Having been raised by eternal hippies definitely had a few upsides. For one, there was somehow always a pair of small scissors kicking around the house. A second benefit, was that I was exposed to natural foods and medicines from my conception. When you get organic carrot muffins with carob for your first birthday, you know you’re in for a semi-alternative lifestyle. Being raised so, I’ve always tried to search out natural solutions to a seemingly chemical world. One such discovery is the natural sweetener, Stevia.
Stevia should not be confused with Splenda – a heavily marketed poisonous chlorocarbon which deserves it’s own, less favorable, post altogether. Stevia is a native shrub from Paraguay, which is between 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar. It contains no calories or carbohydrates, which will help anyone cut down on those not so sweet love handles. There is also a number of reported health benefits including: inhibiting the development of plaque, stabilizing blood sugar levels, shortening cold and flu times, and aiding in alleviating addictions to tobacco and alcohol. It can be also be used in most dishes in cooking and baking as a replacement for sugar and chemical sugar substitutes.
So, why haven’t you heard about Stevia? In the United States, the FDA has not allowed Stevia to be labeled as a sweetener and is not allowed to be added to commercial products but is allowed as a standalone dietary supplement. In Japan. however, Stevia has been added to diet Pepsi, sugar free gum, and other products. Recently Coke and Pepsi have created their own blend of Stevia which has been approved and they do plan to add this to some of their fruitier blend of soft drinks – 7up and Sprite respectively – as Stevia blends better with these flavors.
In the United States and Canada the sugar lobby does hold a considerable amount of sway within their governments. With risk of losing a grand market share, this lobby group fears the mass adoption of this South American shrub. Politics aside, Stevia should be available in your local heath food store (Capers, Whole Foods, etc) and even some workout supplement stores such as GNC.