Suppose you're trying to watch your weight or lower your blood sugar levels. In that case, you may have heard of stevia, the herbal sweetener found in popular diet drinks like Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. There's nothing artificial about stevia. Stevia is derived from a plant native to South America, where it's been eaten for more than 200 years. It was first approved by the FDA as a sweetener in 2008. For a good reason - it's about 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need to use small amounts of it to sweeten your food and drinks (1 teaspoon of sugar = 1/16 tsp stevia powder). But that's not the only reason it should be in your pantry.
What is stevia?
Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Stevia is sold in several forms, including liquid concentrate and powdered extract, and it's about 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose), so it can be used in small amounts.
What does stevia taste like?
It may be difficult for people who have never used stevia before to recognize its taste. Unlike regular sugar, which has a very strong flavor and distinct taste that's easily identifiable by everyone (even those who haven't tasted sugar in years), stevia is subtle. It can have a slightly bitter aftertaste, which takes time to get used to.
How can I use stevia in cooking and baking?
Stevia is primarily used in liquid form in iced tea and coffee. It can also be used to sweeten yogurt or added to fruit smoothies. Stevia can be substituted for regular sugar in cooking and baking. However, you'll need to adjust recipes because stevia is much sweeter than regular sugar: just 1⁄2 teaspoon of stevia can equal up to 1 cup of granulated white sugar.
Are there any side effects to stevia?
Stevia is generally safe, but it has a few side effects. According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake for steviol equivalents is 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight. That equates to about 12 mg of high-purity stevia extracts per kilogram of body weight daily. Potential side effects linked to stevia consumption include stomach problems and increased blood pressure in some people. If you have an adverse reaction to stevia, stop using it and see your doctor.
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