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Stevia

The natural, herbal sweetener

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If you are tired of the overly processed sugar you are currently adding to your coffee to sweeten it up, you might want to try a more natural alternative: stevia. It's 300 times more sweet than sugar, and requires very little processing. People are fond of it for its natural state, as well as the fact you can grow it yourself.

Stevia extract comes from about 150 different species of herbs, in the genus Stevia. It's a group of plants related to asters, daisies and sunflowers. The compound that give stevia its sweet taste is found in the leaves and is chemically known as stevioside.

Sounds perfect, doesn't it? Well, unfortunately there have been many studies on the safety of stevia as a sweetener, and the results are quite mixed. Currently, the FDA does not approve of stevia as a food additive in the USA or Canada, only as a dietary supplement (meaning companies can't use it as an ingredient in their products).

Well, stevia has been used in Japan for decades in many food products and is almost as popular as regular sugar. I guess it can't be all that dangerous after all.

Science and politics aside, I thought I would give stevia a try. I purchased a bottle of liquid stevia and was a bit surprised by the cost. A small dropper bottle (60 mL) and it was about $14.00 Canadian. Quite a bit more expensive than plain sugar. Granted, you only need a few drops per cup of coffee. The bottle claimed that only 1-4 drops is necessary in a cup of beverage, but I used around 6.

It was pure sweetness, with no aftertaste or other flavour at all. I do prefer brown sugar for the taste, but the stevia certainly did the trick for sweetening.

You likely won't find it in your regular grocery store, but most large bulk or natural food stores carry it. There are many sources online as well (Compare prices).

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