Happy Kids With Healthy Bodies

Stevia a natural sweetener

stevia_natural_sweetenerStevia is part of the sunflower family and is also known as sweet leaf or sugar leaf. Stevia can be used as a sweetener or sugar substitute in a wide variety of food.

Stevia is it worth considering as a natural sweetener for our foods?

A natural sweetener

Stevia leaves can be 30 times sweeter than sugar, 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose and is completely natural. Stevia's sweet glycosides (the sweet taste) cannot be digested so have no calories. Stevia makes no difference on the blood sugar leels so can be used by diabetics too!

Avoiding Saccharin and Aspartame

Saccharin and asartame seem to be in every drink or sweet and dessert I buy these days. I refuse to buy products with these in for the weekly shop but obviously these artificial sweeteners are in so many products it is impossible to avoid them. The controversy around consuming saccharin and aspartame seems to ebb and flow. But why should we avoid these products?

Why is saccharin used?

Saccharin a sweet tasting compound and a substitute for sugar with no calorific value. It has been used in low sugar and sugar free foods for years, but I am even seeing saccharin used in 'ordinary' sugar-full products these days too.

There have been claims over the years that saccharin is a carcinogen and actually increases apetite and therefore people actually gain weight and it may trigger allergies. Once banned in Canader and the US, the official line is that saccharin is relatively safe as an alternative to sugar.

Why is aspartame used?

Aspartame, commonly known as NuraSweet has similar adverse claims to saccharine. Aspartame is found in soft drinks, chewing gum, gelatine, desserts, yoghurt and other sugar free food items. This artificial sweetener also enhances the flavour of foods. With neurotoxic, metabolic, allergenic and fetal effects on the list, we may feel we should avoid this chemical too! 

Medicines

Of course, these artificial sweeteners help to keep tooth decay level lower but what are we doing to our bodies? Many of the UK medicines have these artificial sweeteners in, personally I like to brush the children's teeth rather than subject them to artificial sweeteners. I always get a sideways glance when I ask at the pharmacy for the SUGAR-FULL paracetamol please.

Is stevia Banned in the UK

Stevia is currently undergoing testing in the UK and EU. The Food Standards Agency has this information on stevia and the process of getting foods to market. stevia is for sale online and will in theory be available on the high street soon.

Natural Sweeteners

It seems crazy to be using artifical sweeteners in our kids and our own foods, whether the negative health claims are true or not. With our coeliac kids, it seems to me even more important to get the right nutrition in and avoid any possible health risks.

How to use stevia as a natural sugar free alternative

Stevia is a good natural, zero calorie alternative to sugar that we can use and buy ourselves to.

Stevia works well in strong flavoured foods and doesnt work well in mild and subtle flavoured foods. Use for foods with chocolate, coffee, lemon, berries, cheeses, sauces and dressings.

Generally, stevia can be bought in powder or tablet forms. Conversion charts will be given on how much stevia to use to how much sugar in the recipe (you may need to add extra water into the recipe too)

A last interesting thought?!

Why are companies such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, PepsiCo, Danone, Nestle and Starbucks all developing stevia products.. 

Do you know of other good sugar alteratives we can use in our cooking? Please add any recipes to our {jcomments on}

PLUS - let us know if you grow your own STEVIA and how you use the fresh leaves!

AND add your comments below!...

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