Stevia – A Zero Calorie Alternative to Sugar

You are probably aware of the effects that a high-sugar and high-calorie diet can have on your health, yet you can’t bear the taste of unsweetened drinks. However, eliminating sugar and sweets altogether is hard for most people. In most cases, sudden cravings for something sweet are hard to resist and once you give in, it is even more difficult to give them up again. It is not easy having a sweet tooth and still trying to be healthier and lose weight. Lucky for you, there is a natural and healthy substitute for sugar and artificial sweeteners on the market. It is called stevia and has almost zero calories!

This sweetener is made from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to America that has been used as a sweetener for a long time by Native Americans. The indigenous people used the leaves of the plant to sweeten their drinks, they used it as medicine or simply chewed it for its sweet taste. The use of stevia spread throughout the continent and it also became popular with the settlers. An Italian botanist has been credited for the ‘discovery’ of this natural herb today, it is cultivated around the world.

Stevia sweeteners have been approved by the FDA as safe to use, however, the crude leaf doesn’t have the same status yet. You can purchase liquid stevia extracts and powdered stevia extracts. The liquid form is usually extracted using water or alcohol. The alcohol evaporates though, so the sweetener doesn’t contain any of it. Producing the powdered extract requires more chemical processing, which is why liquid stevia is the preferred and healthier choice.

What Are the Benefits of Using Stevia as a Sugar Substitute?

The most obvious benefit of replacing sugar in your diet with a natural sweetener with zero calories is reducing your calorie intake. And if you drink sweetened tea and coffee daily, the calories can add up. One teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories, so, if you drink two cups of coffee daily with one teaspoon of sugar, you are consuming more than 200 calories weekly just from the sugar in your coffee. While it doesn’t seem like a significant amount, it can certainly have an impact if you use a zero-calorie sweetener in all your drinks.

So, how can you use this to your advantage? Well, for starters don’t try to compensate with other treats and don’t increase the amount of food you eat. One of the reasons why people can’t seem to lose weight when using low-calorie substitutes is that they overestimate the difference in their calorie intake. For example, if you use a zero-calorie sweetener, you can’t treat yourself with an extra serving. The same applies to any other low-calorie substitute. Let’s say you are eating low-calorie yoghurt. You can’t justify a second cup because then you are still eating almost twice as many calories.

Weight loss is best achieved gradually, with changing your eating habits. Adding a few drops of liquid stevia in your tea might not make a visible difference immediately, but with time and other changes in your lifestyle and diet, you will be able to shed those extra pounds. Another health benefit of stevia is that is has been found to have no effect on the blood glucose levels. This means that people with high blood sugar levels may be able to use it as a sweetener. What’s more, research has been done on whether stevia can be considered a potential food allergen. A study found that stevia is not likely to cause an allergic reaction. No stevia allergy has been reported since 2008!

How Can You Incorporate Stevia in Your Diet?

Stevia is considered to be more than 200 times sweeter than sugar. So, you won’t need to use a huge amount of it to achieve the desired sweetness in your food and drinks. Putting four drops of stevia in your tea would be roughly the same as mixing one tablespoon of sugar. Some consumers report that clear liquid stevia is better mixed with drinks than powdered stevia, though some say they use powdered stevia when baking. You can use stevia in almost all types of drinks, such as hot tea, iced tea, hot coffee, iced coffee, smoothies, lemonade or yoghurt. If you enjoy sweet carbonated drinks, then you can make a healthier homemade version with stevia. All you need is regular sparkling water. Just add a few drops to it and voila – a zero-calorie sweet soda! As for making sweet iced coffee, you can use stevia to replace chocolate syrup.

Stevia can also be added to desserts such as ice cream or pancakes. However, regarding baking, please note that sugar also adds bulk to your mixtures. So, if you are planning on replacing sugar with stevia in your baking recipes, there are a few things to note. First, find the equivalent of stevia you need to use as it is sweeter than sugar. Second, use a different ingredient to make up for the structure, such as egg whites or baking powder. Use your judgement or find a recipe with stevia listed as an ingredient so that you can get the measures right.

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