© Denzil Green
Stevia is a natural sweetener from a plant of the same name.
The plant is a member of the Aster family native to north-eastern Paraguay. It is a perennial shrub that grows 600 to 1200 cm (2 to 4 feet) tall. It has leaves with slightly serrated edges, and blooms with small white flowers.
It's the leaves that are of interest. They have a very sweet taste. The older leaves are sweeter than younger ones, though the sweetness overall will decline somewhat after the plant flowers. When you chew on a leaf, it has a sweet taste at first, and then a bitter aftertaste. One of the compounds that causes the sweetness, Rebaudioside A, can be extracted to provide the sweetness without the aftertaste. It is reputed to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than sucrose by weight, without any calories. You only need very small quantities of it compared to sugar.
Stevia Powder is concentrated Stevia, with sweetening power up to 300 times that of sugar. The powder may be its natural green, or white.
Clear liquid stevia
© Denzil Green
Blended Stevia Powder is Stevia blended with eryhritol or a starch such as inulin. The goal is to reduce the sweetness and bulk up the Stevia, so that Stevia can be used in the same quantities as sugar, making it easier to use in recipes -- for example, 1 teaspoon of blended stevia powder is easier to measure than 1/8 teaspoon of stevia powder. One such product is Stevia One-to-One®.
Stevia is used commercially as a sweetener in Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Paraguay, Germany and Israel. In Japan, 40% of the commercial sweetening is done with Stevia (as of 2004.)
You cannot use it as a food for yeast to grown on in bread doughs, etc.
Some Stevia sweetener products on the market can have a slightly bitter aftertaste, making them better for strong flavoured desserts (such as coffee or chocolate flavoured ones), where the aftertaste won't be noticed. Other Stevia sweetener products do not have this issue.
* PointsPlus™ calculated by CooksInfo.com. Not endorsed by Weight Watchers® International, Inc, which is the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.
Blended stevia powder
© Denzil Green
Stevia was banned in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. In 1994, it was allowed to be sold as a "dietary supplement", but not as a sweetener, and no referral to it as "sweet" is allowed. In America, it can be bought in health food stores as dried leaves, powdered leaves, and as a liquid extract in bottles. Some extracts are a black syrup; others are clear. The clear extracts are made by steeping the leaves in distilled water or alcohol, just as vanilla is to make vanilla extract. In 2009, Stevia was approved as a food additive under the classification of "Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)." In 2013, Coca Cola began using it along with sugar in Coca Cola made in Argentina, marketing it as a "natural sweetener."
Stevia was banned from being sold labelled as a sweetener in Canada until November 2012.
Literature & Lore
Daily Mail. Sure this is the real thing? GREEN Coke launched in Argentina with natural sweetener and fully recyclable bottle. London, England. 21 July 2013. Retrieved July 2013 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2372792/Sure-real-thing-GREEN-Coke-launched-Argentina-natural-sweetener-fully-recyclable-bottle.html
Weight Watchers Research Department. Stevia: Non-Caloric Sweetener. 17 December 2011. Retrieved January 2013 from http://www.wwlv.biz/util/art/index_art.aspx?art_id=61611&tabnum=1&sc=805
SweetenersAmasake; Caramel; Honey; Must; Sorbitol; Stevia; Xylitol
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