We live in a world of sugar. The amount of sugar consumed on a daily basis would put Hansel and Grettle to shame. We buy grilled chicken thinking we are being healthy but you turn over the packet to see it has been coated with a lovely glaze of brown sugar (I don’t know why they bother with brown, sugar is sugar). And all we do is go on about making sure we get low fat yoghurt, low fat cheese, low fat, low fat, low fat. The problem with ‘low fat’ versions of products generally replace fat content with sugar content, which most people are unaware of. Also, one major misconception is that all fats are bad, when often they are not the problem. We need fat in our diets and people need to realise that fat doesn’t necessarily make us fat. The one thing that has a huge impact on making many people fat is sugar. It has been argued that sugar may well be the most probable cause for many diseases in the 21st century.
In wartime we had sugar about but it was deemed a luxury and as such was rationed. Did we have the prevalence of heart disease or a diabetes epidemic as we do today? No, and the reason why was because sugar wasn’t used as it is in the quantities it is used today.
When the realisation that sugar was becoming the problem spread, along came diet foods and drinks with the lovely chemical sweeteners we know and love, such as aspartame. Aspartame is found in a lot of diet drinks and is used because it is zero calories and provides a sweet taste. However, there are a hugely debated risks such as cancer. So where is the balance? We shouldn’t eat sugar because it is going to make us ill and fat and we shouldn’t eat chemical sweeteners as they make us ill and may cause cancer.
Well, along comes Stevia…
Originating from Paraguay and Brazil, Stevia is an effective natural noncaloric sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than refined sugar that is widely used in Asia, South America and has just arrived in the UK.
What differentiates Stevia from all the other sweeteners? According to an analysis of several studies, not only is Stevia considered a safe substitute for sugar, evidence shows it has supporting roles in diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory disease as well as supporting the immune system and acting as an antioxidant.
Stevia is now available in most supermarkets. Being so sweet, you will find other ingredients added to dilute the sweetness. Examples are Dextrose and Maltodextrin, both natural carbohydrates derived from corn. Do check the ingredients to ensure you are getting pure and natural ingredients and not added nasties and just because it’s a natural sweetener, it doesn’t mean we can open the top and eat with a spoon. It will still have an impact on the body so remember – little and often.
Reference: Thomas J, Glade M (2010) Stevia: It’s Not Just About Calories. The Open Obesity Journal, 2: p101-109.