The world of prepared and diet foods is a dark labyrinth filled with secrets many consumers would rather leave unknown. There seems to be a general ostrich-like mindset in the American consumer that lulls and soothes one into thinking: “What I don’t know can’t hurt me”. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t work for the ostrich when a lion charges, and it won’t work for you, either.
What’s in a Name?
First of all, knowledge is power. If you are like most, the word ‘Stevia’ doesn’t mean anything to you. Let’s clear that up right now. Stevia is a plant, more helpfully it is a sweetener made from the stevia plant. This sweetener is all natural, because it is made from a plant and nothing but a plant, but it is not sugar.
Stevia sweetener has been in use for years. Not just use, broad use. In fact, its use comprises upwards of 40% of the sweetener market. But this wide spread consumption is in foreign countries like Japan and not in the United States. This is why most people have never heard of it. In recent years, however, stevia use has increased in light of negative press around alternative sweeteners, like aspartame.
Blame the Man
If Stevia is so great, why hasn’t it made its way here? Well it has tried, and tried. However, the entrance to the United States food supply is firmly barricaded by the FDA. As of 2023, only certain compounds in a stevia leaf are permitted in the United States. You'll usually see this listed as “stevia extract”. The FDA has been owed a great deal of thanks in the past by keeping US citizens safe from dangerous medications and food stuffs.
It seems however, in the case of stevia that they have really missed their mark. Stevia has been the subject of much study. The results of study after study has proven its consumption is safe not only for lab mice and rats, but for people as well.
This same glowing report can’t be applied to artificial sweeteners lining the aisles of American supermarkets and sitting on Americans' dinner plates. Aspartame, also known as Equal and NutraSweet, has been proven to cause brain tumors in lab animals. The National Cancer Institute has noted a sharp rise in brain tumors since aspartame became a mainstream alternative to sugar in the 1980s.
Cancer is not the only health concern linked to artificial sweeteners, nor is aspartame the only artificially produced sugar substitute with a dark side. Along with aspartame, Saccharin and acesulfame k consumption has been associated with depression, blindness, headaches, numbness, and other serious side effects.
Many researchers claim that artificial sweeteners change the body's chemistry so much that it causes obesity. The sweeteners that people use to lose weight are actually causing them to not only gain weight, but make weight loss efforts extremely difficult.
What about Stevia? It has a clean record, and yet the FDA stubbornly flexes its muscles to bar its total access to the American food supply. Their stated reasoning is that it is still an unproven substance.
Things That Make You Say Hmmm….
This is really a head scratcher for most of us who have become acquainted with stevia and the FDA’s attitude towards it. The only logical solution is a sad tale of conspiracy and corrupt bureaucracy.
The sugar industry does stand to lose a pretty penny if they had to share the American sweetener market with stevia. Like most multi-billion dollar industries they too have their friends and influence in high places.
Not to mention, if people were able to lose weight more easily, control their diabetes, ward off obesity and a host of other ills, what would become of the huge medical and pharmaceutical industries devoted to these conditions? The ones that treat the problem but ignore the cause?
Only time will tell if the FDA will put consumer health before corporate dollars. In the meantime, stevia consistently proves itself as the best alternative to sugar for anyone trying to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle.
How to Deal With Sugar Cravings On A Diet
There isn't really a one-size-fits-all answer to the issue of a sugar replacement. While stevia extract has made its way on to American shelves, Americans do not have access to the full range of benefits the entire leaf can potentially provide. With no fantastic artificial sweetener option available, what can you do to deal with sugar cravings?
A great solution is to turn to fruit. Fruit is sweet. Yes, we know it isn't as sweet as cake or pie. But, it can help ward off a sugar craving. If you can figure out what time of day your cravings usually begin, you can consume some fruit about 30 minutes before. This should help stave off any oncoming craving.
Another option is to find lighter alternatives that have some sugar in them, but not a lot. When searching for these treats, it's important to make sure you're choosing ones that have small amounts of sugar, rather than artificial sweeteners. By lowering your sugar intake, you'll still reap benefits while not having to give it up entirely for the sake of your diet.
Finally, we recommend talking to a doctor if you feel that your sugar cravings are unmanageable. Help is out there for people with severe sugar cravings or a sugar addiction. In excess, sugar can cause a host of health problems and can make it very difficult to lose weight. It's important to consume it in moderation.
The content of this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always consult a licensed medical professional before making decisions that affect your health.