Friday, October 17, 2014

Stevia and The Tooth

Stevia comes from a South American plant (Stevia rebaudiana) that happens to be very very sweet, but doesn't contain calories or nutritive value. It's like a natural form of the synthetic versions found in the wedding mint colored packets (powder blue, sunshine yellow, and It's-A-Girl pink) in any coffee shop you go into.

Because of this, Stevia also happens to be a huge business opportunity for food manufacturers. 
stevia plant
I love it that there's a natural alternative to zero calorie synthetic sweeteners. And if you take a leaf from the plant, put it into your Darjeeling tea because you're worried about the whopping 16 calories found in a teaspoon of sugar, well that's fine.

What isn't nearly as great is that in order for manufacturers to make money on it, they have to take this leaf and put it into a packet, invent a new wedding mint color (light dusty green), and create a form of the natural plant that won't go bad, has the "right" mouth feel, and voila(!) a sweet profit margin.

Fair enough, they're a business. We should expect them to do this. 

So it's really no surprise that the mass produced product would have other ingredients in it. What is amazing though is the other ingredients that are added -- and you absolutely won't believe this -- other sugars! These include erythritol (a sugar alcohol) along with dextrose (a sugar derived from starchy things like corn). 

Stevia is already 200 times sweeter than sugar. Why on earth would you add sugar to a super sweet product that supposed to replace sugar? Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Regardless of the business reasoning, the outcome for us is that your consumption of this product acclimates your tastes to that super high level of sweetness. In other words, it creates, sustains, grows your sweet tooth, and that level becomes baseline for you.

The result is that you will crave sweeter things more often, and that Texas Honey Bun won't look so gross to you any more, and you'll start throwing gummy worms into your trail mix along with the caramels AND the peanut M&Ms. 

So if you're sitting around the house, grumpy because you just don't crave sugar enough, now you know what to do: eat some form of a non-sugar sugar. Alternatively, you could totally go rouge and have a normal amount of normal sugar (darker is better) in your normal tea.

On sugar, synthetic sugars, and metabolic derangement

I just presented yesterday for a large company's health fair, and during both of my presentations the same question came up. 

What about sugar? 
After all, we know Americans eat about 140 POUNDS of sugar per person per year. I don't eat a lot myself, so some of you are eating mine! 

But given this sugar glut, shouldn't we stop eating it and have zero calorie, artificial sweeteners instead?

The short answer is no. 

The longer answer is nooooooo.

Synthetic sweeteners can cause what one group of researchers called "metabolic derangement". Nice. Plus, consuming them isn't associated with weight loss!

The important thing to keep in mind is that 75% of that 140 lbs of sugar you're eating every year comes from processed food products and others things that are not food at all.

So if you just eat food, you won't have to worry about that teaspoon of sugar in your coffee because you will already be on the most natural sugar free diet there is!

The other major benefit of a real food, really-low-in-sugar diet is that you won't have to feel like you've got to turn to artificial sweeteners and become metabolically deranged for your efforts.

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