Anyone with their eyes and ears even three-quarters closed must have heard about the new phenomenon that is sweeping through our culinary culture. The no-sugar craze has been picked up by chefs, retailers, and ordinary people alike and to cash in on this latest 'thing', there has been an all time high in the sale of alternative sweeteners, namely stevia.
Everywhere you go now, stevia is advertised as the new way to lose weight, because is contains less calories than sugar. (This is not the reason you lose weight when switching to stevia, but that is beyond the point of this article!) Coffee shops offer sugar-free syrups, sweetened with stevia. Coca-Cola is now sweetening some of its drinks with stevia. Cordial is on the grocery store shelves, now sweetened with stevia. To my younger siblings' delight, you can buy tomato and barbecue sauce that is - you've guessed it! - made on stevia. There are posters, tv ads, radio ads, all pushing for the sale of a new product that we know virtually nothing about.
At last, our sweet-tooth society is starting to lay down its sugary habits for what is made out to be a much better alternative. That has to be a good thing, hasn't it? I'm not so sure.
Think back to the 1960's-70's when butter was declared an abomination to the human digestive system and margarine became the big in thing. We knew nothing about it, really. Someone formed a hypothesis that butter is bad and that seed oils are good, and everyone went from there. We are reaping the consequences of that hypothesis today. After the switch to seed oils, cancer rates went through the roof, like nothing anyone ever imagined. Coincidence? Hardly. Thankfully, people are starting to see the mistake that the last couple of generations made in regard to their health, and some are rectifying their own habits. Let's hope it continues.
This is what concerns me about stevia. We have tests and studies on sugar that show that over decades of eating it, will kill us. We do not have that evidence for stevia. We are entering in this tunnel with our eyes shut and we do not know where it will lead. Will it really have no effect on our health, or will it be more catastrophic than anything we have seen yet? We have no way of knowing, and yet we are diving into it blindly believing that it will fix all of our problems.
I choose not to eat stevia as it upsets my tummy - I become nauseous and lactose intolerant. (Strange, I know but there it is! :P) I wonder it it is just me and my Lady Mother who get sick on stevia, or whether it is a problem that is more common that we all realize and should be looked into as a study to determine if this crystallized sweetener is fit for human consumption.
Please note: I am not saying we should not eat stevia at all. I think it is wonderful that we are turning from sugar and trying to come up with alternatives. I just think we should take it slowly, watch what we are doing and act according to our observations until we have a green light to go ahead.