One of the fastest newcomers in the sugar substitute marketplace is stevia. The all-natural stevia is derived from the South American stevia leaf. Stevia (in the raw) has been consumed for 1500 years by native South Americans. Glycosides, including stevioside and rebaudioside A, are the two compounds that contribute to its sweet profile.
When considering stevia products, one question is imperative: Is this product an extracted glycoside, usually rebaudioside A, combined with other chemically altered compounds? Or is this a whole-leaf stevia product with no other additives?
Due to increasing popularity, food manufactures have engineered the natural extract with harmful additives such as a chemically altered erythritol or more ubiquitous components as natural flavorings. These additives have much of the same harmful effects on the gut as Splenda. In contrast, whole-leaf stevia has been shown to have no negative impact on gut health.
One issue remains with whole-leaf stevia: intense sweetness. On the surface, this issue is the goal of the product and should not be problematic. However, when examining why the brain and tongue perceive something as sweet, the problem comes to light. The brain craves the sensation of sweet when energy is needed in the body. When a person consumes sugar, say in the form of fruit, the GI tract breaks the sugar down and releases energy for the body. The brain is satisfied. When consuming something that is extremely sweet but non-caloric, such as an artificial sweetener, the brain does not receive its reward in the form of energy. Thus, sugar cravings continue to flood the thoughts and the eventual effect is weight gain. This phenomenon has been largely studied with diet soda.
The Savage Solution:
Make sure the package label states “whole-leaf stevia”.
Be on the lookout for other additives such as dextrose or “natural flavorings”.
Consume less then 2 – 3 tablespoons per day.