Almost everyone is aware that the average American diet contains an overload of sugar! For that reason, many Americans continue to turn to products that pack a sweet punch without all of the added calories. Most are familiar with saccharine and aspartame, but are you familiar with stevia?
Sweet and Calorie Free: What is Stevia?
Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener that is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni plant, a member of the mum family that is native to South America. Native South Americans has used this plant as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments ranging from heartburn to gout. It wasn’t until 2008 that this sweetener was recognized by the FDA as generally safe and was approved for use as a food product in the United States.
Groceries vs. Vitamins: Not sure where to buy stevia?
It is important to note that not all products that contain Stevia are felt to be safe for consumption by the FDA. Only highly refined Stevia preparations containing rebaudioside A are approved for use in foods. FDA approved products are currently sold and marketed as sugar replacements are called PureVia, Stevia in the Raw, and Truvia.
Organic stevia leaves, extract, powder and more are also sold in natural food stores as supplements. It is important to recognize that these supplements are not highly refined products and are not considered safe by the FDA for use as a sugar replacement.
How sweet is Stevia?
This sweetener is more than 10 times sweeter than table sugar when consumed from leaves or a powder. Some refined pure stevia extracts claim to be much sweeter than this, reaching up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.
Stevia and Diabetes: Stevia Has Side Effects You May Enjoy
Research studies that examined the effects of artificial sweeteners on diabetic patients found that stevia may have the following side effects on patients with diabetes:
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Lower postprandial readings
- No difference in hunger levels despite intake of fewer calories
- Weight loss due feeling of fullness after eating
Common side effects from stevia include nausea and a feeling of fullness.
Remember to Weigh the Pros and Cons of Sugar Substitutes BEFORE You Buy!
Due to the recent popularity of stevia blends such as Truvia and PureVia it seems that many people enjoy substituting stevia for sugar. This sugar replacement may be a good option for many patients with diabetes because studies have suggested that it can help lower blood sugar levels, decrease hunger and increase fullness. It is important that you ask your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of sugar substitutes like stevia before you use them. This is particularly important if you plan to use an herbal supplement or extract because these supplements can interact with certain medications and may cause hypoglycemia.