Stevia: Healthy or Hazardous?
STEVIA: HEALTHY OR HAZARDOUS?
Should you use Stevia?
Stevia is a “natural” non-caloric sweetener that is derived from a green leaf, stevia rebaudiana, comprised of both sweet and bitter plant compounds. Rebaudioside A or “Reb A” is an isolate of the sweet compounds in the leaf that has a negligible calorie content. This isolation from a natural plant allows food marketers to claim its non-caloric and has sweetener properties while still able to use the word “natural”. However, there is a lot of processing that occurs in the extraction of a white powder or clear liquid from a leaf. Also, the isolation of the sweet glycosides from the bitter impacts our taste buds at 300xs sweeter than table sugar. I am not a fan of Stevia as it doesn’t help in the process of rewiring your cravings and taste buds for long-term sustainable change. Using stevia only perpetuates the sugar cravings and the expectation of an abnormal level of sweetness with your foods.
Role of stevia in insulin resistance:
There is a strong brain-body response between our hormones and neurotransmitters, which play a great role on blood sugar metabolism. Sweet taste, regardless of carbohydrate contribution, can influence blood sugar response physiologically, leading to insulin release which drives fat storage and blood sugar response.
Is Stevia ever OK to consume??
Yes, stevia can be an appropriate tool to manage sugar cravings, especially while navigating a low carbohydrate diet. Its all about the Good-Better-Best approach. If you are currently drinking chemical-laden beverages, using the yellow, pink, or blue sugar packs, or sugar cravings are derailing your weight loss goals, stevia may be appropriate to support your needs until you can transition to a diet that allows for more nourishing sweeteners. If you are going to use stevia, try to find it in its whole plant form. You can throw the leaves in a blender to sweeten up a protein shake or add to a food processor to make your own homemade powder. Otherwise, you can find a green stevia powder online or a extract in alcohol which would be superior to a white powder form that is highly processed.