What Is Stevia?

Getting to Know the Healthy(?) Alternative Sweetener
What is Stevia: Alternative Sweetener
There she is in all her glory, looking for all the world like a — well — like a basil plant you’d get for a few bucks from the local Trader Joe’s, right? But she’s oh so much more when it comes to alternative, healthier sweeteners. If you’re off sugar but haven’t gotten rid of that sweet tooth, this may be the answer for you. If you’re still needing a bit of sweetener in your coffee or tea, or you like to bake healthy treats, Stevia may be the answer to your prayers. But what is it?

According to Wikipedia’s Entry on Stevia:

Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. 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.

Stevia, an herb originally grown and used in South America, was treated as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for a long long time before making it into your local organic grocery. The leaves of the small Stevia rebaudiana plant can be as much as thirty times sweeter than actual sugar, in terms of the punch that it packs. There are virtually no calories in Stevia, and most people argue that it is a fine, total replacement for sugar and commercial sweeteners. Check out this FAQ page on Stevia for more technical answers.

More Resources and Research on Stevia From Around the Web

A Tale of Incredible Sweetness and Intrigue” over at Stevia.net.

Where to buy Sweetleaf brand liquid Stevia online.

Stevia: A Bittersweet Tale by David Schardt.

Using Stevia for Weight Control at the Mayo Clinic site.

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[Photo Via: BonniePlants]

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