August 4, 2008

Stevia Goes MainStream - No Cal, All Natural Sweetener: Is It the New Splenda?

Well, it's about time. For those of us who have been using Stevia for years, we've wondered if this day would ever come. Thanks to Cargill, it has.

Stevia will be hitting the commercial store shelves this month, marketed under the name brand of "truvia." (I believe they're only selling it in packets, but I could be wrong.) Look for it packaged as SweetLeaf.

Next year, expect to see lots of marketing, with Coca-Cola having the exclusive rights to use Truvia in its beverages since it shared the Truvia development expense with Cargill. Pepsi's already in the fight - it's announced its version of stevia, PureVia, and will begin selling SoBe Life drinks sweetened with PureVia in several South American countries this week.

What's Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has been used for years and years, which has no calories to it. It is derived from the Stevia plant, you can grow it yourself if you want to do so, and its leaves are several times sweeter than sugar.

The Japanese as well as countries in South America and Europe have seen store products sweetened with Stevia for many years. In fact, Diet Coke sweetened with stevia has been available in Japan for awhile now (check out Mark McManus 's rant about why we can't get it here in the States).

It's been a long, political path for Stevia to gain FDA acceptance here in the US ... and yes, there have been fingers pointed at both the sugar industry as well as the companies responsible for artificial sweeteners like Equal and Splenda.

Health Benefits - It's Good for You
While more and more reports are revealing concerns with the use of artificial sweeteners (particularly aspartame right now), worldwide studies have shown stevia to be beneficial to physical and mental health. Stevia has been shown to help with high blood pressure, glucose levels for diabetes, and depression. Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Michael Murray are big fans.

Want a soft drink sweetened with stevia right now?
Try Zevia. They'll even send you a variety six pack for free, as long as you pay shipping and handling.

Want to Buy It Now? My Favorite Brand and My Favorite Uses: Tea and Limeade.
Personally, I love stevia. I buy the KAL brand, loose powder form (it comes with its own measuring spoon inside). You can find it at health food stores like Wild Oats and Whole Foods (if KAL's not sold out ... it's the most popular stevia product at my store).

My life is better with stevia in it. Ten shakes for a gallon of iced tea. And, there's just not a better limeade around than one lime, a "stevia spoon" of stevia, water, and lots of ice.

I recommend KAL's stevia product because I do not find it to have the licorice aftertaste other brands sometimes have; plus, I think KAL gives you more bang for your buck than other brands. My KAL bottle simply lasts longer than the competition, and I use stevia all the time.
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