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by Tammera J, Karr, PhD, BCIH, BCHN, Certified Gluten Practitioner
This last week while doing research for my wellness classes, I came across an article on Truvia, a stevia product making its way onto shelves, then at class one of the folks asked “what do you think about stevia?” Well freshly armed with information on Truvia being a Monsanto product; After having seen several articles on changes in the natural foods trends and market, I was able to mention truvia was not my choice, but stevia from plants and other reliable sources was a good choice.
South Americans have been using stevia for centuries. Territorial Seed company, in Cottage Grove generally has plants for purchase this time of year for gardening enthusiasts. Native to tropical climates, stevia has been in diets in Paraguay, Brazil, Korea and China for years. However, it’s only recently that stevia has become the “hot” new alternative to sugar north of the equator, and it’s now readily available throughout the United States and Europe. This is largely due to a trade embargo on the product interestingly enough brought about by the development of saccharin. The FDA has prohibited all but one form of stevia as a food additive and is listed as a dietary supplement. Stevia was the sweetener option for diabetics in America prior to the FDA trade embargo to allow saccharin a fair market share….and what this had to do with health?
The Basic Facts on Stevia
Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family, native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, or simply stevia. Stevia is three hundred times sweeter than sugar and has less aftertaste than brain killing artificial sweeteners like equal, saccharin, and spenda. An attractive attribute of stevia, is it has little to no effect on blood glucose levels. Additionally it does not seem to elevate insulin levels or blood pressure. (These statements have not been approved by the FDA) Some even claim it may have a positive effect on how it helps the pancreas beta cells recover. Any time you change your diet as a diabetic, make sure you closely monitor your blood sugar levels and medications.
Where Stevia Has Been
The stevia plant was used extensively by the Guarani people for more than 1,500 years, and has a long history of medicinal use in Paraguay and Brazil. The leaves have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten local teas, medicines and as a “sweet treat”. In 1899 Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni, during his research in eastern Paraguay, first described the plant and the sweet taste in detail.
The availability of stevia varies, in a few countries, it has been available as a sweetener for centuries; it has been widely used since 1970 in Japan after exhaustive studies as a sugar substitute. The United States banned stevia in the early 1990s, then in May 2008 Coca Cola and Cargill announced the availability of Truvia, a consumer brand stevia sweetener containing erythritol and rebiana, which the FDA permitted as a food additive in December 2008. Coca-Cola announced intentions to release stevia-sweetened beverages in late December 2008.
Shortly afterward, PepsiCo and Pure Circle announced PureVia, their brand of stevia-based sweetener, but withheld release of beverages sweetened with rebaudioside A until receipt of FDA confirmation. Since the FDA permitted Truvia and PureVia, both Coca Cola and PepsiCo have introduced products that contain their new sweeteners.
Stevia can also be used as a replacement for sugar in baking — however, it has to be used in reduced amounts. It is a good idea to get a few recipes already proven with stevia before charging ahead in the kitchen. Also it should be noted the number one insult to blood sugars is WHEAT, CORN AND RICE, if all you are doing is replacing the sugar but not getting out the grains you are only fooling yourself, while daily killing your kidneys, brain, heart and liver.
Think that is harsh? Remember type 2 diabetes is completely preventable and controllable with diet, and lifestyle. Unless you are a veteran exposed to Agent Orange, this pandemic taking over the world can be stopped at the glass, plate and fork.
Is Stevia Safe? In comparison to other artificial sweeteners, stevia is one of the “safest” options. Interestingly, over forty years ago, Japan banned the use of the majority of artificial sweeteners in consumer products. The Japanese then conducted over 40,000 clinical studies on stevia, and it became the only non-sugar sweetener the Japanese public was allowed to consume
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