All about Stevia

 

Stevia_rebaudiana_foliageThe Stevia Plant (get seeds)

What is Stevia? 

Stevia is a plant that looks similar to mint. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar by volume and it is my primary sweetener of choice. 

Why I don’t use artificial sweeteners

After much study and research, I have personally chosen to avoid artificial sweeteners such as Sweet-n-Low and Splenda. I consider them dangerous chemicals and some would even call them neurotoxins. Many people who still consume these popular artificial sweeteners will argue with a fence post that this is not the case but all the research points to artificial sweeteners being bad for you. There have been studies that show people who consume artificial sweeteners, in products like Diet Coke, are more likely to be overweight and diabetic. Wait, I thought artificial sweeteners were supposed to help you lose weight?!?!  There is much more to weight loss (and health), than cutting out sugar. If you substitute chemical foods in the place of natural ones, you will be no better off!

Stevia Brands of choice

11-14-14 Update: Recently I stumbled upon a new brand of stevia that I LOVE, Stevia Select. You still use twice as much as the original Kal but the sweetness is very intense! I will start soon including it in my Starter Kits instead of the Trader Joe’s Brand. 

select stevia collage

As most of you know, I have been using KAL Stevia in my recipes for the past 2 years. However, in recent months, the company that produces KAL Stevia, Nutraceutical, has changed their method of manufacturing the stevia powder, and the bottle of once PURE stevia now contains maltodextrin (except in their organic variety). This is so sad! Why fix something if it is not broken?? The reason they give for adding maltodextrin is so that the stevia powder won’t stick to their equipment. Unfortunately, maltodextrin is a corn-derived ingredient, and like most non-organic corn products, contains GMOs and should be avoided. 

My plans are to continue to use the remaining PURE KAL Stevia that I have, and to experiment and find other brands that taste good and hold true to having NO other added ingredients. 

WBCC 1

To test different brands of stevia, I decided to use my World’s Best Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe to test these 4 different stevia varieties:

003

  1. Original KAL Stevia (that doesn’t contain any fillers and also can’t be purchased anymore.)
  2. Organic KAL Stevia  (no fillers)
  3. The New formula of KAL (contains maltodextrin)
  4. Organic Sweet Leaf powdered Stevia (no fillers)

I used the same amounts of all of the KAL brands and I used double the amount of Organic Sweet Leaf powdered Stevia as the recipe called for of KAL Stevia (I have figured this out from a couple of other recipes I have tried). The results for this chocolate cake: I couldn’t really tell the difference between the Organic KAL Stevia vs. the other 2 “formulas.” I also liked the Organic Sweet Leaf Brand in this chocolate cake.

How much Stevia should you use?

With this recipe, as with any recipe, always add a little less sweetener than the recipe calls for, especially when using stevia or a different brand of stevia for the first time. Everyone’s palate is SO different and you don’t want to add too much stevia and risk a bitter aftertaste. This is also the reason I choose to add miniscule amounts of organic coconut sugar or raw honey to recipes. Just one tablespoon of either of these natural sweeteners helps achieve that little bit of extra sweetness without risking bitterness from extra stevia. Again, such a small amount is trivial and can always be omitted, but I have chosen to add these small amounts to make the recipes have the right amount of sweetness (for my taste) and adding such small amounts still keeps my recipes low-carb. 

There is no real conversion chart and I don’t know how much of every sweetener it will take to sweeten my recipes. What has ALWAYS worked is just tasting the batter, and adding as much sweetener as you need to get the sweetness YOU desire. Again, no formula, but this method works.

