Choose a natural alternative to sugar + artificial sweetener
Sugar is getting some unfavourable coverage in the media at the moment, as it has been linked to a range of health issues. Quite simply, I think that a good rule of thumb is to avoid added (not naturally occurring) sugars, but not to get hung up on the idea of avoiding sugar altogether.
However, there are times that it isn’t convenient to grab something in its most natural form. Sometimes you need to grab a refreshing soft drink or fuel up with a protein supplement, and you expect them to taste sweet.
Like a lot of people, I dislike the idea of putting artificial ingredients in my body and I don’t enjoy the artificial taste of sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, so I have long sought out products that use stevia as an alternative.
WHAT IS STEVIA?
Stevia is a natural, calorie-free sweetener that comes from the stevia rebaudiana plant. The sweetness itself comes from steviol glycosides, which are extracted from the leaves of the plant and purified.
Gram for gram, stevia is between 200-300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar), which means a far smaller quantity of stevia is used in comparison.
While doing my research I also discovered that because stevia is so intensely sweet, it requires a lot less land and water to provide the same amount of sweetness as other mainstream sweeteners, making it a more carbon-footprint-friendly option!
WHERE TO FIND STEVIA
Stevia is appearing more and more frequently in the ingredients lists of a variety of food and drink products, making natural, lower-calorie options more widely available.
AS AN EXTRACT
Stevia can be bought alone (there are lots of stevia products on amazon such as from the brand Natvia) to use as a sweetening agent however you desire, such as in a cup, of tea or when baking healthy treats. It may be in powder or liquid form.
IN PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS
Protein powders aimed at the body-conscious tend to avoid adding extra calories to their supplements by using sugar-alternatives. Most commonly, sucralose is used as a sweetener, but brands are increasingly adding stevia options to their growing range of flavours. For example, MyProtein now offer a selection of stevia flavors in their popular Impact Whey Protein.
IN FOOD PRODUCTS
While stevia doesn’t appear to be as commonly used in food products, there are some protein-based snack bars that have incorporated stevia options into their product ranges.
Some flavours of Quest Bars avoid artificial sweeteners entirely. My favourite that uses only natural sweeteners, stevia and erythritol (also a natural sweetener), are the Double Choc Chunk Quest Bars, which I always manage to find cheapest through Amazon.
IN SOFT DRINKS
While I prefer to carry a bottle of water with me wherever I go, if you are prone to grabbing a soft drink on the go, it's good to know that stevia has become more common place in the soft drinks market.
BENEFITS OF USING STEVIA AS A SWEETENER
“Naturalness” has become a bit of a buzzword that has become synonymous with healthiness. However, remember that there are plenty of natural substances that are harmful, so always be wary. Nevertheless, stevia is recognised as safe, and so makes a good alternative to artificial sweeteners.
IT'S SUGAR-FREE + CALORIE-FREE
Steviol glycosides have zero calories on their own, and so are a great option to people looking to manage their weight without cutting out all sweet treats.
While I wouldn’t advocate cutting out all sugar in favour of stevia, I highly recommend seeking a stevia alternative to products that historically contain added sugar, such as soft drinks.
What’s your favourite product that takes advantage of stevia as a sweetener?