As more people discover the dangers of chemical-laden artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners are growing in popularity. Stevia is a wonderful natural sugar alternative. While stevia has been used in other countries for many years, its appearance in the United States has had some trials with the Food and Drug Administration. Nevertheless, the World Health Organization evaluated stevia and found no evidence of it causing carcinogenic activity. Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola have announced that they will soon be using stevia in some of their products.
Although it contains zero calories and carbohydrates, stevia does contain nutrients and trace minerals. Non-fermentable, stevia maintains high heat stability and has a long shelf life, which makes it ideal for use in processed foods and beverages.
Offering sweetness 300 times stronger than sucrose, stevia is often combined with natural bulking agents and fiber to make it easier to use. While some forms of stevia may have a tendency to taste bitter, new methods have allowed stevia manufacturers to isolate rebaudioside-A from the stevia plant, thereby eliminating a bitter aftertaste.
The trade name for this new product made from stevia is "rebiana." Brands containing rebiana that can be purchased at the grocery store include Truvia and Pure Via. Interestingly, the company that makes Equal makes Pure Via Sweetener as well.
Stevia Use Around the World
Stevia is used to sweeten medicinal teas. In Brazil and Uruguay, it is used in a treatment plan for type-2 diabetes. As consuming stevia has no effect on blood sugar levels, stevia is an attractive natural sweetener for diabetics.
Japan, China and Korea all use stevia in soft drinks, gum and ice cream. While aspartame and saccharin are widely used in the United States, they have both been completely banned in Japan.
While sugar is known to damage teeth, stevia has the reputation for doing the opposite. According to Purdue University and the Hiroshima University School of Dentistry, stevia slows bacterial growth and the development of plaque on teeth. Stevia has also been noted to help minimize sugar cravings and hunger sensations, as well as aiding in digestion by nourishing the pancreas.