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Nov 12 2014

Stevia – Healthy Sweetener

 

 

Candied apples

 By Jan Robbins, Nutritional Coach

 

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What Makes Stevia An Acceptable Sweetener?

With all the controversy about sugar, chemical additives, and artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet, Sweet’N Low, and Splenda, to name a few, it makes one wonder what is safe to use anymore. Just to let you know how very dangerous some of these artificial sweeteners are, Dr. Joseph Mercola writes on his web site that, “Splenda is not the only artificial sweetener that has been linked to leukemia. The longest-ever human aspartame study, spanning 22 years, found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and leukemia in men.”

If you think Aspartame is only in artificial sweeteners, think again. It is also listed, and well hidden under different names, in a lot of your condiments, powdered drinks, sugar-free desserts, diet foods, gum, candy, and flavored yogurts. In my mind, these are not “foods” at all and should not be put into your body.

DonutsA healthier alternative is to use natural sweeteners such as maple syrup, local, raw honey, coconut sugars, agave, or xylitol, etc.  In this article I want to focus on the herb, Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) which is a plant-based sweetener, calorie-free, and a useful substitute to artificial and blatant sugars.

Stevia has been used for hundreds of years by the natives of South America and is by far sweeter than sugar. It is known to be loaded with antioxidants, is anti-bacterial, and has a low-glycemic value which means it does not affect blood sugar levels. According to the Web MD, “Stevia is used as a weight loss aid; for treating diabetes, high blood pressure and heartburn; for lowering uric acid levels; for preventing pregnancy; and for increasing the strength of the muscle contractions that pump blood from the heart.”  If you want to stay away from unhealthy sugar forms and transition to healthier ways to maintain your sweet tooth, then Stevia might be the one for you.

The Different Forms of Stevia

Stevia comes in many different forms (unprocessed or processed).  It can be raw, green and unprocessed in a powder or in a simple form as cut or whole leaves. In the refined and processed form, you will find it in a white powder, tablets, or in a liquid extract. I like to be as natural as possible, so I use raw, green-unprocessed Stevia. Some people find that with raw Stevia there can be an aftertaste associated with it; after all it is raw and not processed. Then again, others just love the raw version and do not have that experience. Experiment with  different brands of raw Stevia to find your favorite. If you do not like the brand you chose, give it to a friend or family member to try and then you try a different brand.

You may also consider growing your own Stevia plant and drying the leaves or making your own tinctures from it. If you are not up for that, Stevia also comes in small packets of powder or in liquid extracts which have the bitterness processed out of them. This makes it easier to use and even though they are processed, they are much better than artificial sweeteners. Be advised that some of these processed forms on your store shelves are under specialty names or blends which have other additives like dextrose, natural flavors, or other hidden sugars added into them. Read your labels!

Dosage and Reactions

With all forms of Stevia you will definitely have to experiment with the dosage as to the levels of sweetness you desire. Start off with a small amount (even just a pinch or a few drops) in your coffee, tea, or drink and go from there because it oould get too sweet. On the other side of the coin, take care not to use too much Stevia because the bitterness factor can take over and turn you off real quick.

Chocolate cakeYou can use Stevia wherever you like to use sugar: to sweeten your drinks, lemonades, certain baking recipes, or in other dishes that call for sweetener. Check the Stevia to sugar ratio tables for use in recipes.

 

Below is a basic conversion chart from ehow:

A basic rule is as follows: 1 cup of sugar = 1 teaspoon of Stevia.

BASIC CONVERSION CHART

Sugar                 Powdered Stevia                 Liquid Stevia
1 cup                        1 teaspoon                       1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon         1/4 teaspoon                      6 – 9 drops
1 teaspoon            1/16 teaspoon                     2- 4 drops


Things to consider

If you have allergies to ragweed and related plants, Stevia might not be the sweetener for you as it may cause an allergic reaction. Always pay attention to the way you feel after eating and after using supplements, or new food items; everyone reacts differently. Look for any deviations, allergic reactions, tiredness, headaches, so you can connect the dots to what you have just eaten.

 

Stevia leaf (Stevia rebaudiana)

Stevia leaf

All it takes is a little awareness to find out what works for you and what does not work for you.  Use common sense when using natural sweeteners. You do not need to go overboard in the use of them because just like everything else, when used in excess they can cause problems. Also, I find it healthier to rotate natural sweeteners to avoid allergies and reactions.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. There are a lot of sugars and sweeteners out there, some natural and some unnatural. Instead of using artificial sweeteners which are filled with poisons and chemicals, why not try the Stevia herb (raw or liquid). It is sweeter than sugar, and the best thing about it is that it is calorie-free, has antioxidant and antibacterial properties, and does not spike your blood sugar to the sky! AND It is always good to try something new.

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Sources:

Mercola.com – CSPI Downgrades Splenda From “Safe” to “Caution”
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/26/cspi-downgrades-splenda.aspx

WebMD – Stevia
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-682-STEVIA.aspx?activeIngredientId=682&activeIngredientName=STEVIA

WebMD – Stevia FAQ
http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/stevia-faq-whats-next-for-the-sugar-substitute

NaturalNews.com – Stevia: The FDA’s Attack on a Beneficial Supplement
http://www.naturalnews.com/022234_stevia_health_studies.html

Stevia.com – Questions & Answers about Stevia
http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_Article.aspx?Id=2269

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Jan Robbins Certified Diet Counselor, Nutrition Educator, & Family HerbalistJan Robbins is a Certified Diet Counselor, Nutrition Educator, and a Family Herbalist. She received certifications from Bauman College and Dr. John Christopher’s School of Natural Healing. Over the years, she has taken many training courses in Nutrition, Herbs, Iridology, and Foot Reflexology. And has studied under renowned teachers such as Susun Weed and Dr. Bernard Jensen, as well as many others. She is also a Level II Reiki Practitioner. Jan looks forward to helping you and your family reach all your Healthy Notions.

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