Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Sugar, You Say? Try Stevia

Those on a fertility diet know the first thing that needs to get cut is sugar. Particularly processed sugar, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. Sugar negatively affects blood sugar levels, leading to hormonal imbalance. It’s also known to compromise our immune systems. Not good at all when you’re trying to conceive.

But sugar seems to be in everything (and not just the cookies and cakes). It’s added to our breads, cereals and a host of other off the shelf products. If you flip over the package and look for grams of sugar, you may see it listed there. Or you might see “cane sugar” listed as one of the ingredients.

(Side note: There are some natural sugars that are OK in small, moderate amounts, which don’t adversely affect blood sugar levels. They include honey, natural maple syrup and brown rice syrup. It can sometimes be difficult to tell how much of these natural sweeteners have been added to packaged foods, so I would just avoid these foods too; or consume in small amounts.)

Going no sugar means giving up on all those products and searching out alternatives. No cooking or baking with sugar, either, of course. And artificial sweeteners are most definitely out.
There is a healthy, natural alternative, though, and it’s called Stevia. Stevia is an herb said to be ten to fifteen times sweeter than table sugar, and it has a negligible effect on blood sugar. (It’s even been reported to lower blood sugar.)

The stuff is usually sold in one of two forms: liquid in a dropper bottle or dry powder either in one container or in convenient individual packets. The form in packets can contain rice maltodextrin and silica (to keep it dry), so I wouldn’t go crazy and overload on too many packets in a day. I would also opt for the pure extract with nothing added. Check labels!

Personally, I use the powdered form for convenience, sprinkling it on my no-sugar, no-wheat cereal, which I eat about twice a week.

I haven’t done this yet, but apparently Stevia is great for baking too. In fact, I think of Stevia as a great work-around diet trick for all those who love sugar, or like me, just need a little of it here and there. You can get all of the sweetness without any of that evil sugar.