Stevia is nature’s sweet gift to us all. Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, ranking 0 on the glycemic index and with no calories, this remarkable plant from the rainforests of Paraguay yields stevioside—a sweetener that’s nutritious, noncarcinogenic, non

All about Stevia: Stevia is nature’s sweet gift to us all. Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, ranking 0 on the glycemic index and with no calories, this remarkable plant from the rainforests of Paraguay yields stevioside—a sweetener that’s nutritious, noncarcinogenic, nontoxic and safe for diabetics and hypoglycemics

Jan London

Glycosides, which are produced within the leaves, give stevioside–a white, crystalline powder–its intense sweetness. Research has shown that the body neither digests nor metabolizes these glycosides, nor does it convert them to glucose. This makes stevia a most valuable sweetener for those struggling with concerns such as diabetes, hypoglycemia or weight control. Stevia is hardly new. The Guarani Indians of Paraguay have been using stevia leaves for 1,500 years as a soothing tonic and healing concentrate when cooked in water. First discovered and introduced to Europe in 1899 by M. S. Bertoni, stevioside is the dominant commercial sweetener in Japan, widely used in diet soft drinks and low-calorie packaged foods. In recent years, stevia’s use has expanded to agriculture; many Japanese farmers have been growing their fruits and vegetables with a powerful and effective fertilizer formulated from stevia leaves and stems. These crops are noticeably tastier, more fragrant, more nutritious and able remain fresher longer. It has been shown to prevent and cure plant diseases, dissolve agrochemicals in the soil, increase harvests, and increase crops’ resistance to frost and strong winds.

Stevia is also becoming the favored sweetener in China and throughout the Orient. In fact, China has become stevia’s major grower and processor. There, most stevia farmers cultivate their plants without pesticides and under the conditions required for organic certification.

Finally: A sweet nothing that’s good for you More than 500 scientific studies have been performed on stevia; these have shown Vitamin C, calcium, beta-carotene, chromium, fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, protein and silicon to be among its components. Scientists have reported numerous health benefits to adding stevia to the daily diet, noting that it can:

* Effectively regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes and hypoglycemia.

Help lower elevated blood pressure while not affecting normal blood pressure.

* Inhibit growth and reproduction of oral bacteria and other infectious organisms. Regular users of stevia as a mouthwash or toothpaste additive have reported improvement in bleeding gum problems. Furthermore, users of stevia-enhanced products report a lower incidence of colds and flu. For these reasons, an increasing number of toothpaste manufacturers are now using stevia in their products.

* Help skin problems such as acne, seborrhea, dermatitis and eczema when applied externally. Extracts placed directly in cuts and wounds, have shown rapid healing without scarring.

* Improve digestion and soothe upset stomachs.

* Help dieters’ efforts. Its sweetening molecules are not absorbed into the blood, so it offers no calories. Preliminary research also indicates that stevioside may reduce hunger by clearing the communication pathway between the stomach and brain.

Cooking and baking with stevia

* Stevia extract, stevia clear liquid and stevia extract with filler are interchangeable in the recipes that follow–only their strengths are different.

* Generally, it’s easier to blend the liquid form with liquid ingredients and the powder form with dry ingredients.

* Because stevia extract powder is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, providing exact measurements for very small amounts is nearly impossible. This small quantity is described as a dusting in these recipes–meaning, a gentle tapping on the container so some powder falls into the recipe. Until you become familiar with its strength, use only one tap at a time, then taste-test the result so you don’t oversweeten.

* Use stevia clear liquid sparingly at first, too; just add a few drops at a time to attain the perfect sweetness for you.

* Stevia extract with filler is considerably less sweet than other forms and therefore can be sprinkled more freely.

* Stevia concentrate and ground stevia leaf are the purest forms and have the most nutritional value.

RECIPES

Instant Hummus

Chickpeas are high in protein and especially rich in iron.

Stevia adds just the right balance to the lemon juice. This

basic recipe can be spiced up with cayenne pepper or

enhanced with your favorite herbs.

1 can chickpeas

1-2 tablespoons sesame tahini

Juice of one lemon

3 or 4 minced garlic cloves

1 or 2 drops stevia clear liquid

Sea salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Add water to create the

consistency you prefer. Serves two.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 28.2g carbs, 7.1g fiber, 9g protein, 6g fat,

0mg cholesterol, 346mg sodium, 188 calories

Gazpacho

This is a refreshing and simple soup to prepare. To spice it

up, add a dash of cayenne pepper.

