What is stevia? It is a plant-based, natural, sugar and calorie-free sweetener that is available in health food stores.
As part of the lose-the-baby-weight effort, I’m reducing the amount of sugar I consume.
It turns out, stevia is a great option for this. It’s over 100x times sweeter than sugar, which means that you can use much smaller amounts and your stash lasts a lot longer. You can also grow stevia yourself and make liquid sweetener by making a “tea” with the leaves. But more on that later.
Stevia can be found in a few forms:

Powdered, in packets:

powdered stevia

Or in liquid drops (my favorite):
Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

You can also get stevia in a granulated form that looks like and can be used like regular cane sugar. The most well-known granulated stevia products are Truvia and Stevia in the Raw.
I prefer Truvia because it has less of the strong aftertaste that stevia can have. My mother-in-law and I experimented with baking, using Stevia in the Raw. We were disappointed to find that it cannot be used as advertised in the same quantities as sugar. This stuff also had a VERY strong aftertaste that ruined cookies. Truvia has a much milder taste, but still shouldn’t be used in the same quantities as sugar when baking. About half was sufficient for most recipies.
Another great sugar alternative is alcohol sugars. The most common are xylitol and malitol. Basically, if you see a chemical ending in -itol in the ingredient list on a product, it’s probably an alcohol sugar. They are very sweet, with no strange aftertaste. These alcohol sugars are calorie free AND have been shown to improve dental health! That’s why you can find xylitol in many brands of sugar free gum. It’s sweet and reduces the chances of cavities. It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

A very common sugar alternative is sucralose, aka Splenda. I do NOT use sucralose because it scares me. Sucralose is a half natural, half synthetic sugar that is “calorie free” because the human body only breaks down a small fraction of what is eaten. My fears were grounded when I found this article on a natural news website.
http://www.naturalnews.com/033661_sucralose_drinking_water.html
Sucralose doesn’t break down in the body, but is also doesn’t break down in water treatment plants. This means that the sucralose that passes through your body ends up in drinking water in the future. Gross!
I have some concerns about this nondigestable sweetener. Sure, my body doesn’t break down the chemicals now, but what if the body figures out how to digest it in the future? What would the side effects be? Are the chemicals dangerous? There are too many unanswered questions for my taste.

And let’s not even start with aspartame. No thank you.

I think for now, I’ll just stick with stevia or good ol’ cane sugar. A pitcher of iced tea, sweetened either way, is healthier and less expensive than commercially-produced sodas.

Keep on keepin’ on…
Amanda

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