Featured Foods: Stevia

In looking to low-carb diets, sugar-free foods or simply keeping the calories low, stevia is a must have. I love it and I use it everyday.

You've heard the expression:

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.

Well, my sweet-tooth and I have this battle, but Stevia is my secret weapon. I can satisfy my sweet tooth and my mirror at the same time.

Now, I'm a foodie, so I'm picky about my ingredients. Though I enjoy the experience of varying diets, I'm not one of those who thinks that tofurky (fake turkey made of tofu) actually tastes like meat, or that the food dehydrated raw pizza tastes like the one fresh out of a wood-fire oven. I can appreciate rice, almond or soy milk for their individual flavors, but you'll never see me acting like it tastes like milk. So, when I talk about stevia being my secret weapon, it's not with sacrifice to flavor or enjoyment of my food. I find the times it works and don't use it when it doesn't.

When substituting anything in an existing well-loved recipe, you get one of the following:

  1. It's disgusting - It completely destroyed everything that you once loved about the dish and you wonder why anyone would defile it so.
  2. It gets the job done - It's not exactly the same, but the differences are subtle and you find yourself satisfied with the outcome.
  3. It's different, but good - It changed the dish enough to be considered a new recipe and you're glad to be able to open up your repertoire.
  4. It's just right - It's like you never changed anything. Everything you loved and craved about the original recipe is intact and you pat yourself on the back for finding a way to sneak healthier food into your family and yourself.
  5. It's better - You had no idea that perfection could be improved upon, but you are delighted that you took on the task of experimentation and discovered pure bliss.

So, which one will stevia be? All of them - truly! It all depends on the brand of stevia and the recipe. I've had all of these experiences already and I still feel like I've only just begun experimenting with what I can make. Don't get too discouraged though; you don't have to do all of these experiments yourself. I'll give you some of mine and add the successes to the yb-recipes section. Please, share your personal experiences and favorite recipes in the comments below, so we can all learn together. Then bookmark this page for future reference.

Stevia plant rowsWhat Is Stevia?

Stevia is a natural sweetener and sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species native to South America (Genus Stevia, especially S. rebaudiana, native to Paraguay). Stevia is about 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has no carbohydrates, calories, or artificial ingredients.

Why Should I Care About Stevia?

Stevia is a sugar alternative. There are many compelling reasons to reduce your daily intake of sugar - particularly added sugar. Here are a few:

“Excess sugar is linked to changes in metabolism, increased blood pressure, liver damage and interference with hormone signaling. Lustig and colleagues argue that many of the health effects caused by drinking too much alcohol are, in fact, also caused by eating too much sugar.” CNCA Health - The Dangers of Sugar: Is It Really That Bad?

You can check out more research here.

Obviously too much sugar is a bad thing. Stevia helps keep you from eating too much sugar…without sacrificing the sweets.

Things You Should Know About Stevia

Like all sugar substitutes, stevia has a stronger sweetness per volume than sugar, and it still has a mild aftertaste (depending on how much you use and what brand you use). Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is all-natural, and has no negative side effects.

My Favorite Brands of Stevia

The two best brands of stevia are Kal Pure Organic Stevia and Now Better Stevia Powder. They have the least aftertaste of any other brands we've tried (and we've tried a lot). 

Kal Pure Organic Stevia ExtractKal Pure Organic Stevia

Kal Pure Organic Stevia was is still our top choice for most recipes. Of all other brands (that don't include fillers), this is the one with the least aftertaste and most sweetness. That means that a little bit goes a long way, so the investment really pays off. Because it is so sweet, however, some find it difficult to get a small enough serving for things that require a much smaller serving size, like sweetening individual drinks.  

1/2 TEASPOON of Kal Organic Stevia is the equivalent of one CUP of sugar.

Now Better Stevia Powder

Now Better Stevia

Now Better Stevia Powder is distinctly better than its liquid form. We'v found the liquid to have quite an aftertaste, so don't discount the powder if you've had a negative experience with the liquid. (Again, some people don't mind the aftertaste of other stevias or even artificial sweeteners. If that's you, then enjoy the convenience and variety of flavor options with the liquids.)

Now Better Stevia Powder is not quite as sweet as other brands, which makes it much easier for measuring out the small amounts you'll need when working with something that's so much sweeter than sugar.

1 TEASPOON of Now Better Stevia Powder is the equivalent of one CUP of sugar.

Imaging how little you need to add to a drink. One cup is 16 tablespoons (48 teaspoons). If you like a tablespoon of sugar in your drink, then you'd only use 1/16th of a teaspoon of Now Better Stevia.

Tips For Using Stevia

Let's talk about when stevia works and when it doesn't. Truly, everyone will have to form his or her own opinions on this, but there are a few factors that help you decide:

  • Already using a sugar substitute? This healthy switch will be easy.
  • Sensitive to certain flavors (like me)? You'll find some limitations.

I don't like it in my coffee or black tea, but I can always use it in baking, smoothies, and fruity herbal teas.

Baking, baking, baking - One of the best places to use stevia, without having to worry about any added flavors, is in baking.

The absolute best tip I have for you is this:

Cut it in half - 1/2 Stevia & 1/2 sugar

If the flavor of the Stevia is too strong, a simple use 1/2 Stevia & 1/2 sugar/honey/maple syrup (or even 1/4 stevia & 3/4 sugar - transition it in until you find the right blend). This will work best for keeping the desired taste while still cutting the sugar in your diet.

Note: This doesn't mean _ of the same amount of Stevia, but instead cutting out _ the other sweetener and adding the equivalent sweetness in stevia. Again:

1 TEASPOON of Now Better Stevia Powder is the equivalent of one CUP of sugar.

1/2 TEASPOON of Kal Pure Organic Stevia is the equivalent of one CUP of sugar.

So, if a recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar, simply put in 1.5 cups of sugar and either 1.5 teaspoons of Now Better Stevia Powder or 0.75 teaspoons of Kal Pure Organic Stevia, and you'll have cut the sugar in half without missing out on the sweetness.

Each brand has its own sugar-to-stevia ratio, so check the package of the stevia you've purchased before you measure out sweetener. Still, the above ratios should give you a good starting place. Also, the scoop that is inside of these stevia containers is roughly 1/32 of a teaspoon.

Where To Buy Stevia

Buy now at iHerb     Buy from Amazon

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