Stevia: A Sweet Substitute for Artificial Sweeteners

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 12 Jun, 2017

Splenda, make way for stevia, the natural alternative to sugar substitutes. 

Sugar. Glucose. Fructose. These days it seems like there’s sugar lurking in so many things we eat. From the expected candies, juices, and cereals, to the unexpected spaghetti sauces, canned soups, and salad dressings, the amount of sugar we consume can be staggering. Sugars are carbohydrates that can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels, weight, and blood fats, so people living with diabetes must consume added sugars in moderation. Easier said then done, especially when you want to treat yourself to something sweet..

In comes artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are used in place of sugar (sucrose) and are classified as non-nutritive, non-caloric sweeteners. They are extremely sweet, so you only have to use a fraction of what you would in table sugar.

But what if you are sick of that overly sweet taste? What if you have already used your suggested serving of Splenda for the day and don’t want to consume anymore for fear of an upset stomach? What about those questionable ingredients in your Splenda—dextrose and maltodextrin—that Diabetes Canada says will increase bloods glucose levels?

The jury may be out on artificial sweeteners, but there may be a better plant-based, sugar substitute out there: stevia.

The stevia plant has two steviol glycosides. Rebaudioside A is the sweet tasting glycoside that is extracted and purified from the stevia plant and used as the primary ingredient in stevia products. It will usually be named as stevia extract or stevia on the label of a product.

Stevia is fairly new to the market at it was approved by the FDA in Canada in November of 2012 and permitted for use as a food additive and dietary supplement. Studies have confirmed that purified forms of steviol glycosides (stevia extracts) are safe to consume, even at high dietary intake levels (although not advised). In 2008, aa short-term study had individuals with type 2 diabetes consume 1000mg of steviol glycoside daily, and the results showed that rebaudioside A was well tolerated. This suggests that consumption of stevia does not alter glucose levels in these individuals.

Takeaway : Stevia is suggested to be safe for healthy individuals, and those with type 2 diabetes.


The Misleading

Although stevia is a great alternative to both traditional sugars and other artificial sweeteners, you should be strategic in which brand you choose. Stevia’s popularity makes it easy to find in most mainstream grocery stores in the form of popular brands like Truvia, Pure Via, and NuNaturals Stevia. These products are best avoided as they come with added fillers that go through so much processing that the end product is hardly reminiscent of stevia.

First, let’s look at Truvia by Coca Cola. Truvia is marketed to consumers as a stevia-derived natural sweetener, but this is misleading. The three components of Truvia are erythritol, Stevia Leaf Extract (rebiana), and natural flavours. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, and is the main ingredient of Truvia. Because our body does a poor job of digesting sugar alcohols, they hang out undigested in our intestine while they are fermented by colonic bacteria. Fermentation can cause gas, bloating, and distress. Yuck. The next ingredient is rebiana, which is derived from stevia leaf extract, but it only makes up 0.5 % of Truvia’s content—that can hardly be considered fair marketing.

Read More on artificial sweeteners and their connection to Diabetes here. (hyperlink here)

Pure Via is one of Canada’s most popular stevia brands. It also claims to be a better alternative to sugar substitutes by including stevia. What Pure Via doesn’t advertise is the first ingredient on the label: dextrose. Dextrose is considered an artificial sweetener that does raise blood glucose levels according to Diabetes Canada.levels .  Unfortunately, this misleading advertising defeats any benefit a person living with diabetes would gain from using this product.

NuNaturals stevia comes in several different forms, including extract powder, quick dissolve tablets, and a NoCarbs Blend. While this might sound promising, the ingredient list should be checked carefully. The NuNaturals NoCarbs Blend only has three ingredients: erythritol, stevia extract, and natural flavours. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is considered safe, (3) but can lead to limited gastrointestinal issues. Upset stomachs are never fun. The NuNaturals White Stevia Powder includes maltodextrin on the ingredient list, and although this option is cheaper than other products in the line, maltodextrin is considered to raise blood glucose levels (3.1).

So what’s the verdict on Truvia, Pure Via, and NuNaturals? Diabetics beware: these are filled with added artificial sweeteners that are best left on the shelf.

Takeaway : TruVia, PureVia, and NuNaturals are safe for healthy individuals to consume, but those with type 2 diabetes should probably stay away due to the tricky additives.

A Step above the Rest

Now that we know which brands to steer clear from, let’s look at some better options. Here’s the lowdown on Sweet Leaf Natural Stevia and Better Stevia by Now Foods.

