11 Nov 2008

Stevia the Natural Sweetener

Stevioside from the stevia plant has been used as a natural sweetener by the South American Guarani tribe for hundreds of years. Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni an Italian botanist came across it at the end of the 19th Century causing it's use to spread over most of Latin America. From the 1970's it became very popular in Japan and they have conducted vast research on the plant and found there to be no negative side effects unless taken in massive doses. Other countries where it is now popular are South Africa, China, Germany, Malaysia, Israel and Korea.

Sadly the US, Canada and Europe have not totally given their stamp of approval as yet but the good news is that with the Coca-Cola Company and Cargill having decided to isolate and use a compound from the stevia leaf, under the name of rebiana, for use in their products instead of the artificial sweetners normally used, stevia will probably get the Worldwide approval it deserves.

Being anywhere from 30 to 100 times as sweet as sugar depending on whether the leaf, powder or syrup used plus which commercial brand is used. Basically a few leaves or 1/8th teaspoon of the powder per cup of tea or 1 teaspoon instead of a cup of sugar in baking. Some complain there is an aftertaste but the fact it is low glycemic with no calories it has become very popular. Stevioside goes under many other names like sweetleaf, sugarleaf, honey leaf, sweet chrysanthemum or simply stevia.

Ongoing research has shown that stevia has many benefits other than as a sweetener. Internally it helps lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, it has a regulating effect on the pancreas and helps stabilize blood sugar levels so useful to diabetics and hypoglycemics, non addictive, prevents cavities, anti aging. Plus of course the major benefit of weight loss due to the lower calories/kilojoules consumed. Used externally it is said to heal cuts quicker, soothes eczema and other skin disorders, eliminates dandruff, improves the health and luster of the hair and is also said to retain natural hair color. Stevia contains many nutrients.

Diabetics should consult their health provider to balance their medications with the stevia due to stevia's power to stabilize blood sugar levels as mentioned above.

Stevia plants can be grown at home in any frost free area. They also make great indoor container plants and are very attractive when flowering. They require good drainage as they dislike their roots to be soaking wet. In Summer light, frequent watering recommended.

Always use the exact amount when cooking with stevia, otherwise you could have an over sweet but bitter result if too much used. Baking not as easy with stevia as it lacks the ability to add texture, caramelize like sugar, ferment yeast and goods do not rise as well. Stevia is great to make some wonderful desserts and cordials.


Gluten Free Dairy Free Muffins Mix #124781
By yycsandy at RecipeZAAR
Make your own mix for easy and quick gluten free , dairy free muffins or cake.

Muffin Mix
1 1/4 cups rice flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar or 1/8 teaspoon stevia powder

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container for future use. The second ingredient is sweet white rice flour. I have tried to change it on here before. The sweet white rice flour is a bit more " glutenous than the plain white rice flour.

To Make Muffins
2 eggs / Egg Replacement
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1/3 cup soymilk or water or fruit juice
1/2 cup currants, raisins, nuts or berries (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together eggs/egg replacement, vanilla, oil, soymilk and add to one cup of muffin mix. Beat until smooth. Fold in currants. Spoon into greased or paper lined muffin tins. Bake 375 F oven for 12 - 15 minute. Makes 6 muffins.
Variation Orange Cake: Use orange juice for the liquid and some orange zest. Spoon dough into greased 8" round cake pan. Bake in preheated 350 F oven for 20 - 25 minute. Makes one 8 " round cake.

Classic Lemonade/Limeade
From SteviaSmart

4 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp stevioside or 2 tsps stevia blend or 4 packets
ice cubes

In a pitcher, combine water, lemon (or lime) juice, and stevia. Stir until stevia dissolves. Add more stevia in very small increments if you like it a little sweeter.
Serve over ice or chill till serving time. Makes 5 servings

Easy BerryBerry Couscous Cake
From Stevia Info

Couscous Cake
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup couscous
juice of 1/2 lemon
dusting of stevia extract
pinch of sea salt

Berry Topping
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup water
4 to 5 tsp. agar agar flakes
dusting of stevia Extract
pinch of sea salt
2 to 3 tbsps maple syrup

Cake: Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in couscous, lemon, and stevia. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes. Rinse a 9" springform pan or shallow non-aluminum bakiing dish and spread the coucous firmly into it. Allow to set about 1 hour.
Berry Kanten Topping: Bring all ingredients except maple syrup to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the maple syrup. Set aside at room temperature until the kanten sauce begins to set, about 20 minutes. Then spread it over the cake. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Servings: 8
Cooking Tips: Instead of water, you can cook the couscous with Stevia GingerLemonade or vanilla soy or rice milk.

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Marion said...

I'm so glad Stevia is coming to the forefront. I grew it outside on the Coast and will try again here. As you say, it can come in for the Winter. I have yet to see it in bloom however.

Being a diabetic, stevia works very well for me. Thanks, Jackie!

Nicole said...

I use Stevia regularly and am glad to see your posting on it. Awesome blog!

Elizabeth M. said...

Hi Jackie! Just found your blog and really like it! I also love love love essential oils (and stevia)
So nice to meet you. if you have time, come over for a visit to my blog...
I'm working on a post right now about ingredients to avoid in personal care products...will post it soon...I'm so used to essential oils that any synthetic fragrance is offensive to me now.
So glad to have found you. Have a great day!

Anthony said...

This is fantastic. I can definitely see a new sweetener coming to your house.

Sorry we're not in touch much since I left Blog Village, Jackie. I hope you'll join me for my three-year Blogiversary Celebration Carnival.

Look forward to hear from you.

Saurabh Shastri said...

Thanks for sharing this knowledge about Stevia. I was unaware about this herb.

Shinade said...

Oh my is this the product used in Coca cola's Zero?

I think it is the tops among all diet sodas on the market as far as taste.

You can barely tell it is a diet soda at all. Especially if it is very cold.

Oh my if it is then I too can't wait for more companies to use Stevia.

Maybe now that we are finally done with this insane election process of two long years we can get on with it.

And possibly start getting some things done. Perhaps this approval will be among one of the changes.

Craig Hitchens said...

As a professional naturopath I advocate the use of this herb often and it is very heartening for me to see it written about in such a positive way with plenty of good facts.Not everyone knows about it's other healing factors. It would seem that somthing sweet IS good for you.
Love your blog.
Craig Hitchens. B.HSc.

Jackie said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone.

Not sure if it is in Coke Zero in the States yet but here sadly they have it filled with deadly artificial sweeteners. Hopefully soon that will change.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

It's so strange that the FDA touts stevia as being a dangerous substance while they allow aspertame to run rampant. Stevia has been used in places like Japan for years, with no ill effects.

Princess Haiku said...

I never head about it before. Sounds like a great alternative to synthetic sweeteners.

hitch writer said...

Lets try the last tactic or recipre

Jackie said...

FDA Approves Stevia, Ends the Era of Oppression of this Herbal Sweetener.

hope said...

really interesting! i'm thrilled to have found your blog. i've been tinkering with herbs over the past few years -- i decided to add stevia to the mix this time around.