Stevia is a low-glycemic, zero calorie sweetener that gets a lot of praise in the health community. Diabetics love it, and so to people trying to keep their sugar consumption low for general health reasons or weight control. Since stevia is a natural product, made from the leaves of the stevia plant it’s been the saving grace of many people who are trying to keep their diet as natural as possible. Unfortunately it seems that most, if not all commercial Stevia is anything but natural. Many commercial brands - including Organic brands - of stevia contain maltodextrin which is just a fancy name for sugar derived from corn. Stevia also contains Silica - also known as Silicon Dioxide - this is a naturally occurring mineral found mostly in quartz and sand. A trace amount is needed by our bodies for certain functions particularly that of bone strength and the strength of connective tissue. However, silica is easy to get from plant foods and is not something you need to be concerned about supplementing, as many if not all plants foods have trace amounts of it for the simple reason that they get it from the soil they’re grown in. Getting silica in this way is one thing, ingesting silica in the form of a food additive is another. Some studies have suggested that silica as a food additive can be toxic. If not processed in the right way, and if a food product contains more then 2% silica it can have ill-health effects. Studies have also suggested that people taking silica supplements over a long period of time can suffer from kidney deterioration.
Unfortunately Silica is used in many food products. Particularly pre-packaged foods, powdered foods, and drinks. Mostly as a caking or absorbing agent. Interestingly enough it’s also used to make glass, and cement. Crystalized Silica Dioxide is considered toxic if inhaled,. Little packets of silica gel are also used to prolong the shelf life of dry goods, and those packets as you’re probably well aware are considered toxic if ingested.
I find all this a bit concerning. Silica when ingested in trace amounts in your produce and grains is fine, but ingested as a food additive? I’m not convinced it’s safe, and I definitely don’t think it should be mixed directly into stevia.
Unfortunately Silica additives are not the only thing to be concerned about with commercial brands of Stevia. Most, if not all of them also contain maltodextrin which as I already said is just a fancy name for sugar derived from corn. Maltodextrin is not safe for diabetics and should not be ingested by them because it spikes your blood sugar just the same as regular table sugar. Commercial Stevia should not be aloud to be marketed as safe for diabetics, it’s not.
After discovering this on Friday I went to my local Whole Foods, and my local independent health food shop and at both places I found every single brand of Stevia to contain maltodextrin, and/or silica, plus a host of other filler ingredients. This was very upsetting, because I like stevia. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now, ever since I found out how toxic Splenda is. When I buy stevia I expect to be buying the pure thing, not a bunch of fillers. Not to mention potentially hazardous and toxic agents, and GMO’s. Since maltodextrin comes from corn it is most certainly GMO unless derived from non-GMO corn.
Commercial Stevia is expensive, about $8 a box depending on the brand and where you live, and they’re totally ripping us off. Since the Stevia is cut with so many fillers you’re really not getting that much pure product. Commercial Stevia may only actually contain 10-15% actual stevia! So we’re being cheated.
After doing a bit of online research I discovered that true pure stevia powder is actually green. It’s a tad grainy and doesn’t dissolve as well in liquid. Though it supposedly settles at the bottom of a glass - like tea leaves I suppose. It’s also super sweet, from what I’ve read a ½ tsp will sweeten a 58 ounce pitcher of tea! Pure stevia is more expensive of course - anywhere from $12-21 a pound but it goes a long way. You can by the pure leaf powder on Amazon.com and there are a few other independent websites that sell it as well. Just make sure that you double check to make sure that what you’re getting is the pure leaf powder, it should be green and contain no other ingredients.
I purchased some pure green stevia powder yesterday morning and eagerly wait it’s arrival. If you're diabetic, concerned about your health, or don't want to ingest GMO's, Toxins, and fillers i suggest you do the same!