My last two posts on sugar have brought up conversations at the gym about sugar alternatives and their impact on the body. One of the sugar substitutes I frequently get asked about is stevia. People are often curious because they have heard it is a natural sugar but they confuse it with similar sounding artificial sweeteners on the market.
Stevia is a natural sugar created from the leaf of the stevia plant, a plant related to popular garden flowers like asters and chrysanthemums. Stevia is about 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients, if properly prepared. Be sure to read labels of stevia packages to ensure you are getting only stevia and not added fillers or flavors. The best way to consume stevia in the least processed manor is to grow the plant yourself and use the whole leaves to sweeten foods.
Stevia won’t raise your blood sugar levels, and some forms of this sweetener may actually lower blood sugar levels. Unlike artificial sweeteners and sugar, stevia can suppress your plasma glucose levels and greatly increase glucose tolerance, making it a good choice of sweetener for diabetics. The flavor of stevia does not appeal to everyone. (Some people find it has a bitter, metallic after taste.) You will have to determine for yourself if it appeals to you.
Photo from flickr.