Friday, July 23, 2010

Stevia, My Latest Addition

My stevia plants arrived in the mail today. I ordered them from Hirts Gardens through their Amazon account. I first learned of stevia about 3 years ago. I had some exotic tea at this Chinese tea house with decor that reminded me of a kung fu movie tea house. The tea was pleasantly sweet, and I did not add sugar. I asked the waiter what was in the tea that gave its sweetness. He told me it was stevia, a naturally sweet herb.

After I got home, I looked up Wikipedia to learn more about it. It's widely used as a sweetener in Japan where it has been available since 1970. Why is it not widely used here when we have a serious obesity problem in our country? Why did the United States ban stevia in the early 1990s unless labeled as a supplement, but in 2008 approved rebaudioside-A extract as a food additive? At the same time, Americans are eating Equal, Sweet'N Low, and Splenda as sugar substitutes. I think all these sugar substitutes taste nasty. They just taste artificial to me. I can never drink a diet soda.

Of course I know why a natural sweet herb like stevia is kept away from people. "According to US-based market intelligence provider Information Resources Inc. (IRI), for the 52 weeks ended March 22, 2009, US sales of sugar substitutes were roughly $372m, with sales of Splenda sugar substitutes at about $217m. Sweet'N Low and Equal's sales were $48m and $37m, respectively." See Artificial sweeteners market to change for more information.

Regardless of increasing artificial sweeteners sales each year, the obesity problem and its related health problems have only gone up year after year. I like natural sweets whether they are sugar can, stevia leave, or raw honey. I will take sweetener in its most natural form any day. You will not see opening one of those pink, blue, or yellow packets.

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