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Stevia - Healthy and Sweet
by Jane Shephard
From - 2005-04-21

Wouldnt it be great to have a completely non-toxic sweetener that does not raise blood sugar levels, has no calories, may help prevent cavities, and is much sweeter than sugar so you need less? Well, we do have such a substance, and its available from herbalists and at health food stores. This wonderful, little known herb is called stevia.

Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb that grows wild in Paraguay and Brazil. It is much sweeter than sugar (10-15 times sweeter) and does not have the unhealthy disadvantages that you get with sugar. The refined extracts of Stevia (steviosides) may be 200-300 times sweeter than refined sugar. It has been thoroughly tested around the world and found to be completely non-toxic. It has been used to sweeten foods and beverages for centuries. Stevia is a safe, all-natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.

When tested by Purdue Universitys Dental Science Research Group, they concluded that stevioside is both fluoride compatible and significantly inhibits the development of plaque, thus stevia may actually help to prevent cavities.

Raw stevia contains a wealth of phytonutrients and volatile oils. However, the nutritional benefits are minimal considering the quantity that is typically consumed. Since the extracts are more refined, they will contain even less. So you cant expect to get nutritional benefit from stevia, but unlike refined sugar, stevia wont drain the body of important nutrients.

Stevia can be used to replace sugar in drinks, baking and cooking. It is a good idea to experiment with different quantities. Keep in mind that the high stevioside extracts (200-300 times sweeter) should be used real sparingly. The herbal powder is 10 to 15 times sweeter.

Actually, this wonder herb does have one drawback. It does not caramelize like sugar does, so if you need to have this effect, dont use stevia. But if this is the only problem with stevia, it may be worthwhile to try it as a replacement to the sugar in your kids food. Shop for it at your local natural foods store.


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