An all-natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant.
Stevia (steve-e-ah) comes from the stevia plant, which is also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf. Several compounds in stevia called glycosides make stevia taste sweet, the most popular of those glycosides is Reb A (rebaudioside A) which is used most commercially. Reb A has the least bitter taste in comparison to other isolated glycosides in stevia.
How to Use:
Stevia comes in a variety of ways, raw ground, powdered, and extract. The raw ground stevia is still green as no additional processing besides mechanical grinding has been done. Powdered stevia found in most stores is powdered stevia that undergoes water extraction processing and possibly other fillers to give it a “powdery” texture. Stevia extract undergoes processing that extracts the oils and sweetness from the leaves to make into a liquid- this can be done by water or alcohol. You can use stevia to sweeten anything from desserts, oatmeals, cereals, puddings, smoothies, juices, teas, coffee, etc.
Nutrient Breakdown of Stevia
- Contains zero sugar, zero calories, and zero other macronutrients
- Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar
- Has been studied in relation to increasing insulin sensitivity, although it would be wise if much more studies were done on humans
- One study showed in comparison with sucrose and aspartame (artificial sweeteners) stevia helped reduce postprandial (after eating) insulin in the body
- May induce insulin secretion, but also increases insulin sensitivity and reduces blood glucose (i.e. what insulin is supposed to do in our bodies)
As with most sweeteners, artificial or natural, the body responds to the taste of sweet in the same way by increasing the amount of insulin released from the body to “take up” the glucose that the body is interpreting is present.
Let’s break it down a bit; when we smell food our digestive system gets moving and starts secreting enzymes to get ready for the incoming food. Whatever you taste, whether it be sweet, bitter, or spicy — especially sweet foods — our bodies release insulin. The amount of insulin released is different depending on the quantity of food you’re consuming- in this case, with using stevia it may be a very small amount.
Even so, this small amount stops glucagon which is the opposite of insulin and your body won’t burn fat as quickly since you’re not converting glucose from glucagon/stored body fat, you’ll also end up with lower blood sugars.
This “trick” on your body with the absence of food, can actually make your body a bit hypoglycemic, meaning you end up with low blood sugar, which can mean more hunger, cravings, and less energy. Some studies show consuming artificial sweeteners, in general, can cause appetite to increase due to this low sugar response. What does it all mean for you? I do recommend stevia instead of other sweeteners, but still in moderation as it ultimately has the same effect as other sweeteners.
Where to Purchase:
Health food stores, grocery stores, farmers markets, or online retailers. Be sure to purchase high grade, good quality stevia as the taste and compounds will be best.
Rule of Thumb:
1 cup sugar = 2-3 teaspoons of powdered stevia. This will depend on the type and harvest of your stevia, taste testing always helps!
Tips and Tricks:
Grow your own stevia plant, which is quite easy to grow in abundance, you can harvest the stevia before the first frost, hang to try for about a month and create your own powdered stevia or stevia extract.