Is Stevia Safe?

Sugar is perhaps one of the most dangerous products/ingredients for sale today. It’s added to almost everything and can make you depressed, overweight, and can lead to diabetes. Americans eat more than 4 times the daily recommended allowance, which means most Americans consume about 130 pounds every single year. Why? Because sugar is just as addictive as any drug. That’s why when you hear that there is a new alternative to sugar (find out sugar substitutes), such as stevia, that won’t ruin your health, everyone gets excited about it. Before we use this, however, we want to check things out. Is Stevia really safe?

If you haven’t heard about stevia before, this comes from a plant that originated in South America. The extract from this plant is more than 200 times sweeter than sugar and does not raise blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, in 1991, the FDA refused to approve this plant after being pressured from the makers of other artificial sweeteners, such as those in the blue and pink packets. They have a one billion dollar industry and they weren’t willing to share a piece of that artificially sweetened pie, it seems.

Stevia leaves with stevia powder and sugar cubes on a slate plat

Photo credit: bigstock

Now, in 2008, the FDA approved the two big soda makes to use the compounds that come from the stevia plant. Interesting, isn’t it? It’s not until some big company wants to use it that it gets approved. You might have heard of the big cola company’s product, they call it Truvia. However, this plant goes through about a 40 step patentable process the extract what they want from the leaves of this plant and they use chemicals such as methanol, ethanol, and acetone to do so. Those chemicals are well known carcinogens and they don’t sound very natural or safe, do they? However, the FDA now says that there have been more than 90 studies that show that Stevia is safe; processed stevia, we should add. The FDA still won’t agree that whole leaf or stevia that hasn’t been highly processed is safe.

The stevia plant that you can grow in your own yard, and that has been used for centuries in countries like Paraguay and Brazil, is still a non-approved food additive by the FDA. However, rebaudioside (the extract the cola companies use) that has not been used for more than a few years and that the long term health affects remain an unknown, suddenly gets FDA approval. This is just another example of how money is apparently influencing decisions that don’t make sense. If only someone from the FDA could explain how a chemical extract is OK but a plant from Mother Nature is not?


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Stevia products to avoid:

  • Truvia – That 40 step process used to make Truvia alone is enough reason to steer clear of this stuff but there are two other ingredients that are enough to cause concern. Erythritol is a sugar that occurs naturally in fruit but heck, food manufacturers don’t want to use anything that might be natural, so they start with GM corn and put it through a very complex fermentation process to create a chemically pure erythritol. Look, just say no to this stuff.
  • All Natural Stevia – Don’t trust anything that says “all natural”. Sometimes when the leaves from this plant get processed, it can have a sort of metal taste to it. Manufactured “natural” flavors are super addicting as your mind will only want more and more. Put those boxes with “natural” flavors, back on the shelf.
  • PureVia – You gotta love that name “Stevia in the Raw”, its sounds so perfectly pure doesn’t it? Read the label, however, and the first ingredient listed is “dextrose” so this has to have more than plain old stevia in it, doesn’t it? Dextrose comes from GM corn and it has the same, long process for creating this chemical, just like Truvia does.
  • Organic Stevia – Even those certified organic stevia products can be sneaky. They add a few ingredients sometimes, such as agave inulin, and, believe it or not, silica. Yes, silica helps to absorb moisture and improve the flow of granulated or powdery substances but this is also the same ingredient that is used to make glass and strengthen concrete. Silica can cause irritation in the digestive tract. Silica isn’t toxic but, at the same time, do you really want concrete strengthener in your food?


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All hope is not lost; however, there are ways to enjoy stevia.

  • Buy your own stevia plant for your garden. Dry the leaves and grind them in a spice grinder for your own powdered stevia product. Or you can buy dried leaves.
  • When choosing products that have been sweetened with stevia, look for ones that say they use “whole stevia leaf” not extracts.
  •  Add fresh or dried leaves to your tea or coffee for natural sweetness.
  • If you can’t grow your own plant, look for a stevia product that is 100 percent pure with no added ingredients. These products are for sale in many places if you take a few minutes to look for them.

When all else fails, forget stevia and use raw honey, real maple syrup, or coconut palm sugar.