Monday, October 15, 2007

Stevia, schmevia....


As far as food goes, I consider myself an equal opportunist, willing to give most anything a fair shot (for proof, read my first-ever blog item mentioning haggis and black and white pudding.) And this culinary open-mindedness is what led me to try out Stevia, after hearing all the hype about the product in recent months.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m perfectly willing to provide an honest opinion, no matter how unpopular it may be. So along that note...I thought Stevia was all sorts of nasty!
For those unfamiliar with the product, Stevia is derived from a South American plant and commonly used as a sweetener in South America and Asia. Although it’s considered a food additive in some countries, like Brazil and Japan, it's only been approved as a dietary supplement in the U.S. and Europe. The FDA requires proof of safety before recognizing a food additive and apparently, they feel Stevia hasn't proven itself yet. Still, despite the lack of an FDA endorsement, Stevia’s popularity has grown in recent years – perhaps because it is the forbidden fruit of the low-calorie sweetener industry, so to speak.
This weekend, I tried two different kinds of Stevia, ruining a few perfectly good cups of coffee and bowls of oatmeal in the process. First I tried the plain Stevia extract in packet form. Not only was it bitter, it also had a slightly metallic, almost plastic taste. Then, I checked out the liquid SweetLeaf English Toffee. Although the unpleasant licorice taste wasn't quite as overwhelming in this format, it was still enough to turn my stomach.
Stevia has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, but with a slower release and a longer duration. That means the vile after-taste lingers much longer than usual. I’m just happy I borrowed the product from friends, rather than plunking down my own hard-earned money to purchase it.
As with anything, Stevia will have both fans and critics...different strokes for different folks and all. But because of the lousy taste - and the fact that we don't really know yet if Stevia has any health risks or benefits - I'm sticking to Splenda.

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