Sweet Leaf has only two ingredients on its list; inulin soluble fibre and organic stevia extract. This is great for those with diabetes, as inulin may improve some glycemic indices . According to Sweetleaf’s claims , only cool, purified water is used to process stevia leaves so there are no chemicals, solvents, or alcohols involved.

Better Stevia by Now Foods has organic inulin, organic stevia extract (stevia rebaudiana) and silica on its ingredient list—similar to Sweet Leaf. This stevia comes in a variety of ingestible forms, including single packets, instant tablets, extract powder--which is certified organic by the USDA--and liquid drops (with flavours including dark chocolate and coconut to name a few).

The Takeaway : Sweet Leaf and Better Stevia by Now Foods are great choices when it comes to natural sweeteners for type 2 diabetics.  



To Remember

Clearly, there are many things to consider if you want to make the switch from artificial sweeteners to stevia. To keep things simple, try and stick to the following list:

  • Some artificial sweeteners can raise blood glucose levels or cause other minor but annoying health concerns when compared to stevia
  • Misleading marketing can lead you to buy products with additive fillers, be sure to buy products that have either stevia extract, rebaudioside a, or rebiana and avoid products that list either maltodextrin or dextrose as an ingredient
  • A quick Google search on stevia-based products sold in your area will help you save time and effort
Happy Hunting!

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 21 Jun, 2017

Last week’s article touched on the different types of artificial sweeteners that are meant to work as sugar substitutes. We also talked about some of the reasons it may be a good idea for diabetics to stay away from artificial sweeteners. Now, we will dive a little deeper into the problems these sugar substitutes could have on your health and the balance of the good bacteria in your gut.

The most popular study to make this claim happened in 2014. The study showed that mice who ate saccharin (a component of some artificial sweeteners) developed a glucose intolerance. The sweeteners created an imbalance in the gut bacteria of the mice. These bacteria are responsible for converting food to fuel or fat.

The team wanted to make sure this also applied to humans, so they continued the study on seven healthy people who consumed the maximum serving of saccharin suggested by the FDA for six days. Four of these individuals were on the road to glucose intolerance—a step towards a diabetic diagnosis.  

The team concluded that this was only a preliminary study but did create grounds to explore this research further.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jun, 2017
Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Dr. Andrea Haqq eagerly anticipated bisects to her pediatrician -- and not for the sticker at the end of the appointment. "I was always really interested in medicine," she explains. While her peers clambered off the examination table at the end of check-ups, Haqq lingered with questions about paediatric medicine and her doctor was more than happy to chat with his curious patient. By the time Haqq reached high school. her paediatrician was lending her medical texts on paediatrics and medical education, and had become a mentor as she considered her career path. 
By Alyssa Grams 14 Jun, 2017

Diabetes is a complex disease that millions of Canadians struggle with. In Alberta alone, there are 1 million people suffering from diabetes and prediabetes. With so many people affected, it is easy to create generalizations about what a group of people go through, even though everyone manages their diabetes in different ways.

Because of this, we want to do debunk some common and not so common myths about diabetes.

By Alyssa Grams 12 Jun, 2017

Sugar. Glucose. Fructose. These days it seems like there’s sugar lurking in so many things we eat. From the expected candies, juices, and cereals, to the unexpected spaghetti sauces, canned soups, and salad dressings, the amount of sugar we consume can be staggering. Sugars are carbohydrates that can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels, weight, and blood fats, so people living with diabetes must consume added sugars in moderation. Easier said then done, especially when you want to treat yourself to something sweet..

In comes artificial sweeteners. These sugar substitutes are used in place of sugar (sucrose) and are classified as non-nutritive, non-caloric sweeteners. They are extremely sweet, so you only have to use a fraction of what you would in table sugar.

But what if you are sick of that overly sweet taste? What if you have already used your suggested serving of Splenda for the day and don’t want to consume anymore for fear of an upset stomach? What about those questionable ingredients in your Splenda—dextrose and maltodextrin—that Diabetes Canada says will increase bloods glucose levels?

By Alyssa Grams 07 Jun, 2017

You never think you’re going to get it. You never think that you will have to adjust your whole life for a short statement told to you by your doctor in a flat manner “You’re A1C test results came in back this morning, I’m afraid to tell you that the diagnoses is diabetes.”   This might be another day for the doctor, but this is the defining day with one simple diagnoses that will impact every minute of the rest of your life.

You’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. Now what?

