I am Diabetic, and to my mind, Stevia has to be the top choice of all the sugar substitutes available. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates and unlike many of the other sugar substitutes , WILL NOT increase your blood sugar levels.
If you are Diabetic, or one of the many diagnosis signaling Prediabetes, Stevia can be a life-saver. Many people do not know that some artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda can increase blood glucose levels as much as sugar does. If you don’t know about this, it can drive you crazy. You watch your blood glucose levels go through the roof, not knowing why!
Stevia is often called a natural sugar-free alternative. The truth is … it CAN be totally natural if you grind up the leaves and use the green powder. However there are also manufactured versions of Stevia in which the word “natural” becomes questionable!
You can purchase Stevia in many forms
- Ground powder (direct from Stevia leaves — green powder)
- Processed white powder. This is so sweet, a few grains on the “thin” end of a toothpick is all you need to sweeten your tea or coffee. The challenge is that measuring out such tiny quantities is almost impossible.
- Because the powder is so sweet it is easier to use “drops” of Stevia liquid
- Spoon-for-Spoon: using fillers to mimic sugar quantities
- One of the many specialty brands claiming ownership to Stevia or Stevia mixtures
If you want totally natural, you can grow your own Stevia plants, dry and grind the leaves to make your own Stevia powder. People in South America have been doing this for well over 1500 years.
In Japan, Stevia has been available as a sweetener for over four decades.
The US sugar lobby managed to get Stevia banned from the shelves in the 1990s unless labeled as a dietary supplement. It was finally allowed as a food additive in 2008.
Because it has almost NO effect on blood glucose levels it is of special interest to diabetics and those choosing low carbohydrate diets such as the Ketogenic Diet. It is pretty well the only sweetener, purists allow on a Paleo diet.
In several of the more recent studies, Stevia has also been reported as helping reduce hypertension (high blood pressure.)
Stevia is over 300 times sweeter than sugar
Our reaction to various sweeteners varies from person to person because of our taste receptors. Many people say they get an “aftertaste” from Stevia or find it bitter. One of the reasons for the bitterness or aftertaste could be that they are using too much of the sweetener.
With Stevia there is a very fine line from great to awful. ONE extra drop from your Stevia dropper can take you over the edge from perfect to horrible.
Stevia is available from over a dozen different manufacturers and in various forms including:
- powdered stevia leaves (green powder)
- refined white powder
- spoon-for-spoon mixes resembling sugar
- and a variety of liquid and flavored liquid dropper bottles.
If you are using Stevia as a sweetener for your tea or coffee, the best choice is a Stevia liquid. You can not only get plain Stevia liquid but dozens of flavored varieties. Of course, the manufacturers want to make money for the “onerous” task of creating the liquid, so a small dropper bottle could cost up to $20. You can make your own Stevia liquid in less than 10 minutes for less than 1/10 the price. Check out my money-saving recipe here.
I use the concentrated white powder only in baking and cooking. You may only need less than 1/2 a teaspoon for an entire recipe. NO heaping or rounded teaspoons allowed. Level it off flat, otherwise you might overdo it and get that metallic aftertaste.
IF you have been (or are) addicted to sugar, you may find “something missing” in the sweet taste of Stevia. As you are weaning yourself off sugar you might try mixing xylitol or erythritol with Stevia. In your baking try mixing the two half-and-half. You will also find that over time your taste buds will adjust and will actually find sugar to be way way too sweet.
I tried to explain the “missing” sugar taste to some friends. The closest I could come was the difference between Coke and Pepsi. Many people can’t tell the difference in blind taste tests. This is especially the case if you grew up when both brands were available. However, if you grew up in an era where only Coke existed, you can probably do blind taste tests and tell the difference every time. There is a very SPECIFIC Coke taste!
The same thing happens when you grow up eating sugar on a daily basis. When you start using sugar substitutes you notice something different, something “missing.” This missing element will eventually disappear.
Diet product manufacturers often mix several artificial sweeteners together in order to come closer to the “sugar profile.” If you become a devoted label reader you will notice these mixes right off: Splenda and Stevia, Splenda and Aspartame, Aspartame and Saccharin and many others.
The problem of course, is that even healthy natural sweeteners will keep us addicted to the “taste” of sugar. You can wean yourself off the taste of sugar by going cold turkey, or just having a bit of patience as you get used to less and less sugar — including artificial or natural sweeteners.
In the early 1990’s an anonymous complaint to the FDA resulted in Stevia virtually being banned from US consumption. In order to sell Stevia it had to be labeled as a dietary supplement. Even with this obscure labeling it was difficult to find and almost impossible to purchase.
It took over 15 years for Stevia growers, manufacturers and health devotees to beat the Sugar Lobby at its own game.
Be very careful when using recipes with Stevia in them. The big problem is that many authors fail to tell you what FORM of Stevia they are using. There is a GIGANTIC difference between spoon-for-spoon Stevia and Pure White Concentrate Stevia. If the recipe calls for one teaspoon, one tablespoon or one cup of Stevia, the recipe author has likely used spoon-for-spoon.
Most of the time you will use Stevia in EXTREMELY small quantities … 1/32 or 1/16 of a spoonful. My suggestion is to get these great “small quantity” measuring spoons.
Sweetness can also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you like a recipe using one manufacturer’s product, then stick to that brand. If you change to a different brand, be cautious and use slightly less product at first. Add more once you do a taste test. Yes, this is one time to stick your finger into the cake batter or to eat a small ball of raw cookie dough!
Depending on where you are at in your sugar habit busting journey, you may prefer to try the recipes using half Stevia and half xylitol.
Over the years I’ve tested numerous brands of Stevia. Here is an Amazon link to the brand I like the most … it also happens to be one of the cheapest.
PURE STEVIA POWDER
This is the bulk power I consistently purchase. It is available in 100 gram (a little less than 4 ounces), 250 gram (about 1/2 a pound) and 1 kilogram (just over 2 pounds) quantities. I find that for my individual needs a 250 gram package will last about a year. My friend Chef Joe, purchases this is 1 kilogram quantities for a family of five … they make huge quantities of their own sweetened juices and soda fountain bubbling drinks.
While you are on Amazon, check out some of the other Bulk Supplements products … I have never gone wrong with this company’s products.
If you want ORGANIC .. this company consistently gets great reviews. **NOTE I have NOT tested this brand.