Consumers are eating and drinking too much sugar, but natural sweeteners may help cut calories while keeping taste.
Excessive sugar consumption is linked to chronic health conditions. The American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams, about nine teaspoons, of added sugar a day; women should only have no more than 25 grams, which is six teaspoons daily. The reality? Americans consume an average of 77 grams of sugar a day.
But Americans are interested in cutting back on sugar. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,883 adults living in the United States, 58 percent said they tried to limit sugar in their diets in the previous 30 days.
Skipping sweeteners can be tough for consumers but healthy, natural sugar alternatives like stevia can be a good choice. Stevia, a natural sweetener, comes from the stevia rebaudiana plant native to Brazil and Paraguay. It’s 200 times sweeter than table sugar but it has zero calories.
Research shows stevia may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. For example, a small study of 12 diabetics who consumed stevia with a meal had greater decreases in blood sugar levels compared to those in the control group who were given an equal amount of corn starch.
“We really feel a responsibility to our consumers to present the finest quality products available in stevia,” says Carol May, CEO and chairman of SweetLeaf Stevia®, the first stevia sweetener to receive Generally Recognized as Safe status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The sweetener, which has won 36 awards for taste and innovation, has no calories, no sugars, zero carbs, a non-glycemic response, and no artificial sweeteners.
“We are plant based,” says May. “Our products did not develop in the lab. They developed in the field.”
SweetLeaf has been consumer focused since its start. May’s late husband, James A. May Sr., launched the company in 1981 after being introduced to the stevia leaf in Paraguay. He dreamt of naturally replacing sugar with this sweet herb.
“I believed in him and he believed with all his heart in this little leaf that had been presented to him and what it could do for people all over the world,” she says, noting at the time no one in the United States or Europe knew about stevia.
The couple believed in the product so much that they sold every asset they had except their home, car, and college funds for the couple’s five children.
“We made no money for the first four years,” says May, who explains the business started in their garage and family room in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Nowadays SweetLeaf Stevia is sold in 35 countries. It’s number one in market share in natural and health food stores and number two in grocery in the United States.
“We’re the largest user of organic stevia in the world,” says May.
She says the University of Toronto Glycemic Institute tested their stevia and concluded, “Our product did not have a glycemic response which means it won’t raise blood sugar.”
Currently, SweetLeaf Stevia products include sweetener, sweet drops, water drops and more. Up next the company is developing a line of sugar free syrups, baking mixes, drinks and monk fruit products.
May encourages all consumers, including consumers who are diabetic or simply sugar conscious, to be aware of their sugar intake and to do the right thing for their bodies.
“We want to be the tool to make it very supportive of their good choice to improve their health and feel better,” she says. “Just enjoy life better and have a longer, healthier, happier life.”