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What is Stevia? Is it a healthy sugar substitute?



Stevia is a natural sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It’s about 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, but it has no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients. That said, not everyone likes the way it tastes; some find it bitter, while others feel like it tastes like menthol!


The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has approved only the purified form of Stevia, called Stevioside, as safe to use. Products considered safe will contain words like Stevia extract or Stevia rebaudiana. Because the FDA has not approved the crude form of Stevia and Stevia leaves as a food additive, they can’t be marketed as sweetening agents.


Stevia is a healthier alternative than sugar because it has a lower glycemic index (a value assigned to foods based on how quickly and how high it causes increases in blood glucose levels). But one word of caution- just because something is called a natural sweetener or sugar-free doesn't mean you should eat as much of it as you want!


Build a good new habit: If you can avoid sugar and sweeteners altogether, so much the better! A good first step is to try developing a taste for unsweetened tea and coffee.

 

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