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  • Joanna Lopez

Stevia - The Truth + is it Good for Weight Loss?




I love/hate the internet. Are you with me on this? Too many choices and who do you trust to give you the truth vs. give you a bunch of B.S. to get you to buy something?!


Same goes for consumer packaged food sold on grocery store shelves or online, nowadays…too many choices and should you trust the marketing lingo on the package? Ahh, nope.


When you pick up a new product from the grocery store shelf or view it online, and you’ve never eaten it before, get into the habit of turning it around and reading the ingredient list.


Zero calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, are widely used in foods and beverages whose packages say "sugar-free" or "diet," including baked goods, soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, candy, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products.

Should you buy a packaged food that is sweetened with stevia or add stevia to your tea/coffee, plain yogurt or baked muffins?


BOTTOM LINE:


I’ll start with the bottom line, if that’s all you have time for, but if you have a few minutes to spare, read on, as knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have about all things healthy, the easier it’ll be to make healthier choices!

  • YES, stevia can be useful when trying to lose weight BUT use it in moderation due to a lack of long-term studies

  • Products considered safe contain words in their ingredient list such as stevia extract or stevia rebaudiana

  • If you see whole stevia leaves or crude stevia extracts at your local natural foods store, you may think twice about buying them

It can be useful when trying to lose weight for the simple fact that stevia is a sweetener WITHOUT calories, unlike table (white/brown) sugar, honey, agave, coconut sugar and maple syrup, which all have calories. So it can help with weight loss, as it may satisfy your cravings for sweets without the added calories.


It’s best to use it in moderation, according to some research studies quoted in articles from a couple of my trusted sources (ACE Fitness and Precision Nutrition), as long-term studies are lacking. Also, research studies for money-making consumer products can often be questionable or biased, so better safe than sorry!


HERE'S WHAT I'LL GET INTO NEXT:


What is stevia? 5 Facts

Is it safe? Here’s what Health Canada and the U.S. FDA have to say

What daily quantity is considered safe?

Will it help with your weight loss?

How I use it for my weight management Ok, let's get to know stevia...


What is Stevia? 5 Facts:

  1. Stevia is the name for extracts from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni, which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of South America.

  2. Used as a sweetener since the year 1,600, the leaves of the stevia plant contain sweetening compounds referred to as steviol glycosides.

  3. It’s about 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, but it has no calories, or artificial ingredients(but remember that “natural” ingredients doesn’t always mean 100% healthy, so be careful with package marketing).

  4. Stevia products found on grocery store shelves are made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A).

  5. It comes in powder or liquid form and you’re likely to find it on the baking goods aisle or in the health food aisle, as well as in numerous pre-packaged foods.

Is it safe? Here’s what Health Canada and the U.S. FDA have to say:


The U.S. FDA(food and drug administration) has approved only the purified form of stevia, called stevioside, as safe to use. Products considered safe contain words in their ingredient list such as stevia extract or stevia rebaudiana. If you see whole stevia leaves or crude stevia extracts on a store shelf, you may think twice about buying them as the FDA has not approved them as a food additive to use in conventional foods, due to inadequate toxicological information.


Health Canada states on their website, “Stevia leaf and its crude extracts are not considered to be food additives but are considered as food ingredients. For this reason, there is no mandatory requirement for their review and approval prior to use in food. Stevia leaves and crude extracts of stevia leaves have been available in Canada to those wishing to use these products for personal culinary use only. However, Health Canada has not been able to provide a definitive opinion on the safety of retail foods containing stevia leaf because the available scientific data on its safety is considered incomplete. The safety of any retail food containing either stevia leaves or crude stevia extract is the legal responsibility of the food seller. However, stevia leaves along with its crude extracts have been approved by Health Canada for use both as non-medicinal ingredients, and as medicinal ingredients, in certain natural health products. Purified stevia extract is regulated as a food additive in Canada. It has undergone a full safety review and has been approved for use in various foods sold in Canada.”

Thus my bottom line above! Use in moderation!


What daily quantity is considered safe?


Precision Nutrition's article title “The Battle of the Sweeteners” states that based on various studies they reviewed, the ADI (acceptable daily intake) for humans is about 7.94 mg/kg/day. This 7.94 mg/kg/day value is based on a very conservative safety factor of 100X. Let’s be conservative!

For a 110lb(50 kg) adult, that would be about 400mg per day (or about 5 packets) and for a 220lb(100 kg) adult, that would be about 800mg per day (or about 10 packets).


Will it help with your weight loss?


As mentioned above, it can be useful when trying to lose weight (for those of you who have hard-to-control- sweet cravings) for the simple fact that stevia is a sweetener WITHOUT calories.


And as I always like to remind you:

To lose weight you have to eat less calories than you burn to create a calorie deficit, regardless of whether you use a calorie or 0 calorie sweetener.

But also remember not to eat too little(less than 1, 200 calories, if you’re counting temporarily) as the body slows down its calorie burn to a crawl, you could stop losing weight, lose your motivation and then just gain some or all of your weight back and more.


How I use it for my weight management:

When it comes to eating ANYTHING, including sweet food, the dream is to eat real whole foods as much as possible so sweet foods mostly come from vegetables, fresh fruit and some dairy, which have naturally occurring sugars.


That’s the dream.


Eating natural sugars in these healthy foods is not linked to negative health effects, since the amount of sugar tends to be modest and is “packaged” with fiber and other healthful nutrients. On the other hand, our bodies do not need, or benefit from, eating added sugars or 0 calorie sweeteners, whether it’s a protein bar with stevia or homemade cookies with brown sugar.


But sometimes, like most humans I'd say, I overeat over a weekend - whether from eating out a little too much or from a birthday gathering - and when I hop on the scale on Monday morning, I gained an extra pound(0.45 kg) or 3(1.36 kg). If it’s up by 1 lbs(0.45 kg), I shed it in 1 or 2 days by eating mindfully to 80% full and sticking to no more than a 100 calorie treat a day, if I need it.


If I really overdid it and I’m up 3 lbs (1.36 kg), then I'll eat mindfully to 80% full and I pull out the stevia and use it to sweeten my coffee, plain greek yogurt or oatmeal. If I get a strong sweet craving or I'm travelling, I'll eat a snack bar sweetened with it such as "Love Good Fats".


I’ll use it until I lose the 3 lbs and then I’m back to using regular sugar, honey, or maple syrup.

So yes, if you like the taste, have some stevia in your cupboard as one of your go to sweeteners for when you need to be extra cautious with your calories. And to keep it simple, as it’s hard to keep all this info top of mind, use the same advice for all other sweeteners out there…


Use in moderation!



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