Originally published June 24 2010
Stevia and Agave Nectar: Find the Right Natural Sweetener for You
by Danna Norek
(NaturalNews) Health conscious people have turned to two natural sweetener alternatives, stevia and agave nectar, thanks to increasing awareness of the dangers of chemical sweeteners. We are fortunate to live in an age where we have so many natural alternatives to potentially dangerous chemical sweeteners.
It took us a while to get to where we are now, with these natural alternatives available in mass markets. Saccharin was the first low calorie artificial sweetener to be introduced to the mass market in the late 1800`s. It is the same sweetener that is still used in some of the artificial powdered sweeteners we commonly see in those little colored packets today.
Saccharin was mistakenly discovered by a chemist when working on a different project in a chemical lab. It was then patented and mass marketed to the world as a sugar-free sweetener that was several times sweeter than real sugar. Saccharin enjoyed its hay day for a while before links to cancer and a bevy of other adverse health effects were revealed.
Today, these potentially dangerous chemical sweeteners remain on the market here in the US. What many people are catching on to though is that they have natural, safe options when it comes to low glycemic impact, low calorie sweeteners.
One of the most popular natural sweetener alternatives today, as previously mentioned, is stevia. Stevia is a naturally occurring, sweet tasting herb that can be crystallized and turned into powder for use and may also be used in liquid form.
Stevia is now sold under several name brands, and depending on the method of manufacture, it may be somewhat bitter or more on the sweet end. The common complaint is that stevia may be too bitter, especially when used in too high of a concentration.
Stevia has no blood sugar impact, and it is virtually calorie free. The leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant, which is the sweet variety of this plant family, are about 15 times as sweet as sugar.
This fact has made it a fierce competitor of its chemical counterparts. The FDA recently approved two additional stevia sweeteners, so you can expect to see more stevia-sweetened foods and beverages on supermarket shelves soon.
Another increasingly common natural sugar alternative is agave nectar, which is a sweet syrup derived from the blue agave plant. Agave was originally used to make tequila and was found to also make a sweet syrup when heated for several hours.
An important distinction between agave nectar and stevia is that agave does have an impact on the blood sugar. This impact, when compared to real sugar however, is negligible. It therefore has become a healthier sugar substitute for the health conscious.
There has been some debate about whether agave nectar truly is a healthy sugar substitute, but many swear by it`s naturally sweet taste and wide range of use in cooking. Agave nectar comes in liquid form and has the consistency of honey. It may be used for baking, but it will take practice.
When making the choice as to which natural sweetener is right for you, it is important to sample the different brands available and decide which one fits your needs and taste preferences.
About the authorDanna Norek is the owner and primary contributor for several natural health blogs and websites, where she frequently shares her experiences and knowledge on herbal supplements, natural remedies, vitamins, and healthy lifestyle habits. You can find information on a 100% natural, chemical free deodorant here at Natural Effective Deodorant and an all natural sebum-neutralizing, SLS, paraben and chemical free Acne Soap with lavender, lemongrass and tea tree essential oils here at All Natural Acne Soap.
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