By: Dana Yarn, RDLD
When I meet with clients and we go over their current food logs I typically discover a vice or two. One of the vices typically involves sugar or artificial sweeteners. Stevia is my only approved none calorie sweetener, and thank goodness it is becoming more and more mainstream. We all love some sweetness, but we have to learn how to control our cravings so it does not destroy our health. If you are new to using stevia or would like to learn more about it, this basic guide will help you source a high-quality stevia product you can feel confident about.
Is Stevia really a plant?
Stevia is an herb that is anywhere from 50 to 450 times sweeter than sugar. It has a long history of use in South America in the treatment of diabetes and reducing blood glucose levels. Stevia is calorie-free, carb-free, sugar-free and does not increase blood sugar. Home improvement store actually sell the stevia plants.
What do I do with Stevia?
Stevia can be used in cooking and baking and as a sweetener for drinks like tea and coffee. High-quality stevia is a healthy alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stevia acts synergistically when used in combination with other sweeteners.
How are the packets or bottles of stevia processed?
There are two different processing methods used to extract the glycosides, which are the sweet compounds, from the stevia leaves. The healthiest and safest process starts with non-GMO stevia leaves and uses only cold water for extraction. Another process of extraction, that is deemed a safe “sweetener” by the FDA, is chemically driven, using acetone, acetonitrile, methanol, ethanol and isopropanol for extraction and oftentimes starts with genetically modified stevia leaves. Obviously the first method is the more natural way to process stevia leaves, typically the natural processed stevia products can be found on the natural food isle, NOT by the other artificial sweeteners.
There is a growing number of stevia options on the market, however, they are not all the same in quality, taste, bitterness or sweetness. High-quality, non-GMO, pure white, powdered stevia extract, is highly concentrated. As little as 3/4 of a teaspoon has the sweetening power of 1 cup of sugar. Five to seven drops of clear liquid stevia is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar.
What I use
NuNaturals and SweetLeaf are two honest brands that provide stevia products at a high quality level that can be trusted. Both of these companies start with non-GMO stevia leaves and use cold water for extraction.