The Super Sweetener

Did You Know:
The average North American consumes 153 pounds of sugar per year.

One can of soda pop contains between 10 and 14 teaspoons of sugar.

Six teaspoons of sugar lowers the immune system 25 percent for 12 hours.

Fifteen teaspoons of sugar lowers the immune system 95 percent for 12 hours

Sugar causes the pancreas to malfunction, leading to hypoglycemia, diabetes and mood swings.

The Bad News
White bread is a simple sugar. White rice is a simple sugar. White sugar is a simple sugar. Soft drinks are simple sugars. Even fruit juices are simple sugars. Each of these spikes your blood sugar high and then drops it down low. This is very hard on the body, on the adrenal glands and the pancreas. What’s worse, is that these foods are usually a picky eater’s favorite.

The Good News
Sugar isn’t the only sweetener. Stevia comes from the sunflower family, native to subtropical and tropical regions. It is known as sweetleaf, sugarleaf or steiva. As a sweetener, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. It has a negligible effect on blood sugar, which is a boon for those with diabetes. And stevia extracts can be 300 times the sweeter than sugar.

Stevia as a Sweetener
Stevia is just becoming well-known in the US, but has been widely used in Japan for over 20 years. Because the human body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides in stevia leaf (they pass right through the normal elimination channels) or any of its processed forms, the body obtains no calories from stevia. Processed forms of pure Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar. Whether these products are called Stevia, Stevioside, Rebaudioside, Stevia Extract, or Stevia Concentrate, if they are in their pure unadulterated form they do not adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by both diabetics and hypoglycemics. For people with blood sugar, blood pressure or weight problems Stevia is the most desirable sweetener.

In all of its current forms, stevia has a taste unique to itself. Just as honey, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup, each have their unique sweet taste, so does stevia. Along with its sweetness there is also a slight licorice taste. Unlike artificial sweeteners, the sweet glycosides do not break down in heat, which makes Stevia an excellent sweetener for cooking and baking.

Stevia’s Safety
There has never been a complaint that Stevia, in any of its consumable forms, has caused any harmful side effects in the 1500 years of use in Paraguay and about 20 years in Japan. Scientists, who have studied stevia, state that it is safe for human consumption.

Following extensive research Dr. Daniel Mowrey reported: “More elaborate safety tests were performed by the Japanese during their evaluation of stevia as a possible sweetening agent. Few substances have ever yielded such consistently negative results in toxicity trials as have stevia. Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on stevia extract [concentrate] or stevioside at one time or another. The results are always negative. No abnormalities in weight change, food intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme and substrate utilization, or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing.”

Coming next: Cooking with Stevia

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For a synopsis of Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater, Click Here.


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