Is stevia really a healthy alternative to sugar?

Personally, I like the taste of stevia a lot! Lately there has been a lot of buzz about stevia, which is a natural, zero calorie sweetener that is derived yerba dulce shrub. Purified stevia extract, also known as “steviol glycoside” is approved as a table top sweetener and food additive in some foods such as gum, candy, juices and snacks. There are two main sweet tasting components of stevia called stevioside and rebaudioside A (reb A). These components are nearly 200 times sweeter than sugar, which means that much less can be used for the same sweet effect. When ingested, the reb A is broken down into stevioside, which is then further broken down into steviol and glucose. Our body will use the glucose to feed the healthy bacteria in our colon, and it is not absorbed into our bloodstream. The steviol cannot be digested and is passed through and out our system in the urine or feces. Given that neither product is absorbed in our blood stream, it does not impact blood sugar levels and does not contribute calories to our diet.

I think stevia can be used as a healthy addition to our diet, but because further research is needed on this product, I would recommend that one use it in moderation. However, given that stevia is calorie free, it can be used to replace sugar in various products which can help us manage our weight! Many of my patients have a sweet tooth and may consume far too many calories from cookies, candy, cake, and pie. If they can replace sugar with stevia, they will likely save themselves calories which may help them to shed unwanted pounds. Americans consume far too many liquid calories, which can lead them to become overweight. Obesity is such a problem in this country; my job is to help people reduce the amount of calories that they consume each day, but still enjoy the taste of what they are eating. I think stevia is a great way to do that! Take Old Orchard’s Cranberry Naturals juice drink. It is naturally sweetened with stevia, so it contains fewer calories than traditional juices. And it does not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It can be a tasty treat for your whole family.

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