Stevia, a Sweet Alternative
Extracts from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana plant, a small South American shrub, have been used as both a medicine and a sweetener since ancient times. The plant is botanically related to artichoke, sunflower, and medicinal herbs like echinacea and yarrow. Because it is natural and free of calories and carbohydrates, it offers dieters and diabetics a healthier option than other controversial chemicals such as aspartame and saccharin.
According to Tana Amen, BSN, RN, author of The Omni Diet, the process of extraction to produce the stevia sweetener involves the use of alcohols like methanol and ethanol, which undergoes ultrafiltration, making stevia a safe alternative to other artificial sweeteners. After reviewing scientific evidence on its effects, the FDA approved it for use as a sweetener in 2009 and it was likewise approved by the European Union in 2011.
Stevia is about 250 times sweeter than sugar, and has been found to be just as satiating. According to the American Diabetes Association stevia does not increase blood sugar levels and is a good option for diabetics who want cut calories but enjoy a sweet flavor. It is also safer for the teeth than sugar, which attracts oral bacteria that leads to dental cavities.
Although zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia may help in weight loss, Amen states that it is more important to consume a diet that consists of 70% plant foods and 30% lean meat. Animal studies have suggested that the natural herbal sweetener may provide health benefits, such as increasing one’s HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol levels, improving insulin signaling, improving blood pressure levels, and preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques that lead to heart disease.
Cool, L. Is Stevia A Safer Sweetener? Yahoo.