It’s long been a dream; a way to sweeten food without calories. Over the history of alternative sweeteners, most of them have been chemical compositions that turned out to do more harm than good.
Enter stevia, a true alternative functional sweetener that is delicious, natural, low carb and has additional health benefits!
What Is Stevia?
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a natural sweetener derived from the leaf of a plant commonly called candy leaf, sweet leaf, or sugar leaf. The plant is native to Brazil and Paraguay, where it enjoys the warm humid climate.
The Guarani people of the region have used stevia as a sweetener in yerba mate tea for over 1500 years. The chemical that makes stevia sweet is called steviol, and the stevioside compounds in stevia can help to control blood sugar spikes/crashes and may also help regulate blood pressure.
Not All Stevia Is Created Equal
Stevia is a naturally occurring substance produced by plants. Many artificial sweetener companies lept on the bandwagon and created versions that are actually just a compound created in a lab. While these brands claim to be “derived from stevia,” this is a partial truth at best — they contain only about 0.5% of something called “rebiana” (a.k.a. “rebaudioside A”) — a molecule derived from the stevia plant. This allows manufacturers to label the product as “stevia-derived.”
However, the other 99.95% is erythritol—a sugar alcohol derived from corn. Unlike sugar, erythritol is processed (fermented) by colonic bacteria in the intestines, and can cause diarrhea, cramps, gas, and bloating. In addition, these isolated components of Stevia contain none of the stevioside compounds beneficial in controlling blood sugar. Also, some brands contain GMO corn, because the manufacturers do not separate GMO and non-GMO corn in the manufacturing process.
The Benefits of Stevia
Early studies of stevia have found two concrete benefits: it may help regulate insulin (very helpful for people with Type 2 Diabetes), and it also may help regulate blood pressure. While this evidence is too early to be conclusive, it’s clear that stevia is far superior to regular table sugar when it comes to everything from controlling weight to dental hygiene.
This is why we’ve chosen to use stevia in our Greens First products. We know the proverbial “spoonful of sugar” would make our food taste better, and we’ve swapped it out for a tiny dose of stevia (it’s 200X more sweet than regular sugar!) instead. It tastes delicious and makes our products all that much sweeter and healthier – naturally!