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Stevia: A Safe Sugar Substitute

3/27/2012 2:04:00 PM

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If you are looking to eat less sugar, I have got an alternative that might be a good fit for your family. Since going sugar-free (for the most part) our families main go-to sweetener has been stevia. Here’s the lowdown on stevia and how to use it:

stevia

First the bad news about stevia:

• It does NOT taste just like sugar. It’s sweet and very concentrated, but it has a somewhat, faintly-licorice aftertaste. When baking with it, the aftertaste can easily be masked and you will only pick up the “sweetness” of stevia. But when putting it directly in a cup of tea or coffee, you will notice the aftertaste. So it’s best to use it when the flavor can be covered with other ingredients.  

• It is expensive compared to sugar. A good quality stevia (and only buy good quality brands!) such as Sweet Leaf, Now & Kal will cost approximately $6-$12.

Now the good news:

• It is an herb (a member of the of the chrysanthemum family). If you have a green thumb, try adding this herb to your garden.

• It has a zero glycemic index and zero calories. Personally, I am not concerned about calories but I am about the glycemic index (I would rather experience a low glycemic response from food).

• Stevia is very concentrated and much sweeter than table sugar (when baking, it is estimated that you need 1 teaspoon of stevia to replace 1 cup of sugar. When it comes to replacing stevia with sugar, you will need to fidget with your favorite recipes to get it just right).

• It is heat stable and can easily be used for cooking and baking. It takes some time to adjust to the reduced volume compared to sugar and to the taste difference. I try to bake primarily with stevia (and/or honey — I sometimes use 1/2 stevia and 1/2 honey). I now consider this my go-to sweetener in our household.

• Stevia companies such as Sweet Leaf are making flavored liquid stevia drops to use in everything from your morning coffee to baking. The drops come in flavors such as chocolate, chocolate raspberry, lemon drop, peppermint, root beer, vanilla crème and hazelnut.Sold at your local co op, whole foods or natural food store.



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