Stevia is an extremely sweet, non calorific herb that has been used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer for centuries. Unfortunately its use within the USA has been virtually impossible in recent years due to the fact that it has been handled as if it were an illegal drug. However more recently it has been decided that it can now be sold legally in the USA provided it is called a dietary supplement.
With obesity reaching epidemic proportions, alternatives to sugar have been very high profile. Artificial sweeteners have been deemed detrimental to health and have even been cited as a causal factor of weight gain. Many people who have a weight problem also have a sweet tooth and find giving up sweet foods very difficult. Stevia, unlike the artificial sweeteners on the market does not mimic sugar in the same way and so has a very beneficial part to play in the diets of many obese individuals. Stevia has actually been used in South America for centuries to treat Type 2 Diabetes.
Stevia is in fact commonly known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf. Its extracts are 300 times the sweetness of sugar and amazingly has a zero calorific value. It will come as no surprise therefore to know that cooking with stevia can take a little getting used to. The most important thing to remember is not to use too much as this can result in excessive sweetness and an after taste. One suggestion is to start using stevia with other natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.
Recipes for beverages sweetened with stevia will often be measured as a liquid concentrate. Stevia is sold as a white powder or as dried or powdered leaves. In order to make the stevia liquid concentrate you must purchase the white stevia powder.
Stevia is sold in 4 different varieties:-
• fresh leaves – the most natural unrefined state
• dried, crushed leaves – this variety released more sweetness and flavour
• stevia extracts – this is the white powdered extract that is approximately 200-300 times sweeter than sugar(by weight)
• liquid concentrates – this can be made from the white powder and preserved with grapefruit seed extract or may be a syrupy black liquid made by boiling the leaves in water