For months The Glucoholic has been asked “Hey The Glucoholic, when are you going to review Stevia, the natural no-carb sweetener?” We’ve always kind of planned on doing a Stevia review, but frankly the controversy over the status of Stevia in the United States and Europe has kept us on the sidelines. More on that later. Well no more, as one of The Glucoholic’s most trusted informants contacted us today and said that Stevia had been used as a sweetener in a recipe on the NBC show The Biggest Loser. If it’s good enough for prime time network television, it’s good enough for us!
You can find Stevia in many health food stores as a dietary supplement. It is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and is normally sold in a highly concentrated liquid or in powder form. Whole Foods Market is probably the most popular retailer of Stevia products. Concerning the controversy, the FDA has to date refused to grant sweetener status to Stevia products. Now the slightest of research on the old internet will give a conspiracy theorist a headache, but we’re inclined to let the Stevia lobby do all the work and we’ll just be happy and review this “dietary supplement” since it’s available today.
Right off the bat let’s say that Stevia is really sweet. We tested both the liquid and powdered versions and there is no doubt – this plant provides a lot of bang for the buck. So much so that it leads to our first little complaint. It takes quite a bit of trial and error to get the measurement of Stevia equivalent to what you would normally use if using sugar or some artificial sweetener. The general rule of thumb is that you will not use nearly as much as you think you need to. Start small and work your way up. The liquid form usually comes in a dropper bottle, and is probably the most difficult to get just right. The powder form comes in bulk or in individual packets and is not concentrated, making experimentation with the amounts a little easier.
Stevia does provide excellent sweetness, but our testing showed that even when the sweetness level is perfect there is a bitterness that can’t be overlooked. It’s not so much an aftertaste as it is a bitterness you notice as you are consuming it. Long time consumers we talked to report that they don’t really notice it any longer, and we still have to say that it beats most artificial sweeteners for sweetness and in the aftertaste department. For our money Splenda still provides the best alternative to sugar, but we really encourage giving Stevia a try. When it comes to sweeteners, everybody’s taste buds are different!