Whole Story

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Uncover the Secret of Stevia

By Alana Sugar, May 10, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar

I’ve said it before: Americans love sugar. In practically everything! Yet it’s a rare one of us that doesn’t know that we need to cut back, and for some of us, maybe even avoid it altogether. Food manufacturers have known this for a very long time. They constantly seek to meet the demands of the American taste buds while at the same time trying to follow “healthy” guidelines and standards set forth admonishing us all to reduce our sugar intake. Their answer? Artificial sweeteners. They’re in everything from yogurt to flavored water, ice cream to iced tea and hot cocoa mix. But not here.

Just take a trip down the aisles of any Whole Foods Market and you won’t find ANY products containing any artificial sweeteners. These purely synthetic compounds do not exist in nature, so it’s no surprise our human bodies may be ill-equipped to handle them. Enter stevia, the sweet secret known for years by the natives of South America and eventually adopted by European colonists. The stevia plant originally comes from the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay where it is known as the “yerba dulce” or “sweet leaf.” It’s still available in those regions, and it’s also now grown in Japan, Korea, Thailand and China where it’s commonly used. Today, the greatest use of stevia is in Japan. Stevia gets its flavor from various glycosides, particularly stevioside, which is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It has no calories, minimal to no carbohydrates and a glycemic index of zero, After only allowing stevia as a dietary supplement for many years, the FDA has approved the use of certain stevia extracts in food products, making way for a variety of new products to enter the market.

One such new natural sweetener, Truvia™, is turning up in conventional grocery stores as well as natural food stores nationwide. Stevia is available in powdered white or powdered leaf form, or as a liquid extract. The white powdered and liquid forms are the strongest, so start with just a pinch. You can use it in beverages, baked goods, custards, puddings, frostings and sauces. It is heat stable, up to about 400°F, so you can use it in practically any recipe. Remember that it is not sugar, and when baking, it does not act like sugar. It won’t caramelize and brown your baked goods so some recipes won’t work with stevia. Ready to try some stevia?

Start here:

  • Use it in your tea or your coffee, hot or iced
  • Add to yogurt or cream cheese
  • Add a pinch to a fruit salad
  • Stir it into strawberries
  • Add to oatmeal or other hot or cold cereals
  • Add to popsicles
  • Bake with stevia; here’s a “Stevia Info” guide to help out.

Have you ever tried stevia? Do you bake with it or use it in beverages? I would love to hear!

