Friday, April 6, 2012

What is Stevia?

At the advice of my doctor and because regular sugar encourages growth of bacteria and would further my dysbiosis, I am using Stevia extract to naturally sweeten any desserts or drinks I make. I have been known to have a sweet tooth, so Stevia has been a lifesaver.

Lifesavers.....yum. Actually I don't like lifesavers, but thought the play on words was appropriate here. You don't have to tell me I'm a dork, I know.

What is stevia? According to the Google dictionary:


Noun: A composite herb native to South America (Genus Stevia, esp. S. rebaudiana, native to Paraguay) whose leaves are the source of a noncaloric sweetener.

Stevia has been found to be a safe, all natural alternative to artificial sweeteners and refined sugar and does not affect blood sugar. It has been used in the treatment of sore throats and cold sores due to its mild anti-bacterial properties. Studies also show it inhibits the development of plaque and aids in the prevention of cavities. Stevia is also 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, so you use less. Sounds great, right?

 Did you know that Stevia has been used safely in South America and in Japan and many other countries for over 40 years? So why has it taken so long for Americans to be able enjoy Stevia? Some believe there has been pressure put on the FDA by competitors to decline the past requests for approval so they didn't have to share the market. That has now ended due to the demand for a safer, natural and lower-carbohydrate sweetener.

When shopping for Stevia, I found there were many different kinds, and brands that combine stevia with other ingredients, which to me, negates the natural qualities of Stevia.

The natural stevia can be bought ground or in liquid extract form and is minimally processed. Now Foods is the is the kind I prefer to use. It is pure stevia in a base of water and 11% alcohol, like a vanilla extract would be.  I use Now Foods brand for many of my supplements and trust the quality of their products.

Now Foods Stevia Extract, 8 Fl Ounces

I also like Trader Joes organic stevia extract in a small jar.  The box of stevia packets contain rice maltodextrin, which is a carbohydrate that can affect your blood sugar!  I had a negative effect from theis kind earlier in the week and have since cut it out in place of the pure extract. Also, this is a way for a company to bulk up on other ingredients and make more money while only using about 1/1000th of the actual product you want.

Then there are products like Truvia, which combines Reb A and erythritol,  and Pure Via combines Reb-A + erythritol +  isomaltulose + cellulose powder + natural flavors.  What are these mystery "natural flavors", anyway? They very well could come from GMO's or a form of monosodium glutamate, who knows.

What can you use stevia to make? It is safe in baking, so I use it to add a little sweetness to my carrot cake and zucchini walnut muffins, my favorite dark chocolate Paleo brownies that go very quickly in this house, or to iced tea or a latte. Right now I'm making some low carb hot chocolate with coconut/almond milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and stevia. It's quite tasty. Maybe next week I will write about cooking with Stevia. Sound good?  I thought so. Stay tuned!

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