I’ve been bouncing back and forth about if stevia is healthy or not. Based on what I see on my Facebook account, it is absolutely the best sugar substitute and absolutely not to be used…how’s that for solid information? I guess that’s why I never stop at just what I’m seeing on social medial for my information. Good tip, BTW. There’s a long of incorrect information being shared out there, and not always with bad intentions. Sometimes, people are wrong or out of date. That said, it is a great way to learn about new things to learn about…but I digress.
Is Stevia Healthy? Some Arguments in Favor
So, I’ve done as much research as I can to fit into this post, and this is how I understand whether I should consider stevia to be healthy or unhealthy. I’m starting with the arguments I’ve read in favor of using this sugar substitute.
This ingredient first came to the US in 2008. At that time, many nutritionists were thrilled to see a non-sugar sweetener. It was initially viewed as being very promising, since it was a “natural” substitute for sugar at a time when artificial sweeteners were seeing some pretty serious negative studies, particularly in terms of their unwanted impact on weight loss when used heavily enough.
There was also a hope that it would be possible think of Stevia as healthy to give people with diabetes a new sweet tasting option.
This sweetener comes from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which is native to South America. The part of it that is used for substituting sugar is called rebian, rebaudioside A, or reb-A. It contains steviol glycosides, which give it the sweet taste. It is now sold under several brand names. The ones I’ve seen in my grocery store are Truvia, PureVia and SweetLeaf Sweetener. I’ve seen it in everything from water enhancers and other drinks to gum, desserts, candy, baked goods, yogurt, and of course on its own to be used however you want.
Stevia itself is considered by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). That said, before you get excited, that doesn’t include stevia leaf or crude stevia extracts, which didn’t get the FDA nod for use in food.
Why Is Its Safety Questioned?
Despite the GRAS status, there really hasn’t been a lot of research done into whether we can consider stevia healthy or not. A few years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has led an argument that the FDA should withdraw its GRAS status for the sweetener until more research can be conducted. The reason is that some early animal studies have suggested that this sugar alternative might increase cancer risk or might bring on reproductive issues.
That said, now time has passed and the CSPI has seen a decade go by without any further confirmation of that risk so, even by their standards, the sweetener is now deemed generally safe. Still, The CSPI continues to seek additional safety testing as the fact of the matter is that we really don’t have a solid understanding of what this substance does or does not do to us.
What Do I Think About if Stevia is Healthy?
Personally, I like it. It doesn’t taste exactly like sugar. I don’t necessarily think stevia is healthy, but I don’t think of any sweetener – natural, artificial, or sugar – as a healthful choice. Overall, I’m looking of the lesser of the evils. It’s the sweetener I prefer in my water enhancers. The rest of the time, I typically stick to sugar with the occasional dabbling in erythritol (especially if I’m baking something for Marley, who is continuing her journey with the keto diet).