Use Stevia Leaf as a Natural Low GI Sweetener
If you are a diabetic or pre-diabetic who needs to monitor your blood glucose levels, or if you are an individual who is trying to lose weight but needs a sweet treat now and then, you might want to consider using stevia as a natural alternative to cane sugar. For those who are not diabetic or those within a normal weight range, stevia offers a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners whose reputations seem to see-saw up and down on a fairly regular basis (just lie the impact of some of them on your insulin receptors…).
So what exactly is stevia and where does it come from? Stevia leaf comes from the stevia plant, which is related to the Asteraceae family and is somewhat related to daisies, asters, chrysanthemums and ragweed. The stevia plant is native to South America, but today is grown primarily in China. The leaves are harvested, dried, then steeped in hot water. The liquid extract goes through a process of filtering, purifying and drying with the final result a crystalised, powdery substance used for sweetening. In South America and Asia, the stevia leaf has been used to sweeten drinks for years. Stevia is 200 times sweeter than cane sugar in equal concentrations so manufacturers commonly add a bulking agent such as dextrose or erythritol to evenly disperse the concentrated sweetness of the stevia.
Benefits of Stevia
For diabetics and others concerned about low glycaemic index foods, stevia leaf is a naturally low GI sweetener. This means stevia sweetening products do not raise blood glucose levels. Anyone who wants or needs to watch their carbohydrate intake can use stevia without being concerned about ingesting unwanted carbohydrates.
Of course, this also holds true for those who are on a weight-loss plan. Not only can they indulge their sweet tooth now and then without adding glucose to their diet from cane sugar, they also can enjoy an occasional sweet taste without ingesting questionable artificial sweeteners. Unlike regular cane sugar, stevia is also shown as tooth-friendly and does not cause unwelcome tooth decay.
Uses for Stevia
Stevia is great for adding to hot or cold drinks and smoothies as a sugar substitute. It is available as a liquid extract and in powdered form. Add it to cereal, porridge (oatmeal) or yoghurt — essentially anything where an individual would normally add sugar. Stevia is also used for cooking and baking, although since it is not carbohydrate-based, it does not have the same browning effect as regular sugar. Since so much less stevia is required to obtain the same sweetness as cane sugar, it also does not add as much structure to recipes as well. Cooks will want to use the conversion charts found on the labels of their stevia products in order to determine how to properly use stevia for cooking and baking.
Who Shouldn’t use Stevia?
Those individuals who have allergies to ragweed, daisies, asters, chrysanthemums or anything in the Asteraceae family, should check with their physician before attempting to use stevia in any form. Although stevia is considered safe for those with diabetes, if you are a diabetic and have any questions or concerns about using stevia, check with your physician before using it. In addition, there are some reports that shows stevia reduces blood pressure, so anyone taking a blood pressure medication should check with their doctor before using stevia.
For healthy individuals who are looking for a way to add a little sweetness to their foods without adding unhealthy sugars that cause tooth decay or add unhealthy calories, stevia is definitely a natural product to consider. For more information about using stevia as a sweetener and other low GI foods as an aid to improving diabetes control & managing weight, please contact us.