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What is Stevia Sweetener?

Updated on December 7, 2012

Why Change to a Natural Sweetener?

We all know sugar is not the best food in the world. But many of us don't realize the amount of sugar in our diet. And what is stevia sweetener anyway?

Drink one can of soda or eat a few cookies and the sugar rush is on. Our bodies are buzzing on sugar fixes and crashing on the way down. It's a lousy energy cycle that combines useless calories and overeating binges to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Artificial sweeteners come straight out of the lab. Whether it's Splenda or Aspartame, anything artificial usually has a downside. Don't let the agribusiness industry decide what is best for your body.

I've made my choice based on two things. First, I'm always in favor of natural over chemical concoctions. Nature has the advantage of time for testing out the product. Second, the problem with artificial sweeteners is the unknown effects on humans after long-term use.

Time to make a change based on decreasing your sugar intake and reducing your risk to artificial substances. I choose Stevia as my sweetener.

The Whole Stevia Plant vs Partial Stevia

Pure or Highly Purified?

Take time to sort out all the science and labeling mumbo-jumbo to choose the right Pure Stevia product.

Artificial sweeteners are big business, so Stevia is not too welcomed on the sugar substitute aisle. Let me try to give you a primer on the regulatory runaround of food additives. Part of it is agribusiness pressure, the other part is plant science.

Stevia is a natural plant (Stevia rebaudiana) within the sunflower family. Commonly known as sweetleaf, sugarleaf or just stevia, the leaves are the sweet part.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration approved of the extract Rebaudioside A taken from the leaf as a food additive, but not the whole leaf. So agribusiness manufacturers started using this extract to make new products like Truvia and PureVia that contain other ingredients too.

What does this all mean? Well the FDA answers with the following:

"These highly refined Stevia preparations in food products ... are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS): Sweet Green Fields, Blue California, McNeil Nutritionals, Cargill (makers of Truvia), Whole Earth Sweetner/Merisant (makers of PureVia).

But, these products are not Stevia. In general, Rebaudioside A differs from Stevia in that it is a highly purified product. Products marketed as "Stevia" are whole leaf Stevia or Stevia extracts of which Rebaudioside A is a component."

Check the labels for pure Stevia or for listings of other ingredients.

Is Stevia Safe? A Medical Opinion on Sweeteners - Let Dr. Mercola Explain Stevia Benefits

An Introduction to Stevia - Reduce Your Sugar Load

Test Your Tastebuds With Stevia

Personal Preferences Matter

Nobody can tell you what Stevia tastes like, even though everyone tries. We all have different taste preferences and taste buds. So who can say what's too sweet, too bitter or too chemical tasting?

Reviews of Stevia products are not very practical because we all have to go through the taste test. Most of us will agree that a dab of Stevia is super-sweet compared to table sugar. But that's where the agreement stops.

I never used artificial sweeteners, so I can't compare Stevia to those alternatives. I do agree that Stevia has a bit of an aftertaste that leans towards the bitter side. But the overall sweetness and economical usage more than compensated for any taste changes.

Is reducing your sugar consumption to near zero worth a month or two of accepting the taste difference. For me, that's a no brainer. For others, Stevia may not suit their taste buds at all.

My preference is to use the powder extract over drops or packets.

My Favorite Stevia Sweetener Uses

No More Spoonfuls of Sugar

What's the best thing about using Stevia? I never open the sugar bowl anymore.

Here are my favorite ways for using Stevia sweetener almost every day. Just think how much sugar is not going into my body.

Coffee or Tea -- I finally got down to using just 3/4 teaspoon of sugar in each of my 3 cups per day. Now it's zero. Just a smidgen of Stevia gives the right sweetness for my morning cuppa.

Oatmeal -- As a healthy practice I tend to eat the same things each day and a bowl of oats starts my day off. I used to dip into the honey jar, but now I sprinkle a dash and keep the calorie count down.

Green Smoothies -- I drink most of my green vegetables to get more green goodness in my diet. My smoothies are so thick that they should be called sludgies. A tiny spoonful of Stevia powder sweetens one blender full of veggie power.

Protein Powder Drinks -- Bananas usually sweeten my protein powder drinks, but sometimes there are not ripe enough. So a hit of Stevia ensures my meal replacement mixture still tastes good.

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