Refined sugar is a toxin. It has been linked to many ailments and is certainly known to inhibit the immune system (See Why Sugar is Toxic to the Body” from Sugar Blues, © 1975 by William Dufty).
A number of artificial sweeteners are being used to supplant sugar but many have dubious health records including potential side effects. Some are suspected of being carcinogens.
It seems that, with such demand for safe sweeteners, were one to exist – an inexpensive natural substance whose safe use over many centuries has been well documented – it would be widely used. Well, one does exist, but its use is minimal in Europe and North America.
Stevia is a herb native to South America. It has been used for hundreds of years as a sweetener and has been proven safe over a far longer period than any modern artificial sweeteners have. Stevia, however, has been relegated to the “food supplement” category, may not stand on shelves next to sweeteners, and remains largely unknown. What is it that reduces this benign herb of long reputation to the category of a food supplement?
Stevia is sweet. In its natural herbal form as powdered leaves, it is about three times as sweet as sugar but has a bit of an aftertaste. When refined, it loses the aftertaste and becomes about 100 times as sweet as sugar. It is stable in hot and cold cooking, has no calories to speak of, and can replace sugar in many if its roles (I say “many” because the properties of sugar to crystallize, caramelize, and otherwise change its physical state are not shared by stevia, and therefore candies that use these states would need to be produced differently if stevia were substituted for sugar).
So what is wrong with stevia? Why does it remain relatively unknown? Why is it not being used in candy, soft drinks and cooking? The answer is economics. Stevia is not under patent, and, as such, it could be produced widely at low cost (you can probably grow it in your back yard). Therefore, there is no marketing budget supporting it and many marketing budgets – those of chemical corporations promoting their artificial sweeteners, not to mention the sugar industry itself – opposing it. There have also been efforts to influence the regulation of stevia and thus prevent its use on a wide scale.
At this point it is worth asking “Whom does the current sweetener market benefit most?” and “What would benefit humanity as a whole most effectively?” The answer is fairly clear: While stevia is relatively rarely used and little known, the chemical companies and the sugar industry continue to benefit. On the other hand, were stevia to gain recognition and become the sweetener of choice in cooking, candy, soft drinks, etc., certain industries would suffer but humanity as a whole would benefit from improved health as well as from the reduced cost of consuming the cheaper non-proprietary product.
This brings one to the issue of government regulations which, in effect, deprive the public of a beneficial product either by prohibiting it or by permitting patents to be used to prevent a product from reaching the market. This issue is handled elsewhere however.
Stevia is safe and easy to use and it may be acquired easily if one knows where to look. We have found some good sources. There are many recipes for the use of stevia about the Internet and we have collected a few, but here is our favourite:
1 tsp ascorbic acid crystals (Vitamin C crystals)
¼ tsp stevia extract
½ Gallon water
The resultant drink tastes very much like Sprite, Slice, 7-up, etc., but has no calories to speak of and none of the deleterious effects of other natural or artificial sweeteners. If effervescence is preferred, just substitute soda water or mineral water. This supplies several grams of vitamin C (if you drink the whole thing) and the recommended daily vitamin C dosage varies widely depending on the source. Consult your health practitioner.
We hope these resources will be of value to you.