Is Stevia A Healthy Product?
Americans undeniably love sweets, and many solutions have been offered to the health problems caused by too much sugar in the diet. Artificial sweeteners such as saccharine and aspartame were used by diabetics and others, then later decried for their dangers.
Sugar substitute steviaSugar substitute Stevia is a slightly different product. A natural herb in the chrysanthemum family that has been in existence for thousands of years, it has been used all over the world as a food sweetener. Less stevia is needed in recipes, because it is at least 30 times sweeter than sugar. It is reported to have no effect on the level of blood sugar in humans, and it is calorie-free.
The Safety Factor
The USDA has been mixed in its review of this product. Initially it was welcomed and used in the U.S., then banned in 1991 over some initial studies that suggested it might cause cancer. When other studies refuted these findings, stevia was again allowed to be sold to consumers and has been branded as a sweetener that is generally recognized as safe. This means that the USDA is admitting that they have not had enough time to do the required extensive studies on the safety of the product, but the general consensus is that it is a safe product. As a result of this branding, stevia is now used in America in several sweetened commercial foods and drinks.
Other studies have been done outside of America that are an early indication of the safety of this product. Japan alone has done over 40,000 studies and has concluded that it is generally safe for consumers, although they, too, admit that long-term studies are needed.
For those who would like to use stevia in home recipes, it can be found in powdered form in boxes or packets, or in liquid form. You may prefer to purchase the certified organic form of stevia, which does not contain harmful additives. Some markets also sell the dried leaves of the plant itself.
Sugar substitute Stevia is an early contender in the search for sweeteners that do not contribute to the problem of overweight and high blood sugar in America, which is why it is currently so popular.