Oh, the wonders of sugar. There is a reason that the expression “like a kid in a candy store” exists. For some, there is no feeling grander than being in a room full of delightful confections. For others, this guilty pleasure takes the form of secret sweets that we hide in drawers beyond the reach of pilfering friends and family.
The more altruistic among us even view sugary treats as a way to give to and connect with others. Whether it’s bringing a welcome pie to your new neighbor or doing a bake sale to raise funds for a worthy cause, sugar can truly be a unifying substance.
Unfortunately, it’s usually also pretty bad for you.
But wait! We have some good news. Granulated and processed sugars are not your only options. There is a low-calorie, natural sweetener available that can meet your dietary needs and give your sweet tooth its much-needed fix. It’s called stevia, and if you stick around, we will tell you all about it.
Stevia’s Sweet Origin Story
Deep in the jungles of South America grows a small, unassuming plant known as Stevia rebaudiana. Many commonly refer to it as the “sweet leaf” or “sugar leaf” plant. Why? Its leaves are sweet. Surprise!
This little member of the sunflower family isn’t just some semi-sweet honeysuckle wannabe. The leaves of the stevia plant contain compounds called steviol glycosides that are actually 40 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is just the heavyweight champion of natural sweeteners.
That’s precisely why you will find it in so many of our products. At MiiRO, we believe in delivering to you the best ingredients possible. Our goal is to ensure that you find our chocolates every bit as decadent and delicious as we do. Did we mention that they are vegan, gluten-friendly, and keto-friendly? Just saying.
The Different Kinds of Stevia
There are three major types of stevia generally available.
First off, you have Green Leaf Stevia. It’s the least processed of the three and is usually about 40 times sweeter than normal sugar. This form of stevia usually has a more bitter aftertaste and is not as potent as the other types. It can be purchased and grown at home. While not officially approved by the USDA, it has been enjoyed for centuries by cultures all over the globe.
Next come the Stevia Extracts. As the name suggests, these guys are processed a bit more, removing much of the bitter aftertaste. They are about 200x sweeter than sugar and are what you probably think of when you see “stevia” as an ingredient or in the grocery store.
Then there’s Altered Stevia. What can we say about altered stevia? Well… it’s altered, all right. Like heavily processed, 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, with GMOs for days, kind of altered. Of the stevia family, it’s the one that no one wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving.
Back in 1991, the FDA denied stevia as an artificial sweetener. It wasn’t yet understood enough, and the refining process was far less developed. Luckily we have come a long way, and as of 2008, stevia has been given the all-clear, showing no significant side effects.
Who Needs Stevia?
We have already discussed where stevia comes from and how sweet it is, but that’s barely scratching the surface. For years, those on low carb and low sugar diets have had to find alternatives to the refined sugars present in so many foods. Often, these alternatives are artificially concocted chemical compounds that can prove more harmful than the refined sugars they were meant to replace.
For plant-based and keto diets, staying away from processed foods is a big factor, so turning to a highly processed and artificial alternative to sugar doesn’t make sense. That’s where stevia comes in.
Stevia is natural, sure, but it has a lot more going for it than just that. For those with diabetes and other blood sugar problems, it can aid in weight loss and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. How? Well, because it has zero calories. That’s right; stevia is a naturally made, organic sweetener with zero calories. You may now applaud.
Stevia is perfect for anyone looking to cut calories, as well as diabetics and those with blood sugar imbalances because it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.
What Does Stevia Taste Like?
Stevia on its own can taste a little bittersweet (although we’re not entirely sure why you’d be eating stevia by itself anyway). However, with the right technique and with a bit of experience, you’ll never have to worry about the bitter side of things again.
At MiiRO, we’ve perfected our proprietary blend to the point that it really does taste like real sugar—with zero bitter aftertaste. If that’s not a win, we don’t know what is.
Stevia vs. Sugar
We have touched on several of stevia’s beneficial qualities and the many ways that it excels as a sweetener, but still, questions remain. How different is stevia from sugar, really? How does it bake? What are its melting points? Does it crystalize the same way? Thankfully, we are here to answer some of these burning questions.
Health Effects of Stevia
Is stevia really that much healthier than sugar? In short, yes.
Some definite cons come along with sugar. Overconsumption of sugar can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a lot of other ailments.
Much of this is due to the calories and carbs from sugar and the way that your body processes them. High fructose corn syrup, for example, is absorbed into your body much more quickly than most granulated sugars and thus causes increased weight gain.
On the other hand, stevia has zero calories, zero carbs, and a Glycemic Index of zero. Compare that to the average GI of table sugar (about 65), and you start to see why stevia is a preferable choice.
In the Kitchen
When it comes to subbing in stevia for sugar, you might want to know a few things. First off, stevia is much sweeter than sugar. That means you use less of it, which means you will have to make some recipe alterations.
Anyone who has ever attempted crafting homemade cookies should know that baking ingredient ratios are pretty darn important. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. You can make sure the consistency of your batter is correct by adding ingredients like almond flour and chopped oats.
MiiRO’s baking chips (we have both a dark chocolate and a peanut butter option!) are an excellent addition to any gluten-free or low sugar confections that you want to throw together. We use stevia, nut mylk and other naturally sourced ingredients to get the most out of our cocoa beans. We also have a great selection of delicious recipes available for anyone on a plant-based or no/low sugar diet, so check out the MiiRO Magazine and MiiRO TV the next time you want something sweet.