Stevia: Overview, Uses, Benefits

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During an outing with a friend last weekend, he started telling me that one of his neighbors has this fantastic plant growing in his yard. He said, “It’s a new kind of plant that grows a sweetener. Have you heard of it?” Was he maybe talking about stevia?

His use of the word “new” threw me off. I started thinking wow, a “new” sweetener, what could that be that I hadn’t heard of?

stevia is a natural sweetener

Turns out he was talking about stevia, which was news to him but a sweetener I’ve known about for years already. That made me realize that everyone finds out about things in their own time and that it would be useful to pass along some sweet stevia information.

What Is Stevia?

Stevia is a plant whose leaves contain compounds that are more than 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

Stevia has no calories.

Because of its intense sweetness, a little goes a long way. Often, only a few drops of stevia liquid is what you’ll need to create a pleasant sweet taste.

History of Stevia as a Sweetener

You might know that the FDA claimed that it had concerns about stevia’s safety and would not allow it to be called a sweetener. Stevia had to be labeled a “dietary supplement.” Remember that the FDA does not always act (even though it’s supposed to) in our best interests.

In Japan, for instance, they have been using stevia in their foods since the 1970s without questioning its safety. If you want to do your own research, you’ll find many studies that show high doses of stevia to be non-toxic.

Interestingly, the FDA’s attitude changed when Coke and Pepsi approached them and asked for permission to use stevia extract as a sweetener. As I’ve said before, follow the money trail when it comes to what the FDA does and does not approve of.

Stevia has been available in the U.S. since the mid to late 1990s. It gained popularity with people who wanted to take a more natural, healthy approach to sugar consumption. In 2008 Coke and Pepsi got the okay from the FDA to begin adding it to their drinks.

Which Foods Contain Stevia?

This has taken both interest and usage of stevia to a whole new level. Soon you’ll find it as a sweetener in a wide variety of foods, drinks, nutrition bars, and other products.

A number of companies sell stevia extracts. Quality does vary. Some may have a bitter aftertaste.

How Much Should You Use?

When you find a liquid brand that you like, try using 3 or 4 drops in your tea or water and see what you think. You can add it to coffee or make homemade lemonade. It’s also available as a powder, though I find using liquid stevia much easier. Enjoy this plant-based, healthy sweetener and you might end up planting a bush in your own backyard!

If you feel stuck and need additional support to adopt a new healthy habit or routine, consider working with me. We can partner up in setting goals, drawing on your skills and strengths, and implementing strategies to help you find your way to lasting healthy success.

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For over 15 years, Shelli has been a freelance writer and wellness coach on Joyinmovement. She writes about brain fitness, creating a healthy lifestyle, traveling the world, and making positive habits stick. Stop procrastinating! Take action, join her free newsletter.

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