Stevia is a plant-based supplement many use in place of sugar
If you have been low-carbing for a while now, then you have probably already heard of one of the best-kept secret sugar alternatives on the market today. No, it's not Nutrasweet/Equal/aspartame (AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!), Sweet N' Low/saccharin (it's okay if you can take the wang) or even Splenda/sucralose (my preferred choice in artificial sweeteners). All of those are popular replacements for sugar that most American are generally familiar with, but there's one "sweetener" that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has absolutely refused to be marketed as a sugar substitute but rather as a "supplement."
It's called stevia (STEE-VEE-UH).
Sold almost exclusively in health food and low-carb stores because of the FDA's discriminatory actions against it, stevia is a miracle product for diabetics and people who are livin' la vida low-carb. This plant-based supplement is calorie-free, low-carb and contains about 250-300 times the sweetness of table sugar. Best of all, though, is it does not cause the quick spike in your blood sugar so it is healthy for people watching their sugar intake.
Guess where stevia has been used quite prominently for more than three decades? Ah-so, it's JAPAN, baby (which, interestingly enough, is also where the low-carb, diabetic-friendly shirataki noodles are from, too)! In fact, stevia so dominates the Japanese sweetener market that is boast an incredible 40 percent of the sugar alternative sales. Wowsers!
Can you imagine what kind of competition stevia would give not only the sugar industry (would the bigwig execs start a concerted effort against stevia like they have Splenda over the past few years?!), but also the artificial sweetener companies if it was FINALLY allowed to be sold and marketed in the United States like it is in Japan?! That prospect has really got 'em shakin' in their boots, no doubt!
For some strange reason, though, the FDA has said stevia is a no-go for widespread U.S. distribution and has disallowed it to be used in products such as diet soft drinks because they are concerned it is an "unsafe food additive." They claim the stevia plant hasn't been studied well enough to pass the safety and health muster. SO LOOK AT IT ALREADY!!! What's the big holdup besides protecting the financial and business interests of the sugar lobby?! The FDA also claims they believe it could cause cancer. Yeah, so what DOESN'T cause cancer these days, hmmm?! They're treating stevia like it's marijuana or something.
Lest there be any doubt, Stevia is currently a LEGAL product that can be sold in America, but only as a dietary supplement. Wanna know whis is really absurd? The companies that manufacture and distribute stevia are not even allowed to call it a "sweetener" or even as a "sweet" product. It has to be a supplement. When I hear the word supplement, I think of calcium, multivitamin, B-complex, fiber, and fish oil that I pop as a pill in the morning when I wake up. STEVIA IS NOT A SUPPLEMENT!
This game of semantics the FDA is playing is about the stupidest thing I've ever heard and it's such a shame people are having to miss out on experiencing one of the finest low-carb products on the market today. Maybe the FDA will wake up to their ignorance -- SOMEDAY! Heeeellllllloooooooo, anyone home?!?!
You can make your voice heard on the subject of stevia by contacting the FDA directly:
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, Maryland 20857
They are too afraid to provide an e-mail address for you to send them your concerns, but feel free to visit the official FDA web site as well.
As for the taste of stevia, some people say it has a somewhat bitter flavor a la black licorice. It didn't bother me in the least although I don't like licorice. Nevertheless, the distinct sugary taste of stevia is what makes it such an attractive product for people to use in drinks and recipes that would normally call for sugar.
One of the best and most convenient versions of stevia that I have come across is a brand called Stevita Stevia. This "spoonable" version of stevia can be used just like sugar because it blends 96% of pure stevioside with the corn-based maltodextrin to make this product extremely user-friendly. Just scoop it and you're done. What could be easier?
The big one-pound jar of Stevita Stevia contains close to four-hundred ½ teaspoon servings that have ZERO calories and just 1g carb each!
While the FDA drags their feet several more years on approving stevia as a sweetener, at least YOU know where to get some to use for your healthy low-carb lifestyle. Let me know what you think about this amazing product!
That's the state of stevia in 2006. Is it a simple supplement or sensational sweetener? YOU decide!