Stevia is all the buzz in health food circles, dubbed the no-calorie, no-carb sugar substitute with a zero glycemic index. But what is stevia? With artificial sweeteners emerging as potentially dangerous and natural sweeteners still spiking blood sugar levels, stevia is one of the best options out there so you can have your cake and eat it too. Learn how it can benefit you.
Stevia’s legacy dates back more than 1,500 years when it was used by native Guarani Indians in Paraguay. Today, it is mostly grown in Asia and South America, but is widely available and harvested around the world. In Japan, where aspartame is banned, stevia has been used since the 1700s as a sweetener in many commercial foods and beverages. After being banned in the U.S., under allegations that it was “unsafe”, an accusation that many believe came from the artificial sweetener industry, by 1994 stevia was accepted as a dietary supplement, not a food additive and in 2008 the FDA deemed it "generally recognized as safe" status.
But, what is stevia good for besides taste? No compelling study or practical use has linked stevia with harmful side effects, and because of its lack of influence on blood sugar, it has been embraced by the diabetic crowd. A long-term study indicates that stevia may also be effective in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Because of its antibacterial properties, stevia has been used to treat acne and oral ailments. And because stevia has no calories, unlike sugar’s 16 per teaspoon, it can be a handy side-kick in your trek towards weight loss.
When processed and packaged, stevia emerges as either a powder or a liquid. Powdered stevia is good for baked goods. Liquid stevia is exceptional for beverages and other recipes that simply need a sweet tang. Note that stevia is some 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a very long way and should be used with a less-is-more mindset.
Here are some delicious recipes that use stevia to help you get started and explore stevia’s possibilites:
- Iced Tea
- Watermelon Smoothie with Fresh Mint
- Velvety Vegan Chocolate Mousse
- Vegan Frappuccino
- Superfood Chocolate Candy
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