well as great taste! Amazing stuff! So many benefits as well – I avoid sugar, as it raises cholesterol, so stevia and agave syrup are my 2 current sweeteners of choice.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 18:00:23

    Thanks from Australia, I am passing this on to my baking friends as Stevia is really just starting to take off here

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Nov 07, 2012 @ 21:05:03

      It’s really a wonderful product. So far it’s easiest when you don’t need a whole lot of sugar, like in coffee or whipped cream or puddings. With baking, I find you need to experiment a bit to get it right, because every brand is a little different.

      Reply

  5. monicarodgers
    Sep 09, 2012 @ 13:34:00

    Love this- I am trying to lose the muffin top and I need heeeelp!!! This is great info! Thanks and heard about you from MommyLand Blogger Martha.

    Reply

  6. Running in Mommyland
    Sep 09, 2012 @ 09:18:24

    This is absolutely fabulous! Love your writing; the way you share this important information while making it readable. look forward to your cook book… off to share you!

    Reply

  7. Vinny Grette
    Aug 31, 2012 @ 23:31:55

    Wow, I’m impressed you tackled growing your own stevia! Do you have any good recipes you can share? I have one recipe on-line here (Sand castles and cookies), and I’m testing stevia in a few more. Thanks for the comment.

    Reply

  8. babso2you
    Aug 05, 2012 @ 10:10:11

    I grew Stevia a couple of years ago. I dried it and crushed it for use in dishes. While it is not white and powdery, which takes considerable processing, it still sweetened the dishes that I used it in without adding calories!

    Companies are not able to patent something from nature as you mentioned. I heard years ago that there is the bark on a tree that grows in the region of the Amazon river that was found to actually cure cancer. But because the pharmaceutical companies cannot patent the bark, they have abandoned doing something with it for cancer sufferers. The almighty dollar rules again!

    Nice post!

    Reply

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