The natural sweetener that can help you lose weight AND lower your risk of diabetes
As you know, I always advise everyone to avoid sugar. It’s a metabolic disaster linked to diabetes, obesity, heart disease—and now cancer (as I will tell you all about in next month’s Insiders’ Cures).
And the idea promoted by some “experts” (aided and abetted by the sugar industry) that you just have to “balance calories” by “burning off” sugar is a metabolic myth.
You can’t outrun a bad diet, but you will wear out your joints, heart, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract by excessively exercising in a futile attempt to burn empty calories.
Using artificial sweeteners is no solution either. True, they’re zero calories, but a variety of studies show they still result in a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity—the very problems fake sweeteners are supposed to prevent.
Although scientists debate the mechanism, artificial sweeteners appear to stimulate our “sweet tooth” and the addiction centers of the brain to crave sugar from other sources.
That’s why I recommend learning to enjoy the flavors of natural foods like coffee and cacao (chocolate) without added sugar, or sweeteners of any kind. Eventually, you’ll begin to lose that urge to satisfy your “sweet tooth.”
Additionally, there are plants which stimulate your taste buds, but don’t contain saccharides (sugars).
Instead, they have naturally occurring plant chemicals known as saponins, which are often used in cosmetics and soaps due their tendency to foam when mixed with water. But instead of a soapy taste, these plants have a sweet flavor.
One example of these sweet plants is a Chinese melon called lo han guo. In 1995, Proctor & Gamble (which knows something about soaps) patented the process to make lo han guo into a natural ingredient.
I’m such a fan of lo han guo that I added it to my healthy aging dietary supplement, CoreForce BioBlend, to balance the flavor of another ingredient, rose hip powdered extract. (You learn more about CoreForce via the “Shop” tab at DrMicozzi.com.)
Of course, the bitter taste of any herb is frequently a sign of its strong health benefits. In fact, many bitter herbs are used in European aperitif and digestif drinks, before or after eating, to aid with digestion and stimulate the liver and gallbladder.
So while I caution that you avoid sweeteners in general, I do support the occasional use of natural sweeteners like lo han guo and stevia.
A sweet way to improve your health
Why stevia? Because there’s research showing that this sweet herb (with a slightly licorice taste) may help reduce body weight, lower the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and slash blood pressure. (For more on metabolic syndrome, see page 6).
In a new study, researchers at the Autonomous University of Yucatan in Mexico (which has a strong tradition of medical herbalism as well as modern research on herbs) examined extracts of leaves, flowers, and roots of stevia plants.1
They found that these plant extracts contain phytochemicals that have beneficial effects for health, as well as vitamins B and C; carotenoids; and the minerals chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Furthermore, in three studies, the researchers observed that rats and mice given stevia extract lost weight over a period of three to nine weeks. This backs up the results from previous studies showing stevia’s role in weight reduction.
And a 2015 study found that stevia-sweetened beverages reduced blood glucose levels and insulin levels following a meal, unlike drinks containing sugar or artificial sweeteners.2
Another study showed that 250 mg daily of stevia extract reduced blood pressure after three months.3 The authors proposed that stevia be researched as an alternative treatment for diabetes.
My view is that stevia can be safely used as a sweetener (when you occasionally want to use one). Unlike some other natural sweeteners, it has the distinct ability to work well in recipes for both cooking and baking—including some of my holiday favorites, like brown-butter sweet potatoes, apple cinnamon crisp, and even apple caramel cheesecake.
Of course, you should eat sweet treats sparingly, if at all. But you can indulge in these kinds of dishes during the holidays when you use natural sweeteners like stevia and lo han guo.
And if you’re preparing a dish, there are plenty of websites featuring modified recipes including these natural sweeteners.
I encourage you to make the switch from sugar as soon as possible. Not only will you reduce your risk of health complications, but you’ll also be able to truly enjoy the holiday season without the health risks associated with sugar.
2“Sucrose-replacement by rebaudioside a in a model beverage.” J Food Sci Technol 2015;52:6031–6036.
3“A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension.” Clin Pharmacol 2000;50:215–220.