Living with Herbs
Native to subtropical and tropical regions of Brazil and Paraguay, Stevia is widely grown for its sweet leaves. Extracts of Stevia are highly commercialized. But there is more to the whole plant. Encouraging research suggests (whole) Stevia helping with diabetes and being a heart tonic.
Learn more about the benefits and how to use Stevia, and see our recipe.
There are about 200 species of Stevia are native to South America, but the one with the sweetest leaves is Stevia rebaudiana, a shrub which is grown commercially to produce ‘Stevia’.
‘Stevia’ you buy in supermarkets are extracts. This way you have the sweetness, but without additional nutritional value. Whole Stevia leaves contain potassium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B3 and about 10% fiber.
Try to grow your own Stevia in a pot. It's a different species - not a shrub. It comes in 'pot sizes'. You find it at well-stocked growers of fresh herbs.
Stevia as sweetener
As a sweetener and sugar substitute, Stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations. The sweetness of Stevia is up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. About 1/4 teaspoon of the natural ground leaves (or one whole leaf) is the equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of sugar. (But try for yourself! Genuine whole Stevia is a natural product that may vary in sweetness.)
As a dietary supplement it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. There is encouraging research that Stevia helps lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels. It is supposed to be a heart tonic, toning, balancing, and strengthening the heart.
How to use best
I always suggest choosing the whole herb over an extract. But this way Stevia is not as easy to use. Whole herbs, even if powdered, do not dissolve. There are ways to overcome this disadvantage.
Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Stevia
1 cup whole wheat flower
4-5 tablespoons 100% cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons (genuine whole) stevia powder
1 ½ cup yogurt (plain with no additives – read the label)
¼ cup vegetable oil
Combine dry ingredients first, and then add yogurt, eggs, and oil. Stir well until smooth. (Do not use an electric blender. Yogurt will become too liquid.)
Poor into shallow baking dish, bake at 325 degree for about 35 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean, if picked in the middle.
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It's easy and healthy using more herbs: 'Living With Herbs' is a blog giving little tips, recipes, and information on herbs.
Dr. Angela C. Fritz