Monday, July 7, 2014

Natural Stevia

(This post is not sponsored, and 100% my own opinion)

A few years ago when I started clean eating I switched over from saccharin-based and fiber-based artificial sweeteners to stevia, an ‘all natural sweetener’. First of all, I have to say that eliminating most artificial chemicals from my diet, including processed, store-bought (and restaurant) food from my diet and cooking most meals from scratch has definitely helped me to shed the last few pounds and keep them off without even trying. Artificial sweeteners are the last item in this equation that are potentially not quite natural since I do like smoothies and tea sweetened. This year I went as far as planting a stevia plant in my garden, to add leaves to my smoothies.

stevia

Stevia was touted as natural sweetener when it came to the market since it is derived from a plant. Meanwhile, there are so many different options and brands of stevia, how to choose? It took off as a sweetener on the band wagon of clean eating. Then the big companies (Pepsi, Coca-Cola) produced their own brands (like Truvia and Purevia). However, not all stevia is created alike and some is cooked in the lab altogether.

So, what to look for? Check the ingredients and fine print. Stay away from brands that use additives like rebiana, dextrose and maltodextrin (the last 2 are starches or sugars).

Rebiana- is the trade name for high-purity rebaudioside. It is a 42-step procedure to derive Rebiana from the stevia leaves, using chemicals such as acetone, methanol, acetonitrile, isopropanol, tert-butano.  Rebiana is a chemically modified form of stevia, it is NOT pure stevia. It is not an ingredient in the stevia plant, nor is it found in nature. It is produced by the action of chemicals and stringent alcohols on various stevia glycosides.

To not be confused with Rebaudioside A (Reb A), which on the the other hand, is one of the 11 glycoside compounds within stevia leaves, is produced by the action of sunlight on the stevia leaves, and is about 400 times sweeter than sugar. 

Brands that have Rebiana (bad stuff): Truvia by the Coca-Cola company, Purevia by PepsiCo. and OnlySweet
Brands that have Reb A (good stuff): NuNaturals, WholeFoods 356 brand, Stevia Sweet, SweetLeaf.

Maltodextrin- Usually made from rice, corn, or potato starch, maltodextrin is produced by cooking down the starch.  It is a processed additive.  It is considered safe by the FDA, which is not the same thing as healthy.  It is basically a filler with no nutritional value.  It is known to contain MSG and it doesn't need to state that on the ingredient label. 

Brands that use maltodextrin: Stevia in the Raw, NuNaturals, Whole Foods 365 brand & Stevia Sweet

Personally, I do not have a problem with maltodextrin, it is basically a sugar. The brand I have been using for the last 2-3 years is NuNaturals.

To avoid all extra, non-stevia ingredients, Sweet Leaf Stevia seems to be the purest form. On my last visit to Wholefood, I picked up a package and it tastes really good. I only saw it as little 1-serving packages, but SweetDrops are also available as liquid sweetener for smoothies.
sweetleafboxsweetdrops

So, know your stevia.

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