Stevia Natural Sweeteners
December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
My husband Ed and I grow a stevia plant in our garden. It’s really just an ornament and curiosity for us, but we like to impress our visitors with the sweetness of stevia by taking a leaf of stevia and a leaf of peppermint and roll them together and offer it as (what my husband like to call) Indian candy. It is quite delightful to munch on as we work in the garden.
There are 240 species of the genus Stevia, and the plants are native to South America, Central America, and Mexico, with several species found as far north as Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Maybe that’s why our little plant does so well and comes back year after year, because we have a mild climate (and we love it).
In an effort to reduce our sugar intake, we began using stevia as our sweetener in our coffee and tea. In the beginning, the stevia I got had a bitter after taste. Some liken the taste to licorice, and can be more pronounced in the extract. Rebaudioside A has the least bitterness of all the steviol glycosides in the stevia plant. Some companies are working on masking this bitterness so the product can be used more commercially.
Stevia is very healthful. There are virtually no calories, and it will not raise blood sugar levels. Stevia can be used in a diet for those with blood sugar problems (like diabetes). One should always consult a health professional before consumption if you do have these sorts of problems. It does not hurt the teeth and actually inhibits the development of plaque! Stevia is 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar.
The official name is Stevia Rebaudiana, and according to Stevia.com “is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. The glycosides in its leaves, including up to 10% Stevioside, account for its incredible sweetness, making it unique among the nearly 300 species of Stevia plants.” And according to Wikipedia, “the United States banned stevia in the early 1990s unless labeled as a dietary supplement, but in 2008 approved rebaudioside A extract as a food additive.”
We have to be alert to how this natural product may be processed, and with what ingredients. Will it continue to be healthful?
Here’s are three stevia sweeteners I’ve tried:
- Wisdom Naturals SweetLeaf Sweetner
Ingredients: Inulin soluble vegetable fiber, Stevia leaf extract.
They claim theirs is chemical-free, allergen-free, Gluten-free and non GMO.
- Trader Joe’s Stevia Extract
Ingredients: Stevia extract and Lactose.
They claim theirs is 100% natural and calorie free.
- Stevia Extract In The Raw
Ingredients: Dextrose, Stevia Leaf extract
They say their stevia is blended with dextrose, a natural carbohydrate derived from corn, to produce the 100% natural, zero calorie sweetener.
CAUTION! Dextrose is corn sugar. It wouldn’t bother me so much, but much of our corn these days is genetically modified and use systemic pesticides. I personally would avoid consuming dextrose because of this, and be careful where you get your corn and corn products from these days. But it’s so prevalent! This is a topic for another day, as is colony collapse disorder in bees. Linked to systemic pesticides!