Another year is Signed Sealed Delivered...hard to believe, I know. And since a whole lot of resolutions revolve around weight loss or healthier life styles in general, maybe it's good to talk about one of my favorite herbs, stevia.
For those of you wanting to cut calories, stevia is a great alternative sweetener. It has no calories and is not plagued with inflammation causing properties of refined sugar. But, be careful! Not all stevia products are made the same. Some are not good for you, even if they say "all natural" or "in the raw".
Some are highly refined, mixed with other, low nutritional sweeteners like dextrose, or contain chemical additives to improve texture or taste...which would be a non-issue without the manufacturing process to "safely" bring it to market. If the stevia you purchase is white, be very suspicious. If it contains, erythritol or "natural flavors", stay away. Stevia powder in it's pure form should be green. Products sweetened with stevia should list the ingredient as stevia leaf or stevia whole herb. Using these guidelines will help you avoid the bitter tasting, potentially carcinogenic packets or powders that give stevia a bad rap.
Now, let me share why I think this little plant is such a wonder. Stevia rebaudiana is a tender perennial native to Paraguay and Brazil. It is in the Asteraceae family. Like its cousin, the daisy, stevia is easy to grow. In most areas of the United States it is grown as
an annual. But in southernmost states, particularly Florida and California, it will survive many years in the garden without much attention. Studies show that it helps control blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and is anticarcinogenic. In high doses it can even lower blood pressure. It is easy to use. Fresh leaves can be floated in beverages or leaves can be dried and added to baked goods or blended with tea leaves. When used in this way, stevia is 30-40 times sweeter than sugar. Another way to use stevia is to make a liquid extract, which can be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Here is a recipe that I've used from FoodBabe.com, with a few notes of my own:
1 cup fresh stevia leaves (washed)
1. Dry stevia leaves 12 hours in the sun or in a dehydrator. (Sun dried works best)
2. Place dried leaves in a glass jar and add enough vodka to cover them.
3. Steep leaves in vodka for exactly 24 hours. (I have gone longer but NEVER more than 36 hours...and the longer you steep over 24 hours, the more bitter the extract becomes).
4. Filter out the leaves and discard.
5. To remove the alcohol, heat on lowest heat for 20 minutes but do not boil. (Seriously, do not even simmer. If you get any boiling action at all throw it out. Don't risk Mike's Uncle Dude's whiskey face...heat denatured stevia tastes awful!).
Stevia, the whole herb, has no down side. It has no known side effects or contraindications. It is even safe to use when pregnant or nursing. It is safe for small children. In fact it is even known to help with colic. So, when it comes to Stevia rebaudiana, I say baby, ev'rything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight.
Have a great 2017 everyone! Peace out.