Stevia: The Healthy Alternative To Sugar?

    January 25, 2014

All our lives we’ve been told that if something, “sounds too good to be true, it generally is”. Then….Stevia happened.

Imagine something that is 300 times sweeter than sugar, is reported to have absolutely no calories, and comes from a plant rather than being man-made. Well, that’s Stevia in a nutshell.

As Americans come to terms with the reality of sugar addiction and the unwanted obesity and health problems that come with it, they must decide how best to treat the “sweet tooth”. Some brave souls have decided that they will go without sweets of any kind, opting to face down their sugar dependance by going completely cold turkey. Others are not looking to give up sweets, but to steer clear of sugar.

Enter the practically miraculous Stevia, and an industry looking to make billions off of diet and sugar-free crazed Americans.

Jeremiah Mann, who is in charge of the Yuba-based, “Stevia First”, is very optimistic about plans to grow and market the plant in the United States.”Unlike artificial sweeteners, these are molecules that taste really good,” says Mann. He believes that stevia will be a “highly profitable crop in California.”

Most stevia currently is produced in China, but that could change, especially as the $60 billion industry expands. The World Health Organization has it on track to replace 20 to 30 percent of all sweeteners worldwide.

Despite the seemingly good news about Stevia, there remains a cynical element. If Stevia is so wonderful and as natural a plant as sugar, why are we just now hearing about it? Are there any negative side-effects that we won’t be hearing about until billions of dollars have been made off of Americans?

Stevia hasn’t been approved by the FDA, but that won’t stop companies from selling it. Despite a lack of in-depth research, there are early concerns that it can drop the blood sugar levels of diabetics to an unsafe degree, as well as blood pressure. It’s also recommended that anyone with allergies to ragweed and related plants steer clear of stevia.

Will stevia prove to be better for you than sugar and successfully set the sugar substitute market ablaze? Or will it turn out to be like margarine was with butter—worse for you than what it was replacing? Only time will tell.

In any case, it’s best to abide by the “if it sounds too good to be true” creed and proceed with caution.

Image via Wikimedia Commons