Monday, June 3, 2013

The Sweet Life... low carb sweeteners that are Good!

I have been doing a low carbohydrate eating style for years now.  I was raised on Sweet and Low (yuck) and my parents still use it.  My sister and I discovered Splenda and, though I like the flavor, I don't like the less-than-natural ingredients.

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A long time ago I had heard about Stevia, a natural sweetener made from a plant.  I had tried the leaves but, being that I had just started a family, convenience won out and I quickly forgot about Stevia again (with the hopes that one day it would be more readily attainable and convenient than leaf-form).  This probably sounds horrible but I was a mom with two young children and three businesses.  "Convenient" was my middle name!

A year or two ago I started doing shopping at natural food stores again, whenever my pocket book allowed and, to my wonder, Stevia was available in powder form and even in packets!  It cost relatively the same as Splenda, sometimes less depending on the supplier and the form.

Needless to say I am "Stevia and proud" now and have been almost 24/7 since finding the powder and packets!  For more information on stevia's history etc. please see the bottom of this post.

I have found a few brands that I like, I will share them below:

Best of All Stevia:  Pretty good flavor and the price is reasonable.

Vitacost Stevia (bulk powder):    I use this one usually.  It has added fiber, which I like.  The price can be very good when it is on sale during a BoGo sale (buy one get one half off).  The fiber causes a slight banana - ish smell but that is only when it is in the container.  Once added to coffee, tea or baked goods the smell disappears.

Herbal Authority Stevia with Fiber:  This was my "gateway" stevia.  It is great!  Convenient and the packets used to be almost foil-like so they repelled moisture slightly, which made me feel better about carrying them with me.  I usually order from Vitacost now but, if they sold this, I'd still be ordering it!

Lime Stevita, Stevia Drink:   This is expensive but VERY good!  If you are someone that doesn't like "plain" water this will create a lime / lemon flavored water without aspartame or other harmful additives.

Hazelnut Stevia Extract:    I tried this, to add to my coffee.  I love NOW brand but this was a sticky mess (the dropper wouldn't seal and the flavor did not taste realistic or natural at all).  NOW supplements etc. have been great for me but this was a let down.

Stevia can be used for baking (NOT as an equal conversion, though, stevia is sweeter than sugar).  The kids love it and have yet to notice if I add it to anything.  They never got a lot of sugar to begin with but, even when added to strawberries to create a light "syrup" they (and my husband, who's even pickier about anything "diet") never notice!

So, that's my take on stevia and how it has helped me stay sweet without unnatural ingredients.  Here's a little more information on stevia from WikiPedia:

" The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar,[5] stevia has attracted attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar sweeteners. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose it is attractive to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.
The availability of stevia varies from country to country. In a few countries, it has been available as a sweetener for decades or centuries; for example, it has been widely used for decades as a sweetener in Japan. In some countries health concerns and political controversies have limited its availability; for example, the United States banned stevia in the early 1990s unless labeled as a dietary supplement,[6][7] but in 2008 it approved rebaudioside A extract as a food additive. Over the years, the number of countries in which stevia is available as a sweetener has been increasing."

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