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stevia? A word on all the available forms
What is stevia
exactly? Stevia is a family of 200 to 300 plants that originated from
Paraguay. The one that we'll be focusing on here though, is the
rebaudiana plant, because it's the only family member that
produces the lauded sweet taste associated with the species.
have a look at a quick overview of the different forms that the sweet
leaf can be used in:
- Fresh stevia leaves:
the plant can of
course be grown in the comfort of your own home, for which you can use
seeds, or buy an already germinated plant in the garden center. The
leaves can be plucked and used directly for sweetening your beverages.
Stevia in the raw is the most natural way to go, but be sure to note
the number one rule: the more sunlight the plant receives, the sweeter
- Dried stevia leaves:
once the leaves
are dried, stevia is at its sweetest! The Guarani tribe in Paraguay
have been using stevia leaves for generations to sweeten their infamous
tea, called ka'a he'ê ("sweet herb"), which is brewed using yerba
maté. Stevia packets of dried
are also a popular sales item because they can be used directly to
- Liquid stevia extract:
a brown substance is derived from fresh or dried stevia leaves through
an extraction process that uses alcohol and/or water. Used by the
Guarany to treat various ailments, ranging from
the balming of open wounds, to relieving beginning signs of diabetes.
The most popular brands for liquid stevia extract are SweetLeaf (Wisdom
Natural) and NuNaturals, because they combine quality with a wide
array of flavors.
- Raw stevia extract:
stevia in the raw
extract format is easy to use for the preparation of several delicious
recipes. After the leaves are dried, they are ground up and the stevia
herb is treated with fresh water. White
stevia powder has close to no
calories, the extract preserves its sweet taste.
- Refined stevia extract:
powder is the most popular format! The refined extract is sold in many
countries. The glycoside substances stevioside and rebaudioside A are
the components of a large array of products: in some Asian countries
for example, stevia is already being used to replace the common
artificial sweeteners in sodas!
- Stevia blends:
because stevia is many
times sweeter than sugar, its sweetness might be too fierce for some.
That's why the taste is often diluted by using moderate carbohydrates
such as maltodextrin starch derived from corn or wheat, or natural
sugars such as lactose, which can be found in the milk of all mammals.
Most brands offer stevia
or stevia tablets that can
be used easily insead of sugar to sweeten food and beverages.
is used in a number of forms now, all over the planet,
thanks to the recent approval of stevia by EFSA
(the European Food
to Stevia plants