Thursday, June 22, 2006

Let the Change Come! Part 1: Stevia

I knew we could do it. If I could just find something tasty enough!

And finally it happened. We received our Republic of Tea catalogue in the mail, with their customary sampler tea bag. It was ginger-peach. Mmmmm. That sounded so good. We brewed it to accompany our supper that night, and I knew there was hope for me. It was soooo delicious! But not by itself. There is more to the story.

There is a plant which grows naturally in South America, known as Stevia Rebaudiana. A plant from the daisy family, it has long been prized in many cultures for it's intense sweetness. When the plant is mature, it is three feet high and it's beautiful green leaves contain stevioside, a sweetener estimated to be 300 times that of sugar.

Stevia was introduced in Japan in the 70's and by 1988 it had taken over 41% of the market of potentially sweet substances. They use it to sweeten ice cream, candies, pickles & soft drinks (to name a few).

Here in the United States stevia is only approved as a dietary supplement. It has been labeled by the FDA as an "unsafe food additive" due to insufficient toxicological information to demonstrate it's safety, though studies have been conducted that demonstrate its safety. I find myself wondering if there are other reasons. Perhaps not of the scientific variety. If you are interested, there is a book which tells the stevia story at this link: The Stevia Story.

We now use it regularly to "supplement" our teas. And I am happy to report that after failing many times to give up soda, we are finally successful! I still crave bubbles sometimes with a movie & popcorn, but we are very much enjoying the stevia sweetened tea. And it is so much easier on the pocketbook :-). We are still using the very first 2 oz. bottle of Stevia Liquid Concentrate we purchased for $20 a few months ago - it only takes 15 drops to sweeten a pitcher of tea.

1 comment:

  1. I'm happy to see your interest in stevia. It's really a great alternative to sugar. As it turns out, there is a very good reason why stevia has not been approved for use in the United States. And it does not involve conspiracy on the part of the sugar or sweetener lobby. Nor is it because the herb is unsafe. The reason is purely economic. The large scale testing required by FDA is expensive. No private company to-date has been willing to invest the large sums of money for the tests when every other company can immediately begin selling the product--as a natural herb the product cannot be patented. However, there is a very good chance that testing will be completed in the next couple of years. The U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are rumored to considering funding the tests in order to stimulate the agricultural economies of Latin American nations. Stay tuned, we'll be covering all news related to Stevia on our non-commercial Web site,