Here’s your question today: Sweeteners made with stevia, like Stevia In the Raw, Pure Via, Organic Stevia and Truvia, are a healthy natural way to sweeten your foods and drinks.
Whole leaf stevia, in its natural form, is an herb that has zero calories, it is a whole food that comes directly (in-tact) from nature. You could call this the sweetest plant on earth. In fact, its sweetness is about 12-15 times more potent than table sugar.
Stevia owes its sweet, licorice-like flavor to compounds called glycosides. Stevia contains eight different glycosides, the sweetest of which is stevioside. There have been at least 100 other active compounds, phytonutrients and volatile oils identified within this herb.
Remember, when you are eating plants and herbs, you aren’t just eating a calorie, or protein or fat… your are eating hundreds and thousands of phytonutrients and bioactive compounds within these plants that work synergistically to support your health.
If you are looking for a safe, natural substitute for table sugar, stevia the herb is an option. But here’s the kicker, when stevia leafs are dried and ground into a powder, the consistency has a slight resemblance to powdered sugar. It doesn’t mix well in cold or hot fluids, which is why it is a more difficult sweetener to market to consumers.
Since stevia the herb isn’t as user friendly in the kitchen, companies have quickly jumped at the chance to produce products that are being marketed as stevia. Stevia In the Raw, Pure Via, Organic Stevia and Truvia are all examples of products who claim to be made with stevia. These new product are offered in a crystalline form, similar to sugar and salt – which dissolve easily into both cold and hot beverages.
For the example today I am going to use Truvia, probably one of the better known stevia containing products. Clever branding and marketing has tricked many health conscious consumers into believing that Truvia, A. comes from nature, and B. is stevia, and C. is good for you.
Before I talk more about Truvia, I first want to talk about Cheez Whiz (bear with me). Cheez Whiz ‘the original cheese dip,’ is able to use the name ‘cheese’ on its label because it contains cheese. Since its conception in the fifties, Cheez Whiz listed ‘cheese’ at the very end of the ingredient list; just enough is present for Kraft to be able to use the word ‘cheese’ in their tagline. In 2013, they stopped listing ‘cheese’ on the ingredients list and now list the cheese derivatives in the latest reformulated product (like ‘milk solids’), so alas, there is no longer ‘cheese’ listed on the Cheez Whiz label. It only contains a fraction of real cheese. Where am I going with this? Dare I say that Truvia is the Cheez Whiz of sweeteners?
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Here is the quote directly from the package of Truvia: “Truvia sweetener comes from nature. Rebiana comes from the sweet leaf of the stevia plant, native to South America. Dried stevia leaves are steeped in water, similar to making tea. This unlocks the best tasting part of the leaf which is then purified to provide a calorie-free sweet taste.”
There isn’t any stevia leaf in Truvia. There is a compound called rebaudioside A (a stevia extract) that undergoes a 40 step chemical process that includes the use of chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol to become rebaudioside A (this is also called Rebiana, or Reb A). I do believe that this 40 step chemical process is being referred to with the word “PURIFIED” in their marketing statement)
Now, here’s the kicker. Only half of one percent of Truvia is Rebiana. The rest is erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. So, Truvia is basically erythritol with a half percent of Rebiana so the marketing can scream that this is from an all-natural source, the stevia plant.
Whole leaf stevia, in its natural form, is an herb that has zero calories, is a whole food and comes directly (in-tact) from nature. Has the FDA approved the use of stevia, the herb, from the plant, the actual leaf, this whole food, as a sweetener in our food supply? “The FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive.”
Has the FDA approved Rebaudioside A? You betcha! It has attained GRAS status ‘Generally Recognized As Safe.’ Let’s break this down: Whole leaf stevia is an herb in its natural form and is not considered safe by the FDA. Rebaudioside A has undergone a 40 step chemical process that includes known carcinogens like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol… and this IS approved by the FDA with GRAS status.
If you need to sweeten something, go to the source and use honey, real maple syrup or whole leaf stevia. You can actually buy a stevia plant for your garden and steep the leaves into your tea! If you do opt for a stevia product, the only thing that should be listed on the label is ‘whole leaf stevia’ and not rebaudioside A, Rebiana or Reb A.
There is one more important point that I would like to make here. Truvia, as well as the other brands that offer this type of sweetener like Stevia In the Raw, Pure Via and Organic Stevia, is marketing deception at its finest. These are not natural, pure, healthy, clean or wholesome, nor do they contain a single spec of whole leaf stevia and yet this is what the marketing screams out at the consumer. Most people would think that they are doing a very good thing by using these processed products and they are clearly not. This is why we all have to remain diligent about the foods that we put into our body and continue to question everything that is not in its true natural state.
Angela Pifer, Creator Clean & Lean Revolution
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