Most medical experts would agree that one of the best ways to improve your health is to reduce your sugar intake. Doing this can help decrease one’s chances of getting diabetes and being overweight or obese---both epidemics in this country with adults and children alike. Consider these facts:
The average American ingests over 150 lbs. of sugar annually! That represents a whopping 30- 5 lb. bags of sugar each year! In reality, much of this sugar is in the form of high fructose corn syrup prevalent in foods because it’s much cheaper than sucrose, common tabletop sugar.
- Since 1985, childhood diabetes has increased ten-fold. The Centers for Disease Control predicts that if this trend continues, one out of every three children born beginning in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
- About 2/3 of U.S. adults are overweight or obese; while up to 30% of children are overweight, compared to 4% in 1982. In the past 25 years, obesity in children has more than doubled, affecting at least 15% of school-age children!
While some might think that artificial sweeteners are the best solution to curb our love affair with sugar, others disagree. Artificial sweeteners do eliminate the high calories and carbohydrates associated with sugar, however many believe that these alternatives are unsafe and are actually worse than sugar. So is there yet another alternative available?
If there were an all-natural sweetening ingredient that’s been used safely for over 30 years in other parts of the world for food applications and diabetes management with no ill effects, would you be interested? Well, such a substance does exist and it’s called stevia.
Using stevia, an all-natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners, is gaining increasing popularity worldwide. Stevia rebaudiana, its botanical name, is derived from a plant in the chrysanthemum family grown primarily in South America and Asia. The plant’s intense sweetening qualities are complex molecules called steviosides that are glycosides made of glucose, sophorose and steviol. These are what make stevia up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and non-caloric. These glycosides do not get absorbed into the body; rather simply pass through leaving no calories. The Japanese have used stevia in food applications from soft drinks to soy sauce since the 1970s and recent reports indicate that stevia commands up to an incredible 50% share of Japan’s commercial sweetener market. Moreover countries like Brazil use stevia for the treatment for diabetes.
The advantages to stevia are numerous, so the following are the most frequently cited. In its pure form, it’s non-caloric and doesn’t affect glucose levels, an advantage for diabetics and hypoglycemics. Also, it has no carbohydrates or fat, so it’s great for dieters, especially those watching carb intake. Unlike artificial sweeteners, high quality stevia has little aftertaste when measured properly. It has no known side effects like some chemical sweeteners and has been safely consumed around the world for decades. Actually, stevia’s original medicinal uses date back centuries ago with the Paraguan Indians who mixed the herb in teas for its healing properties. Since stevia is sugar-free, candida sufferers can use it. Health conscious consumers take advantage of stevia to avoid sugar and help prevent diabetes and obesity. The website www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, under the direction of the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine and National Center of Biotechnology Information, offers abstracts from stevia studies that indicate it may also aid in lowering blood pressure and regulating glucose levels.