Monday, May 17, 2010

STEVIA, a natural sugar substitute

The photo above is of the original stevia plant my friend Betty gave me.

STEVIA is a natural and organic sugar substitute. The plant looks like mint, but has no fragrance.  I have several pots growing now from that original plant.

Stevia leaf is sweeter than sugar, so you need much less in recipes. You can use the leaves of a stevia plant in your garden to make your own stevia liquid sweetener drops. While using whole, dried stevia leaves off of a plant to create homemade sweetener drops will not be as strong as the powdered stevia sugar substitutes sold in health food stores, but making your own stevia drops will be much cheaper.  You can get a clean old baby medicine bottle and dropper, or get one at the pharmacy. I prefer to use a glass bottle/dropper since I want to use the least amount of plastic for anything.

Anyway, the stevia plant will yield more sweet taste and at least you know if you grow it yourself, it is definately organic and fresh.

You will only need a a few homemade drops to sweeten your tea, coffee or cereal. The level of sweetness from your stevia plant will depend upon when you harvest the leaves, the age of the plant and the amount of drying time. Pick leaves early in the morning. Take the leaves and wash them. Dry the leaves on a clean towel, and then pound them or put them inbetween two sheets of  kraft paper, and use  a rolling pin to crush the leaves.

I tried it in making "Green Ice Tea" by crushing the leaves, and then adding water until the desired sweetness was achieved. This would be about 3 tablespoons of Stevia leaves, crushed and then add about 1/4 cup water, then taste it if the sweetness is sufficiently strong. I also boil 6 cups of water, add 4 green tea sachets, and cool it down in a glass pitcher, then add lemon juice, about 1/4 cup, the Stevia water and ice. Strain out any crushed leaves , and I have a cool, refreshing drink to sip all day! This green ice tea tastes just the same as the commercial, "LIPTON" brand green ice tea.

Aspartame, is being sold mainly under the brand called "  EQUAL." This is a chemical that gives soda , juice and many other confectionaries the taste of sweetness, without actually adding on any calories. Ants being feed aspartame will die because it can dupe the brain to believe it is actually sugar, and drive the body to crave more and more sugar.

There are  people on a sugar restricted diet who are taking EQUAL in larger amounts each time they use it.  who are overweight don't even lose weight if they seek to lower their intake of sugar calories. I know, I am one of those who started with 1 sachet of EQUAL per cup of coffee and now use 2 sachets. My husband started with 1 sachet and is using 4 to sweeten his coffee. Another brand, SLENDA, has the same effect.

STEVIA on the other hand is a natural herb that when crushed and powdered, actually tastes like sugar but is in fact helpful in regulating the craving for sugar.