Stevia rebaudiana

Question: stevia rebaudiana

Good day I bought a stevia rebaudiana plant I wanted to ask you if you have information on how to use it instead of sugar.

Answer: stevia rebaudiana

Dear Michela,
Stevia is a perennial plant native to Central and South America, where it has been used as a sweetener for millennia, as it contains substances called glycosides, which have a strong sweet taste, but which do not provide calories if eaten; these substances, including stevioside, are mainly found in the leaves. The introduction of this sweetener in Europe and North America has suffered some setbacks, as it is necessary to establish the toxicity of a product before marketing it; although various control organisms have established a maximum quantity of stevioside to be consumed daily, it seems that stevia has no effect on health, even if consumed in higher doses. Considering that the sweeteners contained in the stevia can have a sweetening power up to 200 times that of sugar, it is understood that it does not happen easily to consume excessive doses of stevia: the stevioside contained in a small apical leaflet, sweetens as a teaspoon of sugar; to consume a higher dose than suggested by the international control bodies one should consume enormous quantities of sweet foods in a day. Thus, stevia turns out to be a sweetener without health problems, besides the fact that it does not give calories and is also suitable for diabetics. In addition to this, the sweetening substances contained in stevia do not undergo degradation if cooked, heated, mixed in water, which makes it a sweetener more suitable for use in the food industry compared to sweeteners that are commonly used today, such as aspartame, which should never be heated. The use of stevia today, in addition to continuing in the places of origin of the plant, is widespread in Asia, less in Europe and North America. Typically, the extracts of stevia leaves are used as sweeteners, which are mixed with excipients, so as to make it similar to the common granulated sugar; this practice is motivated by the strong sweetening power of stevioside, which would make it very difficult to use the active ingredient "alone": if it sweetens 200 times more than sucrose, to use a quantity of one teaspoon of sugar if the granules should be counted. As it happens in the areas of origin of the stevia, it is also possible to directly use the stevia leaves as sweetener, because they have a pleasant taste, similar to that of the sucrose, with an aftertaste of licorice. Typically dried leaves are used, a single leaflet sweetens more or less like a teaspoon of sugar. Or prepare an infusion with the leaves, which is then heated to evaporate most of the water, and then used as a sugar syrup. Clear that, such use, requires a certain practice, because it is not easy to indicate how much syrup or how many leaves are necessary to sweeten a cake, or a cream. It is much easier to use dried and ground stevia leaves to sweeten a cup of coffee or a cup of tea.