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Is Stevia Safe? Should I Eat It? Here’s My Stevia Story

Stevia, the plant native to Paraguay, has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. Recently it has begun to be used to sweeten food products in the US food market. Consumers are no doubt skeptical when being presented with yet another sugar alternative, especially after hearing bad things about suspect artificial sweeteners, and so they’re wondering if this new sweetener is another form of fool’s gold.

Jar of NuNaturals Stevia
NuNaturals Stevia in white powdered form

I’ve baked some cookies with NuNaturals Powdered Stevia. It mixed and baked well, however the taste was unfamiliar. That made the cookies seem strange because I made the same kind of biscotti I’ve been eating my whole life, so I expect them to taste a certain way. The aftertaste from the Stevia powder changed the entire nature of the cookies and I just did not prefer it. We might still have the jar of Stevia in our cupboard, I’m not sure. The quality of the product was fine, I just haven’t returned to it.

If you were creating a new kind of snack, Stevia in its purest form could be a good choice for a sweetener. However, if you’re looking to make a traditional dessert that already has a distinct flavor, pure Stevia is going to alter that flavor. Removing the aftertaste is the reason why companies have been working to patent their own brand of Stevia-based sweetener.

Box of Truvia
If it’s got a shelf life and it comes in a box…

The only other form of Stevia-based alternative sweetener I have tried is Truvia. Truvia brand sweetener is a product developed by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill. What makes Truvia different from other forms of Stevia is that it’s not just Stevia in there. Truvia contains Erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol that’s made from corn. (You know, “natural.”)

I baked the same biscotti with Truvia. They were more true to the original, didn’t have an aftertaste, but seemed a bit airy. Since I thought I had just baked magic cookies (ones without sugar and therefore without evil) I ate the whole batch rather quickly. The result was a sort of chemical feeling in my body similar to how I felt after consuming too much Maltitol.

Food products are often advertised as a natural when they’re actually quite processed. Stevia is to Truvia what corn is to High Fructose Corn Syrup. If you must have sweetener and are looking for a sugar alternative, I recommend pure Stevia over anything else.

In the end, I swore off artificial sweeteners and instead eat fruit. If I really need sweet, I’ll go with pure maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice—however, sparingly. We also bake with mashed ripe bananas and that does the trick.

Related Links

My Experience with Truvia
Truvia Side Effects
Bruce Bradley on Truvia Advertising
How to grow your own Stevia plants

Natural Peanut Butter

In this video I discuss Adams brand natural peanut butter.

Coconut Bliss Ice Cream

Coconut Bliss Ice Cream

Do you know about Coconut Bliss ice cream? It’s sweetened with agave. It tastes good and isn’t as sweet as some of the other brands of ice cream out there. After seeing it at Whole Foods I decided to give it a try. I don’t eat it often but when the chocolate cravings get really bad I’ll often give in and get a pint. That is, until recently.

When I first went off sugar, I would end up eating the whole container every time I got this stuff. Then I’d feel terrible. What I didn’t realize was that it was the agave that made me feel so lousy. My shoulders would get tense and I’d feel all twisty. It wasn’t a coincidence. It happened more than once (more than three times, in fact).

Two weeks ago I had a sore throat and got the idea that some nice cool comfort food would do me good. Gwenn picked up some Coconut Bliss ice cream and I ate a bit. So did she. In small doses I feel fine but they have to be really small, like 5 spoonfuls. That was about how much I ate a week and a half ago. There’s always a catch to eating something that’s chocolate—you’ll want more!

Two nights ago I was craving something chocolaty. The idea of eating ice cream came into my head (surprise, surprise) and I went to the Little Green Grocer to get myself a pint of Dark Chocolate. I don’t eat the whole thing at once like I used to. I’ve had too many bad experiences to do that to myself. However, I did eat about 1/3 of the package. That night I felt fine but the next morning I could feel the effects of the agave on my body. I know it’s the agave because this happens every time I eat anything sweetened with the stuff. I feel heavy and tight in the muscles. It’s odd, distinct, and uncomfortable. The sensation is different than what I get from eating plain sugar. I don’t like it.

The problem was that I left the ice cream in the freezer and so I finished it tonight. Big mistake. Now my stomach is upset and acidic feeling. I’m worried I’ll wake up the same tomorrow as I did the other morning. It has to be said; I’m going off Coconut Bliss for good. It’s just not for me.

That’s not to say the product isn’t a good one. It made for an excellent borderline replacement food for a long time. It was decent in a pinch when the going got tough. If you can find it locally, try it and see how you feel. It’s certainly an alternative to Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs. In the end it was the agave that killed it for me. I’ve had one too many bad results. Next time I crave chocolate I’ll get a Larabar or try something new altogether.

Maltitol Sweetened Godiva Chocolate Taste Test

In this video my parents taste test some Godiva chocolate to determine if there’s a noticeable difference between the Maltitol sweetened chocolate and the sugar sweetened chocolate.

Fool’s Gold: Grain Sweetened Carob Chips

Grain Sweetened Carob Chips

You can buy stuff in bulk at the Whole Foods store near my home. I usually buy unsweetened carb chips and use them as a chocolate substitute in unsweetened cookies.

Carob is not chocolate by any means. While it has a similar texture, it just isn’t chocolate. When I compared the sugar content in the grain sweetened carob chips and found that there was less sugar (by one gram per serving) in the grain sweetened chips I figured I’d give them a try.

Gwenn made banana muffins and used the grain sweetened chips. We purchased enough for a batch of muffins and then some. The muffins were good, but I could feel the grain sweetened stuff immediately. It was pretty addictive. I kept eating the muffins and then feeling bad. I didn’t feel guilty bad. I felt tense and as if I needed to binge on them so to get rid of the rest. It wasn’t fun. And, of course, eating all the muffins left me feeling bloated.

The carob contains sugars naturally. “Grain sweetened” is still sweetnened.

Since we still had about a cup of them left, I crushed them up and washed them down the garbage disposal so that I wouldn’t eat any more. Sometimes you do whatever it takes to get them out of the house and out of reach.

Even though the unsweetened carob chips measure in at one more gram per serving of sugar that the grain sweetened ones, they do not make me want to binge. I can eat a few unsweetened carob chip cookies and save the rest for another day. Not so with the grain sweetened stuff. This is a key element of avoiding sweets. Avoid anything that drives you to binge!

As a result of this experiment, I’m back to the unsweetened carob chips. Notice that I don’t get upset at myself and say, “I was doing so well. I blew it and ate something I shouldn’t have.” Instead I learned something and moved on. You must also experiment with what triggers you to binge. The only way you’ll know is if you try.

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About David

After a weekend-long sugar binge in 2003, I realized my problem was very real. It took some time but I finally figured out a way to stay off sweet junk food for good! Read more.

Quit Sugar?

Don’t quit sugar. Stop Being Sweet instead! Questions? Please ask.