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What is Stevia, and is it Better Than Sugar?

We all know by now the harmful effects of sugar. Too much sugar intake can lead to obesity, type-2 diabetes, some cancers, and teeth problems. People now are turning to sugar alternatives to curb their appetites for table sugar. Now there are many sugar alternatives on the market. Stevia is a popular sugar alternative but is it any better than sugar itself?

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a natural sweetener that was historically used for medicinal purposes and to sweeten teas and drinks. There are many forms and types of Stevia. Stevia comes from the Stevia Rebaudiana plant that is native to Brazil and Paraguay but is now grown all over the world. Stevia can be 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Since Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, not needing to use as much is a plus. Stevia is zero calories, while table sugar can have up to 16 calories per tablespoon which is easy to exceed especially if you are a heavy sweet tea drinker like me. Stevia doesn’t raise blood sugar and could be a good alternative for someone with diabetes. Stevia could also help reduce blood pressure in hypertension patients. Stevia can help you gradually reduce your table sugar intake. While it does sound like a pretty sweet trade off, there are some things to consider before making the change.
While approved by the FDA, there have been no studies on its long term health effects. In 2008, there were concerns about side effects to the reproductive and cardiovascular systems. While the Stevia plant has been used for contraceptive purposes, but it would have to be taken in large dosages to have any effect. Some people don’t like the bitter after taste, and the extra strong sweetness could send you running back to sugar. Most Stevia brands on the market are paraded as natural but are actually processed with added ingredients. According to the Truvia FAQ, this brand has actually less than one percent of Stevia! My takeaway would be that while Stevia may not be harmful in moderation, I would stick with sugar and cut down the amount of sugar consumed over time.

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