When I’m out having coffee, I will order it with only cream. Then, I sit down at the table and put in two stevia packets. Since people aren’t used to seeing the green and white color of the packets, they ask what I’m doing. When I explain it, they all ask the same question: what is stevia?
What Is Stevia
Stevia is an all natural, herbal sweetener that comes from the stevia plant. It has no calories. Stevia has been used in South America for centuries and in the rest of the world for over 150 years. It is widely used in Asia and South America and has been growing in popularity in the United States.
However, for a long time, the Food and Drug Administration only allowed stevia to be used as an herb. So, people could buy it for use as a sweetener in their homes, but it couldn’t be used in commercially produced diet drinks. This is why a lot of people typically have asked what is stevia? It was only known to those interested in natural supplements.
However, in late 2008, the FDA, while not officially approving the herb, allowed it to be used in commercially produced diet drinks and be officially labeled as a sweetener. Thus, we’ve seen a boom in stevia products hitting the market, both sweetener packets and diet drinks. Now, United States citizens finally have a choice to use a natural sweetener.
I personally switched to stevia after researching the health problems associated with the artificial sweeteners aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda). I couldn’t keep putting those substances in my body. And, since I value health and fitness (and lots of coffee), I didn’t want to use sugar, which is fattening and an energy sucker, either.
Stevia has been a great natural alternative. I like the taste, although it can be on the bitter side, especially with some brands. It doesn’t leave an aftertaste and I can’t discern any noticeable immediate side effects.
However, stevia isn’t side effect free. One study showed that it can reduce fertility levels. But, other researchers have criticized these results. Remember, stevia has been used in other parts of the world for years with little noted problems. This is in contrast with aspartame which has many side effects.
I personally like stevia packets (or scoops from a container) and use them whenever I need a boost of sweetness. I like it in oatmeal, plain yogurt, and especially coffee. The price is cheap and it’s good knowing I’m using a natural product.
So, if you want a natural, calorie free sweetener, try stevia. It tastes great, is completely natural, and won’t add to your waistline.