We are excited to share more about this natural sweetener! To continue sharing more about the natural sugars we use, today, we’ll talk a little more about stevia and hopefully answer any questions you may have related to this sweetener!
What is Stevia?
Stevia is actually a sweet herb native to South America. It has been used for centuries as a sweet addition to foods (it has almost 300 times the sweetness of sugar!). The green leaves can be eaten fresh or can be used in foods, drinks and teas. Stevia is most commonly used in a liquid or powder form.
Why Do We Love It?
Because stevia is an herb and not a sugar, it’s a zero calorie, zero carb sweetener! It has little effects on glucose levels. Because of this, stevia is often the most turned to sweetener for those trying to lose weight or have other dietary needs. It’s a great sweetener to add to different dishes to help sweeten up the taste of treats without sacrificing low calorie or sugar intake.
Stevia is a healthy food, but there are many products and companies out there that do not keep their products as natural as possible. While all will claim to be healthy, not all of them are and if not careful, it can be easy to get confused. Many contain chemicals, added sugars and unhealthy artificial ingredients. Everyone can judge for themselves which product they feel comfortable using, but there are some we try to avoid. Some of these include: Truvia, Stevia in the Raw and Stevia Cane. Many of these contain maltodextrin, which is a sugar. Often they include harsh chemicals. Stevia is a plant that is so sweet it is completely unnatural to make a product that you can use in place of sugar “cup for cup”. If there is a stevia product that claims it is equal to sugar in use, it contains unhealthy fillers to create the extra bulk and sugar like taste. Please make sure to read the labels!
So what products are natural and healthy? It’s simple- plain stevia! The stevia we buy doesn’t have fancy names or titles. It’s just stevia. Plain stevia can be found in liquid or powdered form.
Both work great in dishes and can be used in the same ways, so it’s just what you prefer.
Stevia in liquid form makes adding that extra sweetness really easy and is gaining more popularity. However, some products contain extra ingredients like natural flavors and others, (mainly to dilute the sweetness and add extra flavors). Depending on what kind you use, the ingredients may differ. Many companies even have different flavored forms of liquid stevia like chocolate, vanilla and orange flavors. Our favorite is just plain stevia, with no other flavors added to it. In our experience, liquid stevia is a great addition to treats and gives just the right amount of sweetness.
Powdered stevia is also a great product. In some dishes, it can be convenient to have a powdered form to help stiffen or thicken a dish. We like the organic stevia from Trader Joe’s (pictured above). There are other companies that may add other ingredients to their powdered stevia like some of the liquid items, so be sure to check what they contain. There are also some controversies as to the processing of powdered stevia and how stevia goes from being a green plant to a white powder. Despite these criticisms, we are under the opinion that it is still a lot healthier than sugar, especially when used sparingly.
How We Use It:
Stevia is a unique sweetener in that it is used as more of an extract or seasoning to dishes and not to create bulk in a dish. You can never add say, 1/2 a cup of stevia to anything (unless you are using one of the unnatural products that we mentioned above) and therefore, when first using stevia, it can feel a little bit limiting. But using stevia in combination with other sugars allows us to decrease the amount of the other sweetener and still get the desired sweetness. It also allows us to be a lot more creative when thinking of other things to replace that sugar with. As we have tried experimenting with it, we’ve been able to successfully use it in combination with other sweeteners. As we have become more comfortable with it, we’ve found foods that work well with it so that we can create recipes that just use stevia as the primary sweetener.
Here are recipes we’ve made with stevia and other sweeteners combined:
Here are recipes we’ve made with just stevia:
An important note: Because stevia is so sweet, when added in excess, it can make a dish become bitter! Some stevia products have this ability more than others. We have found this to be especially true with powdered stevia. Liquid stevia may be diluted a bit so as to not give this strong effect. Regardless of which kind you use, add stevia slowly to ensure happy end results!
Where to Buy Stevia:
Stevia can be found at most grocery stores! We’ve seen liquid stevia (like Nunaturals, as pictured above) in the sugar isle or natural food section at our local grocery stores. We love buying it at Trader Joe’s,Whole Foods, and local health food stores.
You can also find stevia online. Some of our favorites sites include amazon.com and vitacost.com. Make sure to read the labels whatever product you buy to ensure it is purely stevia! We love having stevia in our kitchens as a natural sweetener option to add to our recipes. It’s one you’ll love to have to hand to make your treats healthy and a little bit sweeter!