Well, there’s no one right answer on what you should do, as everyone’s story and situation is different. But here are 5 steps you can take that will lead you in the right direction.

By Alyssa Grams 06 Jun, 2017

If you live with diabetes, or you have recently been diagnosed, you understand how much of a struggle food can be. This is especially true when it comes to keeping track of your carbohydrate intake. Blood glucose levels can spike if you consume too many carbohydrates or sources of glucose in high amounts in one sitting. That means pie, chocolate, and those beloved brownies are better left off your plate, which can be disheartening for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Is there any possible way I can have my cake and eat it too?

The common answer? Yes, thanks to sugar substitutes called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.

The FDA has approved artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute in healthy individuals and those living with diabetes. With the stamp of approval, a variety of sweeteners are on grocery store shelves in the form of tablets, quick dissolve pills, liquid drops, and the most popular: single-use sugar packets. The most popular brands of artificial sweetener include Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, and Sugar Twin.

Other sugar substitutes include sugar alcohol-based products. Sugar alcohols are a family of sweetening agents that naturally occur in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, but are mainly manufactured for large scale commercial use.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular sugar substitutes for diabetics.

By Carmen Johnson 03 May, 2017

I don’t want to sound like an old hen here, but it’s a shame how eggs have been exiled from our plates for the last couple of decades. Many have opted to ditch the yolk or shell out money for egg substitutes.

But scientists have worked hard to unscramble the facts about dietary  cholesterol  and heart disease. What they found is that eggs are far from the dietary demons they're cracked up to be.

Egg-cellent News

It’s true: whole eggs  and egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But what we didn’t know when we started clucking about eggs is that cholesterol from food has relatively little impact on blood cholesterol ( 3 ). In fact, most of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our liver, not by our lunch.

Studies show that, for healthy people, eating an egg a day does not increase the risk of heart disease ( 24 ). It’s actually saturated and trans fats that are the real culprits that can do harm to  heart health . So it's likely not the eggs, but more their wing men (think bacon, sausage, biscuits and butter) that we need to watch out for.

One more important piece of information to shell out: If you have heart disease or diabetes, speak to your Doctor or Dietitian about cholesterol and fat intake recommendations based on your specific needs.  

The Sunny Side of Eggs

When it comes to nutrition, eggs are hard to beat. One large egg packs in 14 essential vitamins and minerals, all for just 70 calories ( 1 ). Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain  vitamin D , along with  ironzinc , vitamins  AE  and  B-vitamins .

They’re also loaded with disease-fighting nutrients like  cholinelutein and zeaxanthin . The latter two help ward off age-related eye disease while choline is a key ingredient in brain function.

Another good reason to put eggs back in your breakfast is that each egg serves up 6 grams of high-quality  protein , making 2 eggs equal to a  serving of meat . Protein not only helps keep you full and energized all day long, it also helps regulate our blood sugars and staves off muscle loss as we age.

Get Cracking

There’s no shortage of local eggs with 179 registered  egg farmers  in Alberta. And there’s no such thing as a bad egg. Whether they’re white or brown, organic or conventional, all eggs have a similar nutrition profile. The only exception is eggs that come from hens fed a diet enriched in flax seeds, which has more  omega-3 fatty acids.

At around 20 cents each, eggs are an affordable way to get high-quality protein into any meal. Try some of these easy and convenient ways to add eggs to your diet.

  • Beat a raw egg with a little non-fat milk, pour it into a microwave-safe mug and heat for 30 seconds. Voila! A perfectly cooked egg in a mere minute.
  • Chop up hard-boiled eggs into quarters and sprinkle them over mixed greens.
  • Egg custards are a delicious way to add a little nutrition to your dessert.
  • Stuff a whole wheat tortilla with scrambled eggs, black beans and diced peppers for a healthy option any time of the day. Add some grated cheese, salsa and cilantro for extra flavour.
  • Frittatas and omelets are fast and easy to assemble. For a quick and easy recipe check out the  Garden Fresh Frittata recipe from the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  cookbook

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking!


References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Egg, chicken, whole, cooked, boiled in shell, hard-cooked . Accessed April 30, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp .

2) Hu, F.B. et al (1999). A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA ; 281 (15): 1387 – 94.

3) Lecerf, J. & De Lorgeril, M. (2011). Dietary cholesterol: From physiology to cardiovascular risk. British Journal of Nutrition ; 106(1), 6-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114511000237

4) Qureshi, A.I. et al (2007). Regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Med Sci Monit ; 13 (1): CR1-8.

