As many of you know, stevia is a widely used sugar substitute. It is an FDA-approved sweetener, has no calories, and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same concentration.
Stevia is becoming really popular. You can find it in pink, blue and yellow packets at many coffee shops. It’s even used in Coca Cola Life launched in the U.S. in 2014.
A lot of Americans are becoming accustomed to various sweetening options, because more that 78 million U.S. adults are obese due to sugar-dense foods and beverages.
Here are six things that you didn’t know about this incredible sweetener:
1. Stevia is actually a plant
The sugar substitute is extracted from the stevia plant. A species called Stevia rebaudiana is naturally grown in Brazil and Paraguay, where it has been used for hundreds of years to sweeten foods and treat burns and stomach discomfort. The plant gets its sweetness from naturally occurring glycosides. They are extracted from the plant’s leaves through a process that starts by placing the plant in hot water.
2. This sweetener is a lot sweeter than sugar.
Even though it’s calorie-free, this particular sweetener can taste 200 times sweeter than the same amount of granulated table sugar.
3. Packaged stevia isn’t necessarily “all natural.”
Yes, this is a plant from the earth, but in order for the sugar substitute to survive on the grocery store shelf or in your pantry, many companies include additional ingredients. Pyure, a popular stevia brand, contains dextrose, a starch-derived glucose which is often extracted from corn, wheat or rice. A packet of Truvia, another popular product, contains erythritol, a sugar alcohol, and “natural flavors”, along with the stevia leaf extract.
4. You can find it in liquid and powdered concentrates
The sweetener comes in drops, like the vanilla extract you use in baking. It also comes in a fine powder that is less grainy than table sugar and in a granulated sugar-comparable form, too. Each varies in concentration of sweetness, so it’s important to read labels before using it in recipes.
5. Stevia is calorie-free, but it doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight
Just because you substitute stevia for sugar it doesn’t mean that you’ll lose weight. A recent study from the Weizmann Institute of Science showed that artificial sweeteners may have detrimental effects on our body that lead to an increased risk for obesity and diabetes.
6. You can bake with it
You can bake some cakes or cookies, make even cocktails with stevia. But, because it’s a lot sweeter than sugar, you’ll need much less of it. Just remember that you’ll also need a bulking agent to make up for lost ingredient volume. The amount of stevia you use will depend on both the recipe and the brand. One and one-fourth teaspoons of Truvia can replace one tablespoon of sugar, while Stevia In The Raw makes a granulated product that does have an equal conversion rate.
You should also know that this sweetener doesn’t caramelize. It won’t brown the way sugar does.