One of the first products that are usually eliminated from the diet when we want to lose weight is sugar. Before it was replaced by saccharin or aspartame, two controversial artificial sweeteners considered unhealthy, or other products such as sucralose. Is now replaced by stevia, the star product.
Stevia is a natural sugar substitute, sweetens 300 times more, is free of calories and carbohydrates and does not increase blood sugar levels. It has the potential to help with weight control, oral health and diabetes, which is why it is considered the holy grail of the food industry and the miraculous sweetener.
What does stevia have that no other sweeteners have?
These properties are not exclusive to stevia. Other artificial sweeteners that have been in the market for years also possess them. Such is the case of aspartame that has such a bad reputation. Accused of practically everything, cancer, migraines, behavioral changes, etc. although there has never been substantial evidence to confirm it.
When it comes to food the consumer is alert to the word "artificial". The industry knows this and is looking for ways to offer products with "does not contain X", "without added X" and other similar qualifications. If a company can label its products "free of X", it has a great advantage in the market because consumers let us influence the news that feed the paranoia about food.
The "natural" sells. Stevia is a plant and looks at her with good eyes for being a natural resource. The stevia we see in the markets is the result of a transformation and extraction process it consists of soaking the dried leaves, as if it were tea, and then separating or purifying the best sweet-tasting compounds.
Steviol glycosides, as these sweet-tasting compounds are known, remain intact and chemically unchanged throughout the entire process. However, this is not enough to keep stevia away from worries, controversies and unknowns about her supposed genius. And, after all, Doesn't the transformation process alter its natural character?
Is stevia consumption safe?
The question of whether broad consumption of stevia is safe or not depends on what is understood by stevia. According to the FDA, US Food and Drug Administration Agency, Stevia leaves or pure stevia extract are not safe for food use as they can affect the level of blood sugar and the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems.
What the FDA approves is the use as a calorie-free sweetener of the rebaudioside A or reb-A, the above-mentioned steviol glycoside, an unchanging chemical compound of stevia considered safe for consumption and that is marketed by many companies. So, in case of doubt, the best is check labeling To clarify.
However, there are risk groups recommended to consult with the specialist before launching to incorporate regular consumption of stevia into your diet: people with blood pressure problems and diabetes or who are subject to treatment with anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, cholesterol control or appetite medications, among others.
Images | Mike Mozart and Juan de Dios on Flickr
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