What is Stevia?

stevia leavesStevia has been around for centuries, but it’s only recently that it has gained much recognition as an alternative sweetener.  What is Stevia, and how do you use it?

Stevia is a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It comes in powder extracts, liquid form or Stevia leaves (fresh or dried).  Some countries have accepted it as a food additive or sugar substitute while others consider it as a dietary supplement.  It’s basically like sugar, adding sweet taste to food and drinks.  But that’s also where their similarity ends – its sweet flavour.

It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and zero GI (glycemic index). So it’s effective for those with diabetes or hyperglycemia, though if you suffer from diabetes or hyperglycemia, as with adding anything new to your diet, it would be wise to consult your doctor first before you use Stevia. Unlike sugar, Stevia is natural, healthy and even offers some health benefits.  Just how great is Stevia for our health?  Well it’s:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-septic
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-glycemic
  • Anti-hypertensive

It’s natural and promotes general health and wellbeing that’s why it’s becoming more popular as a sugar alternative.

Stevia in Cooking and Baking

You can use Stevia in cooking and baking just like sugar, with some caveats. In baking, you may need to use half Stevia, half sugar for some recipes. Since many forms of Stevia can be much sweeter than sugar, you often will need to use a lot less to pack the same sweetness punch. Most store-bought Stevia sweeteners will tell you what ratio to use. Dried Stevia leaves can be 10-15 times sweeter than sugar, so if you’re cooking with the dried leaves, you’ll want to start off with a small amount and flavor to taste.

  • Enhances flavour. Stevia’s sweetness can bring out food’s flavors, like sugar does
  • Non-fermentable, so not suitable for making fermented foods and drinks.
  • Heat stable or heat resistant
  • Water soluble, just like sugar
  • Does not brown in baked goods like sugar does. If you want your baked good to brown, you’d want to use half Stevia and half sugar (or another sweetener, like honey or maple syrup).

Some people notice an “aftertaste” with Stevia. Mixing it with sugar or another sweetener, like honey or maple syrup, makes a big difference here.

Products that contain Stevia such as tea, tablets, toothpaste, mouthwash, food, beverages, etc. can help you improve your health and lifestyle.  What’s even better: Stevia has been developed by many companies using excipients that ensure that its taste is as close to cane sugar as possible so you will not miss your daily sweetness intake, but without the adverse affects of cane sugar.

On Skin, Face and Hair

Not only is Stevia good for your insides, but you can use it in DIY beauty recipes! Here are a few tips to get you going.

  • Can be used as a natural cosmetic ingredient or applied as a facial mask, which tightens skin and smoothes wrinkles
  • Helps heal skin problems like dermatitis, eczema, acne , itchiness, seborrhea and blemishes
  • Rapidly heals skin cuts, scratches, blemishes and lip sores without leaving scars
  • Treats scalp problems like dandruff when used daily
  • Constant use leaves lustrous and healthy hair

Other useful information about Stevia

Stevia contains several all-natural nutrients, such as chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc, Vitamin B3 and more.  It’s being used in drinks, teas, candies, ice cream and other consumer products by companies and countries around the world.  It shows no toxicity risk and poses no threat to one’s health and only has positive health claims. After more than 60 years usage in Japan, for example, no adverse reactions or findings have been recorded against Stevia.

Stevia provides us with a better alternative to processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. I guess that’s the best proof that Stevia is good for our health.

Sources (pdf alert!):

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by alberth2

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4 thoughts on “What is Stevia?”

  1. I bought Truvia brand Stevia and it tasted salty to me. Is that the aftertaste you were talking about? It was very off putting, is it better to sweeten things with a strong flavor (I used it in tea)?

    1. I had the same experience with stevia – that bitter aftertaste really got me. Some folks say it’s better mixed with another sweetener – like half sugar/honey/maple syrup, half stevia, but I haven’t tried it. Let us know if you do!

  2. There are some legitimate concerns about Stevia. You can check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest website for more accurate info than I can present here.

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