The stevia plant is incredibly sweet and also incredibly good for you. The leaf is 30 times sweeter than sugar while extracts are 300-400 times sweeter.
Benefits of Stevia
- Weight management: Stevia rebaudiana contains no sugars, calories or carbohydrates.
- Cravings: The ‘honey leaf’s ‘ sweet taste lasts longer than sugars.
- Diabetes and Hypoglycemia: the ‘sweet leaf’ does not create an insulin response and actually nourishes the pancreas which helps regulate blood sugar.
- Cardiovascular: ‘Sweetleaf’ lowers blood pressure.
- Fights Cavities: The ‘sweet herb’ is antibacterial and it’s sugar like compounds do not feed oral bacteria.
- Skin Care: When used topically in liquid form helps smooth out wrinkles. Antibacterial properties also helps with acne.
- Good Digestion: The ‘candy leaf’ taken with meals as a tea improves digestions and soothes stomach upset.
- Fights Yeast Infections: ‘Sweet Chrysanthemum’ does not feed candida or other yeast and it fights is slightly antibacterial and anti-fungal.
An easy way to think about Stevia is that it is the exact opposite of white sugar.
- For centuries the native peoples of South America have used this common plant with no side effects.
- Japan has been using stevia and stevia extracts as a sugar substitute since 1971 with no known problems. Japan even uses it in its soft drinks.
- Somehow in many parts of the world – stevia has been banned or restricted even though comprehensive research reviews by the World Health Organization and other scientific organizations has shown no safety concerns when it is taken in normal amounts. (Any food particularly if extracted can be taken too much.)
- For example, stevia was banned as a sweetener in the US but allowed as a ‘dietary supplement’.
- Because the stevia plant itself cannot be patented and easily profited upon, it challenges the established sugar and artificial sweetener industry. The extracts can be patented. Companies like Coka-Cola have developed their own derivatives which have been approved by the FDA since 2008.
The quality and benefits will be dependent on two factors:
- The variety of stevia plant used. In the same way, there are hundreds of varieties of apples in the world – all with different tastes and slightly different nutritional properties that grow in different climates – there are also different varieties of stevia.The best is currently is currently thought to come from South America where it originated.
- Processing. At Real Food for Life, we emphasize REAL FOOD – whole food because this is what our bodies have evolved to consume. The more highly processed a food becomes and the farther you get away from the whole food – the less the health benefits and greater the risks. (see Why We Eat Vitamins- Why We May be Wrong)
Some stevia extracts are so isolated that they have a bitter taste and so other artificial sweeteners have to be added.
Some commercial stevias have been extracted solely with alcohol solvents. (usually the white powder form) This alcohol solvent leaves the sweet taste but can take away some of the health benefits. Some studies have shown negative effects from stevia. They are usually using the improperly processed form.
Highly processed “stevia” such as Truvia is not real stevia by the time it goes through refining. Chemical solvents are added during the refining process which includes acetonitrile, found to be toxic to the liver and is a carcinogen.
How to Use and Buy Stevia
It is available in many forms:
- The Fresh Leaves is in its most natural, unrefined state. A leaf from a stevia plant chewed is very sweet and can be used in tea but is not suitable for cooking.
- Dried Leaves are much sweeter than fresh ones comes in bulk packages. It also comes as a finely green powder.
- Stevia Extract in the form of a white powder. It usually has a bitter chemical aftertaste due to being highly processed making it acid forming and in our opinion, not a real food.
- Liquid Stevia made from white powdered stevia mixed with water which is not any better than the white powder.
- Liquid Stevia directly extracted from the leaves with acidic alcohol is not something we want to be adding to our food even in small quantities.
- The liquid Stevia directly extracted from the leaves with water is the best for cooking.
The best stevia will, therefore, be the one which retains some whole food value and is water based. Liquid forms will be less processed.
Our choice – stevia without the bitterness
- We have tried dozens of varieties and have our favourite.
- It has no bitter aftertaste. One darker form has a sweet licorice taste – the other has a fruity taste.
- It is one of the more expensive brands but is completely safe and the highest health benefits.
- It is in a whole food form and is concentrated with water and no preservatives.
- It is formulated with chrysanthemum flower which enhances its antibacterial antifungal properties.
- It is only available online. Let me know if you are interested and I will help you get some.
How to use stevia in cooking:
You can’t replace sugar or honey on a cup-for-cup basis with stevia — the herb is much sweeter.
1 cup sugar = 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia
1 tablespoon of sugar = 6 – 9 drops liquid stevia
1 teaspoon sugar = 2 – 4 drops of liquid stevia
These are just rough guidelines as you have to take into consideration the fact that there is bulk also being eliminated. If you are new to using stevia, I recommend that you try some of my recipes first.
Hermit Cookies These are wonderful.
Gingerbread Cake: This is delicious and unlike many desserts is very balancing to your health.
Lemon Water: AKA Sugar-free lemonade