Stevia, the alternative to sugar?

We see it popping up more and more in all kinds of products, stevia. We now know that refined granulated sugar is simply bad and is used in a wide variety of products. Due to the attention given to it, more and more producers are looking for alternatives in their products. Stevia is such an alternative, but is it really a good alternative to sugar?

Origin of stevia

The stevia plant, full name Stevia Rebaudiana and a genus from the composite family, is a very powerful sweetener from South America. There are more than 200 species. It has been used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years (for example, a leaf in tea provides the sweetness). It is 200 to 300 times as powerful as the refined granulated sugar we know. However, it took until 2011 before it could be applied throughout the European Union. Stevia used in Europe comes from Brazil and Paraquay.

Is stevia always good?

Whether stevia is always good can be answered with a denial. Stevia is seen as a good substitute for the well-known refined granulated sugar. However, the use of stevia also in the form of a sweetener processed as an E number (E960) – is not unlimited in terms of intake.

If you consume larger amounts of stevia every day (anything more than 4 mg per kilo of body weight is actually too much), this can have a significant laxative effect. In practice, this means, for example, that you should not consume three liters of diet soda with stevia per day.

If you take sugar as a starting point, then cola, for example, normally contains 9 grams of sugar per 100 ml. Cola with stevia will replace about 3 to 4 grams of sugar per 100 mg.

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Application

Stevia remains stable when heated and can therefore be used in cooking and baking products. It can be found in products such as:

  • Soft drinks and fruit drinks
  • Yogurt products
  • Ice
  • Chocolate, chewing gum and candy in general
  • Miscellaneous (sweet) desserts
  • All kinds of sugar substitutes
  • Soups, sauces and dressings

But if you have the plant at home, and you see the plant more and more often in the organic corner of the garden center, then you can use it well. Consider a cup of tea with a sweetener (one or two leaves is sufficient). But also in a fresh salad or ground in a homemade sauce.

Aftertaste

Products sweetened with stevia often also contain refined granulated sugars (1/3 stevia 2/3 sugar). This has to do with the fact that only stevia in a product (as a sweetener) will give a slightly bitter aftertaste. If there is too much stevia in a product, this taste can become dominant. On average, a product containing stevia will contain more than 30% fewer calories (because unfortunately it also contains regular sugar).

Calories

Stevia itself does not contain calories, but most products containing it do. It therefore remains useful to look on the packaging to see how many calories you total per product.

Misleading

It does not seem to apply to all products. There are indications that, for example, the use of stevia in soft drinks can be misleading. When it comes to soft drinks, the body seems to think it is confronted with sugar and anticipates this by expecting an increase in the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Since this will not happen with stevia, you may feel hungry. Although there is no concrete scientific research, there are several health websites that write extensively about this.

Source: Jaro N, Pixabay

Get started with stevia yourself

Besides the leaf in tea, you can use it in many ways. Do it like this:

  • Rinse the leaves of the plant thoroughly under running water (to remove the dirt).
  • Then let the leaves dry and then grind them as finely as possible.
  • Soak the clean crushed stevia again (in preparation for the drying process).
  • The substance can then be dried and subsequently applied.

If you find all this too much work, it is usually available in liquid or powder form in organic stores. Since it is much sweeter than refined sugar, it makes sense to be cautious with the amounts in a product. Try for yourself what you experience as pleasant.

Is it saving?

Stevia is an excellent replacement for sugar as we know it, but it is not self-evident that a product containing stevia is also healthy. A product containing stevia contains fewer calories, but it remains useful to see what your total calories are. Use it (even fresh) wisely and it can be an excellent substitute for refined sugars.