By Carmen Johnson 27 Mar, 2017

I know what you’re thinking: how is a Dietitian ever going to spout the benefits of the spud?

No question taters have gotten a bad wrap. Their M.O. has salty, fried snack written all over it. Plus, known associates include sour cream, bacon bits and melted cheese. That would put a blemish on anyone’s record!

But trust me when I say it’s guilt by association. When you strip away the oil, the salt and the condiments, you’re left with a tasty tuber that’s packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In other words: there’s gold in them thar spuds!

Nutrition Nugget

I understand the fear. Rumours abound that potatoes (and carbs in general) lead to weight gain and a slew of health problems.  But a small baked potato (128 g) has 3 grams of  fibre  and 3.5 grams of protein, all for just 128 calories ( 2 ). They are also low in sodium and have virtually no fat. That is, before we throw them in the deep fryer and douse them in salt and gravy.

Another misconception: In many cases, if a food lacks color, it also lacks nutrition. But don’t let the pale potato complexion fool you: spuds are chock full of vitamins and minerals. One small potato has more immune-boosting  vitamin C  than a medium tomato and double the amount of blood pressure-lowering  potassium  than a banana. They’re also a good source of  vitamin B6magnesium  and  iron .

Tater Time

If you’ve been avoiding potatoes because of their high  glycemic index  (GI), it’s time to update your grocery list.

When was the last time you ate a skinless baked potato with nothing else? Never! What the GI doesn’t tell you is that as soon as you combine carbohydrate with fat, fibre or protein, the GI drops. That means a slower and steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream. Just like any starchy food, it's important to have them as part of a balanced meal and watch your portions.

This Spud’s for You

In Canada, we grow more potatoes than any other vegetable ( 1 ).  Alberta farmers  plant over 50,000 acres of potatoes each year. That’s a whole lot of hash browns! From Russet Burbank to Yukon Gold, your local farmers harvest some of the best in the world.

Potatoes are one of the most versatile and budget-friendly veggies around. Boil ‘em, bake ‘em, nuke ‘em or toss ‘em on the grill. But for heaven’s sake, put the peeler away! More than half of the fibre is in the peel.

Some tasty ways to enjoy your ‘taters:

  1. Top a baked potato with baked beans, salsa, shredded cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
  2. Make "smashed” potatoes by mashing purple, red and yellow baby potatoes with their skins on.
  3. Ditch the deep fryer and make oven-baked fries instead. Add a small amount of canola oil and your favourite spices to sliced potatoes. Toss and then bake at 450° F for about 30 minutes, flipping once.
  4. Transform leftover mashed potatoes into quick and easy salmon cakes or tasty potato pancakes.
  5. If you do peel, save your skins! By adding just a little oil you can bake them up into healthy homemade potato chips.

And when you're in the mood for comfort-food, make sure to try the potato-packed  Stovetop Shepherd's Pie by the  Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.


References

1) Edmonton Potato Growers Ltd. (2017). Fresh Potatoes. Accessed March 21, 2017 from http://www.epg.ab.ca/product-info/fresh-potatoes/

2) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Potato, flesh and skin, baked. Accessed March 21, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

By Carmen Johnson 16 Mar, 2017

St. Paddy's Day is just around the corner—and that means it's time to go green! If you're looking for a festive and delicious way to avoid getting pinched one fatty fruit will have you dancing a jig for joy.

When it comes to nutrition, the avocado is definitely a pot full of gold. Bright green, lusciously creamy, and full of vitamins and minerals, avocados are satisfying and good for your health.

Nutrition

If you grew up in the era of "fat makes you fat," you might still get a little squeamish when you see a bowl of the green stuff. Of course, avocados are called "nature’s butter" for a reason; they are loaded with fat. But don't let that scare you away. These babies are bursting with nutritional benefits!

Gram for gram, avocados have more blood pressure lowering potassium than bananas, are bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C and are an excellent source of folate—a B-vitamin that keeps the DNA in your cells working well ( 1 ). They also deliver lutein and zeaxanthin , two phytochemicals that keep your eyes healthy .

Unlike butter, their high fat content comes mainly from healthy monounsaturated fats  (the same type found in olive oil). Replacing foods high in saturated fats with mono- and polyunsaturated-rich foods can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase your HDL (good) cholesterol ( 2 ). If you have diabetes you're already at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, so it's especially important to make heart healthy choices ( 3 ).

