From coarse granules, to liquid drops, and packets of fine powder, various versions of stevia seem to be available just about everywhere these days. If you aren’t familiar with the sweet stuff, here’s a quick run-down:
The stevia plant (stevia rebaudiana) produces sweet-tasting, calorie-free leaves which can be crushed or dried to sweeten foods and beverages naturally. Stevia can replace sugar in TONS of recipes and is perfect for consumption by those watching their sugar intake because it is not metabolized by the body.
Stevia grows best in warm conditions similar to those preferred by basil. States like Florida and Southern California have an ideal climate for both stevia and basil to proliferate.
Stevia plants are perennials, meaning they’ll come back year after year if you treat ‘em right, but the plants have a difficult time recovering from harsh winters. If you are not located in Florida, California, Hawaii, or a similar subtropical climate, don’t lose hope! Keeping the plants in containers indoors where they are protected from the elements is okay, too. As long as your plant is getting enough sunlight, water, and has a large enough container for the roots to spread, a kitchen companion can be just as productive as a plant that’s rooted in the ground.
If you choose to grow your own stevia plant, it can be started from seed, but that can be a bit tricky and it takes quite a while for the germination process to take place. It is easiest to grow from the herb’s cuttings or from a plant transferred to a raised bed or a roomy container with sufficient drainage. Alternately, it can be grown from a container purchased from a plant nursery, started indoors, in a sunny window and then later transferred outside.
But why buy the plant when artificial sweetener is absolutely everywhere?
Moreover, why even entertain the idea of switching to stevia if you’re perfectly satisfied with Splenda, Sweet-n-low, or Equal, let alone start growing your own at home?
10 Reasons Stevia’s The Sweet Choice For Seniors:
Superior taste and convenience: Can you say fresh? Stevia’s the only sugar substitute that you can grow for yourself at home! Whether you plant your stevia plant in your veggie garden or if you keep it growing in a sunny windowsill, having the sweet, aromatic leaves only steps away from the kitchen is pure heaven. This is especially convenient if you are limited on transportation as far as grocery trips go! Having your very own sweet plant provides you with independence and self-sufficiency! You’ll be surprised by how using fresh leaves for tea or eating a few right off the plant is so much nicer than the chemical-based sweetener you’ve been settling for!
Both Fresh & Packaged Options Are Nutritious: You can dry them and pulverize them into a green powder which works just like the brand name powders Truvia or Stevia in the Raw which are commercially available for purchase. In a perfect world, it would be better for you to consume your own whole-leaf stevia than the derivative of stevia called rebaudioside-A, which is, indeed, the commercially available version, but if you are not that adventurous, not to worry! Store-bought stevia is still packing a nutritious punch and is far superior to the artificial sweeteners.
- Note: Most (but not all) commercially available drink mixes and packaged sugar substitutes are not raw or whole-leaf stevia, but the processed version. It’s sometimes labeled as either Reb A or Rebiana. These sweeteners are nutritionally inferior to whole-leaf as they have been liberated from most of their antioxidants. So if you must purchase a powder, be vigilant in your research. Make sure the prepackaged stevia products say “whole leaf”.
Diet friendly and bonus nutrients: Stevia’s sweet but kind to your waistline. It boasts zero calories and zero carbs. Plus: various studies have found the leaf to contain the following: proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, rutin (a flavonoid), true vitamin A, vitamin C and an oil which contains 53 other constituents. For seniors who are looking to watch their weight, their sugar, or their required daily allowance for specific vitamins and minerals, the consumption of stevia can be really quite helpful in a delicious way!
Safe for diabetics: With Zero Glycemic index there is no effect on blood sugar levels and it is a safe sugar alternative. Stevia contains a compound called steviol glycoside that is not absorbed by the body and cannot be broken down so the body flushes it right on out!
Stabilizes your blood sugar levels: Did you know that one of the common health benefits of stevia is its ability to control blood glucose level? Not only does it not raise your blood sugar upon consumption, but it aids diabetics getting back on track. Used as a substitute for sugar by diabetics, It also stabilizes your blood sugar by increasing insulin resistance, inhibits the absorption of glucose and promotes the health of the pancreas.
Hypertension Helper: Stevia can help regulate blood pressure effectively. Stevia has been popular in South America for decades, and it is used there by doctors to supplement treatment for high blood pressure along with changes in lifestyle and medications as it is applicable. Adding stevia to your diet could help lower your blood pressure when combined with other lifestyle changes. Make sure to consult your doctor before any lifestyle, diet, or exercise modifications.
You’ll save money in the long run: If you choose to grow your own stevia plant rather than purchase processed, store-bought stevia, you’ll have fresh leaves from your own plant. You can make your own powder, teas, extract, and tincture. Don’t be intimidated, it’s as simple as boiling water! A conversion chart can be found here.
Bonus – Stevia is Natural and Good For The Planet. By growing and consuming your own stevia, you’ll be increasing your household’s self-sufficiency and sustainability factor while decreasing its carbon footprint.
A Little Goes A Long Way: Stevia is potent, so you won’t have to use a lot to get a very sweet taste. Powder that’s refined from the raw leaves of the plant, winds up being 200-300 times sweeter than ordinary sugar! That should satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth!