We get it—sugar is bad for us. But going to work and finding a big bowl of chocolates in the lobby and coming home to find your daughter is selling Girl Scouts cookies, really doesn’t help. At all.
Giving up sugar is tough, but there is a natural sweetener out there that you can use to help you along in the withdrawal process – so to speak.
Donna Gates, an expert in digestive health, diet and nutrition and co-author of The Stevia Cookbook: Cooking with Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener, suggests stevia. Gates introduced the natural sweetener to the United States in 1994.
Derived from a plant (Stevia rebaudiana), stevia has had a controversial history. The U.S. banned stevia in the early 1990s; though a few years later, it could be sold as a food supplement but not a sweetener. In 2008, the FDA loosened restrictions on stevia and allowed use in more mainstream food production.
“It was a really important thing to find something like stevia to substitute for sugar for people because we always are going to want the sweet taste,” Gates says.
With virtually no calories and yet a higher sweetness factor than actual sugar, it’s a popular alternative.
To try stevia out, Gates recommends squeezing lemon juice into a glass and adding some sparkling mineral water with some stevia for a Sprite-like drink.
“The body doesn’t care,” she says. “It’s got something sweet, so it’s happy, but you’re not feeding the bad guys [bad bacteria] and you’re not hurting the good guys [good bacteria]. We do need a sugar replacement as you cut down and then eliminate the sugar out of your diet.”