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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- Sand castles and cookies – Make some cookies with stevia
- Misty moisty apple cake – Avoiding sugar with apples and stevia