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Stevia ~ The Super Sugar Substitute!

stevia

We have all heard about the detrimental health effects of sugar. What if you need something sweet but don’t want to ruin your health? One alternative that has come about is Stevia. It is being called the “super sugar substitute.”

What Is Stevia?

Stevia is a natural sweetener and an alternative to sugar. It is produced from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. These leaves have been used by South Americans for years as a sweetener and for medicinal purposes. The shrub grows naturally there.

Stevia is produced in crystal form like sugar and also in liquid extract. It is said to be over 300 times sweeter than sugar. You won’t have to use as much to get the same sweet result. A teaspoon of sugar provides 15 calories. One packet of stevia is equivalent to two teaspoons of sugar and provides only 5 calories. The body treats all sugar the same, so less is always preferable to more. With stevia, your caloric intake won’t add up as quickly.

Health Effects of Stevia

This sweet substitute wasn’t approved in the US by the FDA until 2008. It was found to be safe for human consumption without causing health problems. Using a substance such as this can lower sugar intake, thereby helping sufferers of metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes and other conditions. It may be easier to wean oneself off of sugar this way.

When it comes to cooking, however, sugar will still be needed. Stevia doesn’t brown foods like sugar and won’t ferment yeast for breads. It doesn’t provide the same bulk to foods as sugar because it is such a concentrated sweetener. Some bakers have mixed stevia with sugar to lower the calories in baked desserts.

Just like any other substitute in the body it is important to know about side effects. While Stevia is ruled safe by the FDA, some consumers have experienced dizziness, bloating, nausea and muscle pain. These are not common effects, however. Because stevia is manufactured from a plant, those who are allergic to ragweed might experience an allergic reaction while using stevia.

Stevia can interfere with some medications so inform your doctor if you are using it as a sugar substitute. Stevia interacts with lithium, medications for diabetes and some medications for high blood pressure.

Just like with sugar, try to use the smallest amount possible whenever you can. Since it is so much sweeter than sugar, one packet should suffice for coffee and tea.  Test the sweetness as you add the stevia to ensure you don’t add too much.  One of the nice things about Stevia is that Stevia can be bought in liquid, tablet, dried and powder forms, plus if you need the feel of “sugar lumps”, Stevia can be found as “sugar lumps” too!

Will Stevia replace sugar? Probably not, but it does offer a viable alternative to those trying to reduce the amount of sugar that they consume as part of a healthy lifestyle.


 

 

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