Avocados also boast an exceptional amount of fibre . One avocado packs in a whopping 13.5 grams ( 1 ). For women, that’s half of your daily requirement! The fibre/healthy fat combo not only helps keep blood sugars in a healthy range, but it also keeps you feeling full for longer, which helps reduce overeating.

Go Green

If you're celebrating St. Patrick's Day and want to celebrate in style, you’ve got the luck of the Irish with this green food. Just remember, since the calories from avocado can add up quickly, it’s best to swap them in for less healthy items on your plate and watch your portions.

Try these tasty ideas to green-ify your St. Paddy’s Day menu:

1.    Start your day off with an energizing avocado smoothie.

2.    Spread mashed avocado on whole-wheat toast instead of butter.

3.    Replace the mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad with mashed avocado.

4.    Mash potatoes with avocado instead of sour cream or butter.

5.    Boost the fibre in your baking by using mashed avocado in place of butter.

There's a million ways to enjoy this lovable fruit. But in my opinion, none are quite as delicious—or as easy—as guacamole. For a quick and simple way to serve some green to your guests, try the Easy Guacamole  recipe from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook.

 

References

1) Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Avocado, raw, all commercial varieties . Accessed March 7, 2017 from https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Dietary fat, oils and cholesterol . Accessed March 7, 2017 from http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils

3) Public Health Agency of Canada (2011). Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective . Accessed March 7, 2017. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/publications/diabetes-diabete/facts-figures-faits-chiffres-2011/hig...

By Twyla McGann 03 Mar, 2017

There are a lot of foods trying to reel you in with claims about their supposed health benefits. The problem with these so-called superfoods is it muddies the water when it comes to other foods that are readily available and swimming in nutrition.  

But there’s nothing fishy when it comes to salmon’s health claims. Not only is it delicious; it's also full of potent heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus it's quick and easy to cook, making it a reel winner for busy families.

A Total Catch

When it comes to fish, salmon it truly the catch of the day. Its juicy pink flesh is brimming with protein and energy-boosting B-vitamins . It's also loaded with important minerals like potassium , selenium  and phosphorus .

But that’s not all: salmon is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D,  which is very important for bone health if you're living in the north, since it helps with the absorption of calcium.  

It's not a small amount, either! A three-ounce serving can contain as much as 500 international units (IU) of this superstar vitamin ( 1 ). That's more than 80% of the daily-recommended amount  for children and adults under 70.

Plus, canned salmon—with the soft edible bones—provides a generous amount of calcium. The calcium/vitamin D combo gives you a double-dose of bone-building benefits.

Mega Health Benefits

If that wasn’t bait enough, salmon is also loaded with heart-healthy, brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids . They're good for your ticker in a few ways, improving blood vessel function, reducing the risk of stroke and helping to lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease ( 2 ). That's just the beginning. They also reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.

Omega-3 fatty acids may also guard against type-2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease ( 3 ). Plus, they promote healthy nerve, eye and brain development. If that isn't enough to send you straight to the fish aisle, I don't know what is!

 

From (Fish) Farm to Fork

Chinook or Sockeye, farm-raised or wild-caught, all salmon is a healthy choice. To reel in all the benefits, Health Canada  recommends you consume fish like salmon at least twice a week. Thanks to flash freezing and air deliveries, it’s easy for even land-locked salmon lovers to enjoy this delish fish all year round.

Baked, broiled, grilled or poached—the possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking salmon. Just keep in mind although salmon is healthy, eating it battered and deep-fried isn’t going to do any wonders for your heart or your waistline.

Still not hooked? Try these tasty ways to enjoy salmon:

  • Grill salmon on the barbecue with lemon and dill for a healthy and tasty dinner.
  • Top a green salad with leftover salmon for an easy lunch on the go.
  • Make a salmon salad sandwich with canned salmon, a little mayo, diced green onions and celery.
  • Whip up some baked salmon cakes and serve with creamy dill sauce.
  • Toss flakes of baked salmon with cooked pasta and alfredo sauce for rich and creamy dish.

For a recipe that never flounders, try the Orange-Glazed Salmon over Sautéed Spinach  from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  Cookbook. It's o-fish-ally delicious!

References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Fish, salmon, pink (humpback), baked or broiled. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do

2) Heart and Stroke Foundation (2017). Healthy Eating: Dietary Fats, Oils and Cholesterol . Retrieved from: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/fats-and-oils

3) Mayo Clinic (2013). Drugs and Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid . Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/eviden...

More Posts
Share by: