Although you may only recently have started to use Stevia to sweeten your beverages or food, the plant and its use have been around for thousands of years.
The use of artificial sweeteners has been around for quite some time now. One of the most popular today is Stevia. The sweetener has apparently been bumping out other options, as it has been marketed as a far healthier option. The main reason for this is that it actually is extracted from a plant; however, commercial brands selling Stevia to substitute sugar and other sweeteners may include some ingredients that may not suit you.
Stevia is a bushy shrub that Guarani Indians had used for ages for medicinal purposes.
A good quality leaf is considered to be 30 times sweeter than cane sugar, or sucrose. There are around 150 variants of the plant in North and South America.
As early as 1934, scientist Nikolai Vavilov analyzed the Paraguayan Stevia seeds.
He was first to say the plant had unique medicinal and sweetening properties. He explained that by using the plant, the body’s metabolic processes could improve; energy levels were higher, aging processes were delayed, and it also acted as protection to the body from harmful effects in the environment.
Throughout the years, no signs of harmful effects have ever been revealed.
Today, the FDA has Stevia approved to be lawfully marketed and added to food products sold in the United States as a sweetener; it is Generally Recognized As Safe (“GRAS”), and doesn’t require FDA approval as a food additive. However, the raw leaf is not approved by the FDA to be consumed in or as food.
So, is Stevia the healthy sweetening option?
The process to make stevia powder is complex. Solvents are involved for its extraction and purification, and brands marketing the stuff don’t necessarily explain their procedures. Nevertheless, processed stevia is FDA approved and is a healthy sweetener.
It’s antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and kidney protective benefits HAVE BEEN PROVEN.
Eating the plant directly is not recommended, nor approved by the FDA in the US. There is still much to learn about the plant, regarding serving sizes, and raw consumption.
There are many Stevia brands in the market today, as well as organic and even kosher options that claim to be pure stevia extract powder are easily found. Stevia is now also marketed in a liquid form and in different flavors. These, however, may be more expensive than regular stevia options.
You may find some articles that warn stevia consumers about brands containing sucrose, aspartame or dextrose.
Sucrose is common table sugar made from plants (cane), aspartame is an artificial sweetener, and dextrose is a form of glucose derived from starches; commonly found in high-fructose syrup.
These are the ingredients that may not be suitable for a bariatric patient, so make sure you read the label of ingredients before you purchase or consume stevia products. And feel free to contact any of our staff about concerns.
How to choose and consume stevia: Whether or not any of the above-mentioned ingredients appear on the product you’re considering, DO THIS! (Especially if you have Diabetes or you’re following a specific plan within your bariatric treatment.)
- Check the ingredient label on the product.
- Ask your surgeon if consuming that specific brand of stevia is safe at any point of your bariatric procedure, as well as the amount you can consume on a daily basis.
- Enjoy a sweeter drink and meal without worrying about calories!
Don’t forget to also check out our post on coffee and sugar consumption if you’re thinking about or are already undergoing bariatric surgery.