6 medium tomatoes, chopped

2-3 small cucumbers, chopped (dice some and save for garnish)

1 medium sweet onion, diced (save some for garnish)

Lemon or lime juice to taste

Parsley or cilantro, chopped (save some for garnish)

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

Sea salt to taste

Dusting of stevia extract or 3 drops stevia clear liquid

Blend all ingredients in blender and adjust to taste. Serve in

bowl with garnish ingredients. Serves four.

Per serving: 17.0g carbs, 4.1g fiber, 3g protein, 1g fat, 0mg

cholesterol, 167mg sodium, 78 calories

Stevia Ginger

Lemonade

BREW METHOD: Use either stevia flow-through teabags or place loose cut leaves in a reusable cotton teabag or a tea ball.

Cool water brew:

To one quart of room-temperature water, add 2 stevia teabags or 3 teaspoons cut leaf. Add 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh ginger juice. Allow to steep for 3 to 4 hours. Remove teabags and refrigerate. After it has chilled for a few hours, it is ready to drink; the sweetness has mellowed and blended with the other ingredients. If the taste is too sweet, add more lemon juice.

Hot water brew:

Teabags added to hot water result in a stronger taste and require the element of time to smooth it out. Add 4 stevia teabags or 2 tablespoons cut leaf to 1/2 gallon of water. Heat just until very hot to the touch. Let cool, then remove the teabags. Add at least 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons ginger juice. Allow flavors to mellow in the fridge until cold. Add more lemon juice if too sweet.

Sun brew:

Same proportions as above. Add all ingredients together and put in the sun to brew. Remove teabags after a few hours.

Mint brew:

Include 1/2 to 1 cup fresh mint leaves to same proportions as above. This brew is exceptional served either hot or cold. Instant non-brew method: To 8 ounces plain or effervescent spring water, add 6 to 10 drops stevia clear liquid or liquid concentrate or a dusting of extract and desired amount of lemon and ginger juice.

Stevia Marinade

To 8 ounces spring water, add 8 to 10 drops stevia clear liquid, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 teaspoon ginger juice.

Making ginger juice

The Japanese porcelain round ginger grater is a superior tool for making ginger juice and is a real pleasure to use. Otherwise, several other ginger graters are on the market; a garlic press or a fine grater will also work. Grate desired amount of washed, unpeeled fresh ginger root, gather the gratings in your fist, and squeeze out the juice. Discard pulp.

Quick hints

* Lime juice or a combination of lemon/lime juice can be substituted for lemon juice.

* Place used teabags over your eyes for a soothing effect.

APPROXIMATE STEVIA SWEETNESS EQUIVALENTS

1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon extract powder = 1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon clear liquid = 1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon concentrate (water-based) = 1 cup sugar

1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons ground or cut leaf = 1 cup sugar

1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons powder with filler = 1 cup sugar

18 to 24 individual packets = 1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons concentrate (water-based) = 1 cup brown sugar

Stevia products

Whole-leaf stevia is the dried stevia leaf. It is available as tea bags and sold loose, in cut and powder forms. Owing to its booming popularity, stevia is now grown in the U.S. and can be ordered locally in some markets. Try using freshly cut leaves to flavor soups, stews and hot and cold liquids, or boil them to make your own liquid extract.

Stevia concentrate is prepared by cooking stevia leaves in water to produce a thick, dark liquid with a licorice taste. It blends well with aromatic spices and with dishes that are enhanced by this flavor. Because foods take on the concentrate’s color, it makes a good substitute for molasses or brown sugar. Try it full strength as a facial mask or diluted in water as an effective mouthwash. To relieve a sore throat, squirt a dropperful or more into the mouth and allow it to coat the affected area. Refrigerate after opening.

Stevia extract is a white, crystalline powder taken from the leaf. The most concentrated form of all stevia products, it’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar and does not lose its sweetness at high temperatures.

Stevia clear liquid is a blend of stevia extract and water, and is usually packaged with a dropper, making it easy to work with. Alcohol or grapefruit seed extract is added as the necessary preservative. Refrigerate after opening.

Stevia extract with filler is the powdered extract blended with a filler such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a plant-based fiber; erythritol, derived from fruit; or maltodextrin, made from cornstarch.

RECOMMENDED READS

Sensational Stevia Desserts boasts 82 fantastic low-carb treats and variations to help you take sugar and artificial sweeteners out of dessert preparation forever.

The Miracle of Stevia discusses it’s many therapeutic and nutritional values, and shares testimonials from doctors and nutritionists who have experienced the power of stevia in their own lives and those of their patients.

Low-Carb Cooking With Stevia contains revolutionary, delicious recipes like pastas, breads, even cakes and cookies all low in carbohydrates.

BY JAN LONDON, AUTHOR OF COCONUT CUISINE

COPYRIGHT 2006 Coincide Publishing LLC

COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group