Other tips when using Stevia

  1. Use LEVELED measuring spoons when measuring Stevia. For the first time making a recipe using Stevia, measure out the amount called for in the recipe, then add most of it to the recipe and taste for your sweetness. Add the rest, if needed, or add a different sweetener such as raw honey or coconut sugar to achieve that “extra” sweetness. Be sure to note in the recipe how much you used so you don’t have to guess next time.
  2. Taste your food! Don’t wait until it comes out of the oven to check for sweetness. Taste the batter before it’s baked.
  3. The Microwave Test: The sweetness of Stevia tends to cook out, so place 1 tbsp. of prepared batter (cake, muffin, etc.) in a cupcake liner and microwave for 15-20 seconds. Carefully remove and taste. This will be the sweetness of the final product. Add more, if needed, but use the serving spoon in the KAL® Pure Stevia to add to your recipe and make notes accordingly. 

My personal recommended brands of Stevia 

Below are my favorite brands of stevia based on ingredients (there should only be one, stevia) and taste when used in my recipes:

  1. Stevia Select– Use twice as much as KAL Stevia.
  2. Organic Trader Joe’s SteviaUse twice as much as the recipe calls for of KAL Stevia but you may need additional sweetener.
  3. Organic Sweet Leaf Stevia– If using Organic Sweet Leaf Stevia, use twice as much of it as the recipe calls for of KAL Stevia to achieve the same sweetness.
  4. Organic KAL Stevia– The organic KAL contains NO fillers or maltodextrin 

I will be updating this list as I experiment with other brands of stevia. 

Other people have recommended these brands of Stevia

Now Better Organic Stevia– Use equal amounts of this brand as you would KAL Stevia in recipes. 

If you don’t want to use stevia, please feel free to use whatever sweetener you choose in my recipes, or try using a combination of sweeteners like I do to achieve the perfect sweetness. 

Other Sweeteners

There are other low glycemic sweeteners such as xylitol and erythritol. These are sugar alcohols. I also choose not to use these sugar alternatives.  I am not only feeding myself, I am feeding my husband and my two young boys, and I am not comfortable feeding them these highly processed sweeteners. Erythritol and xylitol can both cause digestive distress and the unnecessary loss of nutrients due to “tummy troubles.”  

For you dog lovers, xylitol is deadly to dogs and foods containing xylitol should not be given to your 4-legged friend, even in small amounts. 

This is a lifestyle choice for me and not a diet. I want to feed myself and my family the most wholesome food that I can. Whatever sweetener you decide to use, do your research and feel comfortable with your decision. 

What sweeteners do you use?? Please tell me in the comments.

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about the author

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  Also be sure to check out my two cookbooks, Satisfying Eats & Comforting Eats,   NOW available in eBook format through Amazon and the spiral bound versions are available here on my blog.

Happy Cookin’!

melissa

Comments

  1. Shamika Zamora says

    Thank you for sharing this information. I am just getting into this new way of eating and living. I have bought your Satisfing eats ebook for my kindle. I was wondering what you thought about Swerve as a sugar substitute?

    • satisfyingeats says

      Shamika, I am glad I could help. I personally have never used Swerve but know many people who use it with great success!

  2. Sharon says

    I am wondering if you have ever used this brand? Evidently it is brand new and supposed to have no aftertaste. I use Swerve most of the time but there is still a cooling effect which I don’t care for. Anyway, here is the link to the new sweetener:

    http://www.holdthecarbs.com/sweeteners/lc-natural-sweet-white

    Also, I have just tried Yacon syrup which I like very much. I have to be careful b/c I am a diabetic and can’t use honey or palm sugar or maple syrup.

  3. says

    I took your advice and bought the Kal last year as I was preparing to make the big change to grain-free, sugar-free, etcl, lifestyle. It has worked wonderfully for me. I sometimes will use raw honey if a recipe calls for it, but generally cut the amount by more than half and substitute the Kal. I find it works fine for most foods, though I am not sure banana and stevia go together well. I recently picked up some Turbinado granulated sugar in case I need something granular, because I cannot bring myself to buy the coconut sugar. I read too much about how it ruins the tree’s ability to produce coconuts over time, and I would rather have coconuts than sugar…

    I appreciate your work here, and the post. I will likely switch to the Kal Organic, I guess, but I am just wondering why do you think the other brands, Sweet Leaf Organic and Trader Joe’s Organic require double the amount? If they are all pure stevia, than why wouldn’t they all have the same sweetness level? Could it be that they are actually containing another ingredient that is not on the label?

