The Problem with Sugar:
There is certainly a lot of discussion today regarding sugar. No matter what your opinion is regarding its use, there are certain facts which simply cannot be ignored. For example, refined sugar will make you fat. Also, Americans as a whole are consuming more sugar now than ever before. Prior to World War II, the average American consumed around 20 grams per day. Today this number is over 55 grams a day…and adolescents consume even more, up to 75 grams per day!
Sugar has calories, and the more you consume, the more detrimental are its additional effects. These effects include damaging the teeth and causing more food cravings especially foods full of more sugar. Too much sugar has a clear link to developing diabetes, hypertension, and a number of other degenerative conditions.
Stevia vs Sugar:
On the other hand, Stevia is often touted as a sugar substitute. Stevia is actually a natural sweetener derived from a plant grown in South America. It comes in many different forms, with the most popular being white powder extract (but you can also find dried leaves, liquid extracts, or even small cube-like pellets). Recently, a Stevia-based sweetener called SweetLeaf won the Stevia Tasteful Award at the World Stevia Organization.
There are some significant differences when Stevia is compared with sugar and even other artificial sweeteners. It is very strong, so a little really does go a long way. Also, Stevia has no calories. Unlike the addictive nature of sugar, Stevia does not cause additional cravings. In fact, research shows that it even helps to reduce food cravings. Plus, it does not harm your teeth like sugar does. Stevia actually rates as a zero on the glycemic index, meaning that it is completely safe for diabetics; it will not raise your sugar level at all. Studies also show that if you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), Stevia may be able to help.
These sweeteners are basically synthetic sugar substitutes derived from naturally occurring substances. In some cases, they may even include some type of sugar itself. They are also, like Stevia, many times sweeter than sugar. The main benefit of these when compared to sugar is the fact that they contain very few calories. They are widely used now in processed foods like sodas, candies, puddings, and other types of foods.
There are a lot of different varieties of artificial sweeteners. These types range from aspartame to neotame to saccharin. A lot of testing and research has been done on these to determine safety and there is still a lot of controversy. While they may contain very few calories and be helpful from a weight control aspect and be a good alternative for diabetics, there are some health concerns as well. These concerns go all the way back to tests conducted in the 1970s on saccharin which indicated a possible cancer risk (more recent research seems to argue against that conclusion).
It seems clear that avoiding actual sugar will help to improve overall health. Stevia is actually a very sound alternative to sugar. Artificial sweeteners do have some controversy surrounding them, so it ultimately will depend upon each person doing their own research and discovering which works best for them.