So, what is Stevia really?

August 02, 2012

Stevia rebaudiana, is often called sweet leaf, sugar leaf or simply stevia. This herb, which is a member of the sunflower family, is native to North America, and grows very easily in gardens throughout Ontario. It has been used for hundreds of years by those who recognized it for its super sweet properties.

Stevia contains a substance known as steviol glycoside, which is responsible for its super sweet taste. In fact, stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but does not raise your blood sugar. The sweetness has a different quality than sugar though, in that it isn't perceived right away by the tongue, but after a few seconds. The pay off for the wait is that the taste hangs around far longer than sugar's quick flavour. 

Some Stevia extracts have a slightly bitter aftertaste. experimentign with different brands will help you to find which you prefer.  My favourite brand is Nature's Harmony Sweet C Liquid - which also contains a very small amount of vitamin C.

Over the years as with many, many other health products, stevia has undergone criticism regarding safety. And although some research has speculated that some of the breakdown products of stevia may have negative health effects, the majority of the studies dispute this and show even show positive health benefits.

As with all good things, a little goes a long way. Using stevia in small amounts, and believe me that is all you need, is the safest bet. Stevia extract can be purchased in powder or liquid form. The herb can also be grown in the garden or a pot and the leaves used to sweeten tea. Most healthfood stores and many grocery stores are carrying this sweet product as the demand increases.


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