    • satisfyingeats says

      Lori, I am glad this post helps. About coconut sugar, I was told the same thing about coconut sugar and then someone sent me this article: http://bit.ly/coconut-sugar I even questioned Tropical Traditions about it and they said that if you are going to use coconut sugar, make sure it is organic and this will ensure the best practices. All the mentioned powdered stevias have not added ingredients, the label will tell if they do (or the companies will be in hot water). One possible reason for the different amounts is how fine the powder is, however, that is just a guess. I hope this helps! I just purchased 2 more kinds of stevia tonight to try! :)

  4. Susan says

    I just bought NOW better stevia and it stills has a bit of an after taste to me. I got it at Sprouts and they also have KAL pure organic stevia and it is on sale. Do you think that KAL tastes better than NOW or is it just something I have to get used to? I have always used sugar or honey because I never liked the taste of non sugar sweetners.

  5. Marilyn Forde says

    I have been reading your blog since last year when my nutritionist advised me to go grain free sugar free and also not to eat any fr uit or potatoes for a while. I am a coeliac,and have some fructose issues too. I am now back eating some foods that contain sugar, and low fructose fruit and vegetables. I have used coconut sugar and coconut flour with lots of success . Kal Stevia isn’t a brand that is sold in Australia so since arriving in US, I have looked for it. Bottles were very small ( this was at a Walmart). They also said ‘ made in China’. Aren’t you concerned about lack of regulation around production safety ?

    • satisfyingeats says

      Marilyn, since finding out about KAL being made in China and their adding of maltodextrin, I have been in search of other brands and that is why I have created this page “All about Stevia.” I have listed 2 other good brands, Sweet Leaf and Trader Joe’s, both organic, that I believe taste comparable to KAL’s original formula. I will continue to update this page with other brands that I try. Feel free to use any brand that you choose and please report back on your findings. I hope this helps!

  6. Darlene says

    I just got a link to your website and was enjoying reading this post. I was curious, though, since the Sweet Leaf Organic and Trader Joes Organic stevia don’t have any fillers, why you need twice as much as you would the KAL. Reading your reply to a comment that KAL is made in China I know I don’t want to get it. I’ve had trouble finding stevia without additives in it, including the Sweet Leaf around here since the stores seem to insist on carrying the ones with additives. I’ve used Sweet Leaf for over 8 years since I was diagnosed with diabetes. I am looking forward to seeing more of your blogs.

    • satisfyingeats says

      Darlene, I am glad you are enjoying my blog! I am pretty sure it has to do with how fine the stevia powder is, comparing KAL to Trader Joe’s or Sweet Leaf. Both of the forementioned do not contain fillers. FYI, the NEW Kal that does contain fillers still measures the same. My new favorite (the more and more I use it) is the ORGANIC Trader Joe’s. It’s possible I like it more than KAL for the taste but it is more expensive. I Hope this helps!

  7. Kathy says

    I learned about your blog through the Wheat Belly blog where your recipe for “Melissa’s No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake” was posted on 4/7/2014 (DH & I are looking forward to trying it soon). I really appreciate this “All about Stevia” article and your hard work in testing out the different brands of Stevia. The next time my errands take me in the direction of Trader Joe’s I plan to purchase the Organic Trader Joe’s Stevia Extract. RE: the sweetener for your No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake you state, “Sweetener equivalent to 1/4 cup sugar.” I’ve never used Stevia to replace sugar and wondered what measurement you recommend if I use the Organic TJ Stevia Extract as my sweetener of choice?

