Got Stevia?

I often get asked “What sweetener should I use?” The short answer is … it depends who you are. By that I mean, no one food is right for everyone. That’s why the one-size-fits-all diet paradigm doesn’t work and never will.

Have you ever heard of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” … or the more common version “One man’s cure is another man’s poison”? I grew up hearing this from my Granny and my mom. As an ICU nurse, I used to remind myself of this to better serve my patients. Today as a nutritionist, it focuses me on helping my clients figuring out what foods serve them the best.

So, let’s get back to sweeteners and what’s right for You.

Personally, I tend to favor Stevia – an herb native to tropical climates that’s been used safely in its whole form for over 1,500 years. It tastes 100 -300 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.

I started using Stevia over 10 years ago when I was figuring out my own health issues. [Many people do well with stevia, but not all. I’m not sure why, but it’s another case of “one-size-doesn’t-fit-all”!]

Back then, it was only available in a powdered form in health food stores and tended to have a bitter aftertaste due to one of its naturally occurring components, stevioside. Today, thanks to modern technology, Stevia tastes much better! Much of the bitterness of stevioside has been removed leaving the pleasant tasting component, Rebaudioside A. This makes it taste more like table sugar.  

Is Stevia safe?

Stevia has gained popularity since the FDA labeled it GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) in 2008 and people continue to search for healthier alternatives to table sugar and artificial sweeteners like Aspartame and Splenda.

Stevia has no calories and importantly, doesn’t cause dangerous blood sugar spikes like table sugar. Stevia is certainly safer than artificial sweeteners, like Aspartame and Splenda, which have been linked to significant health problems like seizures, toxicity, alteration of the gut microbiome, tooth decay and cancer to name a few.

How to use Stevia

The trick to using Stevia is to think “a dab will do ya.” I just use 3 little drops of liquid Stevia to sweeten a 6-ounce beverage. You need to experiment with what’s right for you but, like anything else, moderation is best.

Here’s a helpful link to a conversion chart on how to use Stevia so you can experiment with it in your favorite recipes. I find Stevia works best in fluids and pudding-like textures, when there’s a call for honey and in breads, cookies and dessert crumb toppings. Look for cookbooks too, though I find they often use way too much Stevia for my taste.

Other sweeteners

“But what about honey, maple syrup and black strap molasses?” you ask. Yes, they do have some redeeming qualities like having certain vitamins and minerals, but they’re still sugar.  In my many years of experience, sugar is jet fuel for pathogens. And we all have pathogenic organisms hidden in our body. Just ask a surgeon or an ICU nurse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people of all ages that were pushed into serious disease after overeating sugar, either acutely or chronically.

A sweeter perspective …

Sugar, no matter it’s form, is an occasional treat for those who are free of acute illness and chronic disease and have no weight issues. It’s only meant to be consumed in small quantities. If you have any kind of health issue, it’s probably wise to steer clear of sugar until your issue is resolved.

Leave me a comment below on your thoughts on Stevia … either thumbs up or thumbs down!