HOW HEALTHY IS STEVIA?
Stevia has been labeled Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of Stevia is up to 4 mg/kg of body weight. Likewise, there are no known side effects from consuming moderate amounts of stevia.
Stevia is technically “calorie-free” because the body is unable to absorb the steviol glycosides within the gastrointestinal tract. Even though this is true, just because sugar is replaced by stevia doesn’t automatically mean a person will lose weight. For example, just because a person baked cupcakes made with stevia doesn’t make it acceptable to eat ten. It is important to understand the additional unhealthy qualities within that cupcake such as fat, butter, and refined grains will inhibit someone from reaching their goals.
Besides being calorie-free, without being metabolized, stevia typically has a minor impact blood sugar levels, making it great recommendation for diabetes management.
Overall, while current research provides a positive view on stevia, further research continues to be conducted as it is still a relatively new sweetener.
Stevia comes in many different brands and forms on the market. Stevia can come in a liquid form and a granulated or powdered form. Stevia can be found on a nutrition facts label by ingredients such as stevia extract, Rebaudioside A (Reb A), stevioside, and steviol glycosides.
Always check the ingredient lists though because some stevia brands contain added ingredients which can be misleading when searching for stevia. The purpose of these added ingredients are to tone down the intensity of sweetness from pure stevia extract. Added ingredients to can include sugar alcohols, the most common being erythritol, starches such as dextrose and maltodextrin, and plant fibers such as agave inulin.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Not only is stevia used as a healthy alternative for sweetening beverages and food, it is also a great supplement for anyone wanting to control their glycemic index and weight. Stevia is natural, unlike artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Remember, not all stevia products are created equal and it is important to use stevia in moderation. Using stevia is not justification for consuming large amounts of any food just because it contains zero calories.