  8. Anne says

    KAL makes a product called “Pure Stevia–Organic Raw.” It is actually green instead of white because it is just crushed stevia leaves, so not extracted and no maltodextrin. The only ingredient is “Organic Raw Stevia–Stevia rebaudiana (leaf).” Here is a link to it at Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Raw-Stevia-Kal-Powder/dp/B00714TB2G/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1399952150&sr=8-3&keywords=pure+stevia+kal+organic+raw
    Some reviewers said it tasted “green”–I am still trying it in things and am happy to report back after more experimentation.

    • satisfyingeats says

      Anne, I have not heard good things about KAL Organic Raw stevia so I have yet to try it and probably won’t. Another thing you find out about KAL as you dig around is that it is made in China. If it was the only option, I may have to turn a blind eye but now that I have found Organic Trader Joe Stevia and like it, as of now, that is my sweetener of choice. That’s my take! :)

  9. Diane says

    A note on Stevia. I loved Stevia, but then the bubble burst. My husband grew our own and we used the Kal brand of Stevia as our sweetener of choice. We are not prone to eating sweets so used it sparingly. We thought it was the low carb answer, however much to our dismay, which we are now recovering from, we found after extensive research, testing and several doctor visits later, that Stevia is an endocrine inhibitor, especially of the sexual hormones. Some countries use Stevia as a contraceptive. Both our hormone count became very, very, very low. Please do your research before using Stevia.

    • satisfyingeats says

      Diane, thanks for your comment. I have been using stevia for over 10 years, exclusively for 3-4 years. There is NO perfect food, some people are more intolerant to a certain food than others, such as almonds. Some people swear (and there is data to back it up) that almond are anti-inflammatory while others say they cause inflammation due to the high amounts of PUFAs. Just as Kale is known to be a great superfood but for those taking certain medications or medical history, it is a no-no. Personally, I have never completely understood the link to stevia being an endocrine inhibitor and used as contraceptives… I have conceived 2 healthy boys without even trying, lol, over the last 2 years after 10 years of stevia use. It seems the answers change depending on who you ask and which research you read… this can be very frustrating. I will continue to use organic, pure forms of stevia (no fillers which KAL now has and I have since quit using). The body is complicated (this is an understatement) and there are no 2 body’s the same. Healthy is a journey, not a destination and we must continue to “figure” out our changing bodies. Do what feels right for you. As stated in all of my recipes, you can use your sweetener of choice. Just my thoughts. I hope you enjoy my site!

  10. Layla says

    We use either maple syrup or honey. No one in my family has sugar issues, so it isn’t a problem. We do not use very much anyway.

  11. says

    Melissa, I just got your two cookbooks in the mail – thank you for the super speedy shipment! For the past 5 mths I have been using splenda, swerve, xylitol and liquid stevia as sugar substitutes. Today I purchased the Trader Joe’s powdered stevia specifically to use in your recipes. I’m a little nervous about it because I do not care for the liquid stevia at all and rarely use it except as an additive to another sweetener when directed in recipes. So, big leap of faith for me, lol! Thank you for this blog post outlining your reasons for using stevia and the feedback on brands. I’m looking forward to digging into your cookbooks and PRAYING they help me with the oh so dreaded meal planning which I am horrible at!!!

  12. Yvette says

    I’ve been using Stevis Select that I buy from Amazon for about 11 months now. I have gastro problems, but this hasn’t caused any change. It came with a tiny spoon for measuring, but according to the label it’s just pure Stevia. It took me a little while to get used to the taste having used sugar my entire life, but now that I’m used to it sugar is what tastes nasty. This Stevia is grown and harvested in S. America. They also have a web-site. It’s http://www.stevisselect.com, just in case anyone is interested. It also says it’s stable for baking up to 375*.

  13. eileen says

    Melissa,

    Kal does have maltodextrin, I looked at the ingredients online. Puritans pride has one hundred percent pure stevia and no fillers.

    Eileen

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