Mmmm….sugar. It really is one of my favorite things in life!
It turns my coffee into a tasty delight, makes cookies delish and turns cream, milk and eggs into dreamy vanilla ice cream. Yes, sugar, my BFF.
Now, even though my tastebuds love these sugary treats, my thighs happen to have some anger towards these carbon/hydrogen/oxygen molecules. Which brings me to my next point of discussion- sugar substitutes. I know it can be extremely confusing between the aspartame, sucralose, dextrose and others to understand which are the good, bad and ugly. There are many studies linking consumption of some of these sugar substitutes to cancer, migraines, dizziness, among other adverse effects. However, there are also many studies stating the safety of these sweeteners. There will continue to be positive and negative study results however none of these substitutes are natural. And in my food choices and my lifestyle I strive to incorporate as few artificial and as many natural products as possible. So, onto some positive news coming from the FDA.
As the newest kid on the (US) block, Stevia shows much promise for those seeking a natural sugar substitute. It is a non-caloric sweetener derived from the stevia plant. Stevia’s origin is as a South American plant where its leaves have been used for their sweetening properties for centuries. Stevia, also known as rebiana on packaging, can be anywhere from 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and contains absolutely no carbohydrates, unlike some other sugar substitutes. It has zero calories and dissolves like powdered sugar, even in a cold beverages. Many natural food stores have been carrying tabletop versions of stevia for use as a sweetener for many years. But most recently the government finally joined the bandwagon!
On December 17th, 2008, the FDA approved stevia as safe to use in foods and beverages. With this announcement came some other news from a few big guys in the beverage business, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Both companies announced they will be launching stevia-sweetened beverages in the near future. PepsiCo has already placed one of their products on the shelves, Trop-50, an orange juice sweetened with stevia containing 50% fewer calories than it’s counterpart of traditional orange juice.
I believe the most exciting news about this sugar substitute is that it is natural, contains absolutely no calories and does not raise blood sugar levels, meaning it is a fabulous alternative for diabetics and people trying to lose weight.
So next time you are out to breakfast and you see a stevia packet (probably the brand Truvia) or you are in the grocery store and you see a stevia sweetened beverage, give it a shot. See what you think. And see how mother nature (may have) intended sugar alternatives to be!