Stevia – A Safe Alternative To Artificial Sweeteners
In an effort to reduce calories and eat “healthier”, many of us are now using artificial sweeteners like Equal or Splenda. They are in diet sodas and drinks, yogurts, baked goods, ice cream, and everything in between, and are marketed as being “healthy”, “sugar-free”, and “a healthy alternative to sugar”. But are they really “healthy”?
By now most of us have of heard some rumblings of artificial sweeteners being bad for us, and many of you may be saying, “Heck, everything is “bad” for you, so what’s the difference?”. Or perhaps you may be saying, “Well, I only use 2 packets a day in my coffee, how bad could that really be?”
Numerous studies have now shown that artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet and Splenda are not only not “healthy”, but they aren’t anywhere close to safe. Aspartame, the technical name for NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include: Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain. Although it had been recommended to diabetics, it is now thought to lead to the precipitation of clinical diabetes.
The Environmental Health Perspectives scientific journal published a study online in June 2007 that was conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation for Oncology Research in Bologna, Italy. The Italy-based research team said their study shows that lifetime exposure of rats to aspartame — beginning in the womb — increased the incidence of having cancerous tumors by the time they died. “We believe that a review of the current regulations governing the use of aspartame cannot be delayed,” wrote researchers from the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences in Bologna. The study was published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest followed the study with a call on the FDA to revisit its original approval of aspartame. “Because aspartame is so widely consumed, it is urgent that the FDA evaluate whether aspartame still poses a ‘reasonable certainty of no harm,’ the standard used for gauging the safety of food additives,” Michael Jacobson, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “But consumers, particularly parents, shouldn’t wait for the FDA to act. People shouldn’t panic, but they should stop buying beverages and foods containing aspartame,” he said.
Well, then you may ask if Splenda, the brand name for sucralose, is any better for you. Unfortunately, it is not. Sucralose is about 600 times sweeter than sugar, so if it was sold by itself, they wouldn’t be able to package it—each packet would contain just a couple of grains, which would be more than plenty to sweeten a cup of coffee. Hence they have to add a bulking agent, such as maltodextrin—which is a sugar! About 99 percent of that packet of Splenda is a type of sugar, and only about one percent is actually sucralose. Each packet has four calories, but because the amount of sugar is less than one gram, they get away with saying it has “no calories” due to a loophole in the labeling law.
It’s very important to realize that Splenda (sucralose) is actually NOT sugar, despite its marketing slogan “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar”. Rather it’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, and with detrimental health effects to match. There’s overwhelming evidence that consuming artificial sweeteners will likely wreak havoc on your body. Previous news has centered mainly around artificial sweeteners’ ability to impair your appetite regulation and leading to weight gain. Now it’s been discovered that diet soda increases your risk of metabolic syndrome and, ultimately, heart disease.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health (2008;71(21):1415-29), found even further disturbing news besides weight gain. Splenda was found to increase the pH level in your intestines and can destroy up to 50 percent of your healthy intestinal bacteria. These bacteria support your immune system and help maintain your body’s overall balance of friendly versus unfriendly micro-organisms, and are crucial good health.
Diet foods and drinks can cause serious distortions in your biochemistry and ruin your body’s ability to control calories. As a matter of fact, it’s been shown that diet soft drinks can double your risk of obesity. While excess sugar can weaken your immune system and cause stress on your pancreas, artificial sweeteners are even more dangerous to your health and should be avoided at all costs.
So what are you to use in your coffee? Thankfully, there IS a natural sweetener on the market that is a safe alternative to aspartame, sucralose, and refined white sugar.
Its stevia, a sweet herb from Paraguay that has been safely used for 1,500 years in South America and more recently in Japan. Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. The glycosides in its leaves, including up to 10% Stevioside, account for its incredible sweetness, making it unique among the nearly 300 species of Stevia plants.
It is much sweeter than sugar, but has no calories, and has been shown to be very safe. It is several hundred times sweeter than sugar, so you don’t need much. Unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, regular stevia is a safe, natural alternative that’s ideal if you’re watching your weight, or if you’re maintaining your health by avoiding sugar. Stevia can be used in appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, vegetables, desserts — virtually anything! It is, hands down, the best alternative to sugar you will ever taste. It is our personal choice of sweetener, but it is best to purchase a whole-leaf unprocessed stevia sweetener like SweetLeaf on-line or at a whole foods market, and avoid refined stevia-based sweeteners like Truvia and PureVia that contain maltodextrin (sugar) and other additives.