Category: Healthy Eating




anne says ...
i tried stevia, but shortly after eating it, i became extremely light headed and nauseous. not sure if that is a common side effect, but it disturbed me greatly. i will not be using stevia - or any other artificial sugar. i have cut my refined sugar intake a lot.
05/10/2010 9:22:55 AM CDT
Food Makes Fun Fuel says ...
The place that I like liquid stevia most is in my yogurt to jazz it up. I always carry a few packets in my pocket when I'm out for coffee
05/10/2010 9:33:18 AM CDT
Lily says ...
Does it work for people with diabetes?
05/10/2010 9:33:18 AM CDT
Katy Long says ...
My mom is growing a stevia plant and I ate one of the leaves the other day. It is amazingly sweet and, mercifully, does not have that "fake" sweetener taste, which I cannot abide. I do try to minimize the amount of sugar I consume, however, I cannot tolerate artificial sweetener and have learned to like most things without it where I need to save calories, such as in drinks. I now prefer tea and coffee unsweetened. But I'll be glad to use stevia to sweeten cereal and baked goods for my son since it's a natural, sweet, no calorie product. I will be able to feel good about giving him a sweet treat filled with natural, healthy ingredients. (I never allow him artificially sweetened treats.)
05/10/2010 10:00:48 AM CDT
Jackie Smith says ...
I have been using Stevia for only about 2 years. I found it a little bitter at first and used a little sugar or other sweetener with it, now I love it in a cup of tea or occasionally some ice tea and don't' think it is bitter at all. I think we as America are just too used to a sugar taste. I would LOVE to be able to buy a drink or food item with stevia in it. I have also used it in strawberries, with just a touch of raw sugar (the sugar brings out the "juice" in the strawberries and it freezes better)I am looking forward to reading more on cooking with it and am going to read the tips given here soon.
05/10/2010 10:10:34 AM CDT
Karen Goeller, CSCS says ...
Informative article, but WHY would you add stevia, a sweetener, to a popsicle or to yogurt? They already have sugar in them?
05/10/2010 10:18:18 AM CDT
Megan says ...
I've been using Truvia in my coffee for a few months now and I LOVE it. It doesn't have that horrible aftertaste like artificial sweeteners. I also drink a lot of Zevia soda - which is made with the stevia plant. It's a nice alternative to diet soda (and regular soda)! Tastes great. In response to an earlier question about Diabetes, it does work! I looked into it initially when I had gestational diabetes and needed a sugar-free fix without the guilt of artificial sweeteners.
05/10/2010 10:19:59 AM CDT
Cindy says ...
We switched to Stevia years ago. There is no after taste to it and no chemical flavors. There are wonderful flavored liquids for coffee, tea, or water, too! Flavors such as English Toffee, Grape, Orange, etc. We use so much less than sugar that a bottle of powder lasts a VERY long time in our house. The news of the FDA approval is wonderful!
05/10/2010 10:30:47 AM CDT
Catherine says ...
I've been using stevia now for a few years and love it; especially in liquid form. I carry a small dropper bottle in my purse so I have it with me at all time. I like 'sweet tea' and stevia helps me get it as sweet as I want with out the bitter taste or hazards of the other artificial sweetners and without the calories of regular sugar. Thank goodness for Whole Foods and other organic stores that carry the 'real' stevia....
05/10/2010 10:51:20 AM CDT
Harriet says ...
I use stevia in both the liquid and packet form, which I purchase from the health food store. The Truvia which is sold in the grocery stores I have not tried, and I do not plan to really. It is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol, which causes gastric disturbances for many people. Since other sugar alcohols do upset my stomach, I prefer to use the health store version which is not mixed. Since I have diabetes, I need to use it, and I would love to try the truvia as a sample; but I don't want to invest in a box of it which I probably would not be able to use.
05/10/2010 10:53:29 AM CDT
Dawn Needham says ...
I don't like to use stevia, and I seek out products that don't have added sugar -- like salsa, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter. I'll just keep doing that so my taste buds don't get used to things tasting sweeter than they should.
05/10/2010 11:05:03 AM CDT
Stephanie says ...
I have been using Stevia in place of sugar or artifical sweetner in my coffe and tea for a while now. Unlike artifical sweetners, Stevia has no ill effects. Not only do I feel good when I use it, I feel good about supporting those producing it!
05/10/2010 11:17:50 AM CDT
Jennifer P. says ...
I have been using Truvia for a little over two months. I really like it and have no troubles with it at all. In fact, it is a little too sweet to use an entire packet for most things, so I use 1/2 packet. Use in smoothies, lattes, oatmeal. Haven't used to bake yet.
05/10/2010 11:22:07 AM CDT
Elysha says ...
My children like the flavored liquid stevia. The best are the vanilla and chocolate. We add it to milk and plain yogurt.
05/10/2010 11:30:21 AM CDT
Lora says ...
I love Stevia! I grew it in my garden last summer. The leaves are amazing! Sweetness like you've never tasted before. I have used stevia extract in beverages and I am a fan of Truvia. I do not like any artificial sweeteners though. Stevia has helped me cut out a lot of sugar in my everyday life.
05/10/2010 12:03:07 PM CDT
Melissa says ...
Although I'm very happy that there are natural alternatives to chemical artificial sweeteners, unfortunately Stevia still *tastes* artificial to me - and my kids. :( I have no objection to labels on products containing Stevia saying they don't contain "artificial sweeteners" but would really prefer a clearer label like "sweetened with natural Stevia" so people (like me) can avoid it if they wish.
05/10/2010 12:37:28 PM CDT
M Tung says ...
I use Stevia every morning in my coffee, in my iced tea, smoothies, sugar-free cereal and oatmeal! Have yet to bake w/it, though. It's fantastic, but the best part is the weight loss that comes along with giving up regular & artificial sugars. One does go through a withdrawal period, just like you would with anything else being eliminated from diet...caffeine, simple carbs. My kids have yet to complain. I don't think they're even aware of the change in their diet.
05/10/2010 1:05:24 PM CDT
VALERIA says ...
I'm brazilian and the only way we use " erva doce" is as TEA for babies( gas_) and adults. however i will try it. just because i'm a big whole foods fan and I trust this brand
05/10/2010 1:14:55 PM CDT
franni says ...
I have tried Stevia but have a terrible time trying to regulate the amount to use. I switched to Agave nectar but hear now it is not much different from plain, old sugar. I'll try Stevia once more...
05/10/2010 2:06:35 PM CDT
Terrie says ...
I use stevia regularly to sweeten my tea and I was thrilled to find recently that Vitamin Water has reengineered their low-calorie drink so that it has zero calories and is sweetened with stevia. I love it!
05/10/2010 2:26:38 PM CDT
Debbie Moreno says ...
My Lymphatic thereapist turned me onto stevia. I love it. Right now I just use the powder packets for ice tea., but I hope to cook something with it soon. I bought the big bag of powder to cook with. Can not wait to see what happens. I downloaded several recipes from the stevia website. We shall see.
05/10/2010 3:55:44 PM CDT
Debbie Moreno says ...
In answer to the diabetic question. I am diabetic and have noticed a lowering of my sugar to a more controllerable number. I also gave up all soda pop and lowered my sodium intake. I lost 100 lbs in 8 months. I also have systemic lupus, severe RA, dermatomyositis, and osteoparosis. Stevia has helped me change my drinking habits. I only drink ice tea mostly decaff.
05/10/2010 3:59:38 PM CDT
Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says ...
How is the stevia processed? How does it go from the plant to the powder or extract form?
05/10/2010 5:39:02 PM CDT
Michelle says ...
Natural or artificial, it's still an added sweetener. In a dropper bottle, it is also not a "whole food".
05/10/2010 10:08:10 PM CDT
susie says ...
I've been using stevia for about 8 months and it's a gold mine..just get the container of the powder with little shaker holes, put it on the tiniest holes and just shake once or maybe two times. Perfect for your coffee,tea,cereal,anything really. It's surprising how long a little bottle lasts!
05/11/2010 10:58:36 AM CDT