Stevia - The Sweet Leaf
Stevia, also known as sweet leaf or sugarleaf, is a robustly sweet plant that has been used throughout history by indigenous populations for its medicinal properties and flavor. We’re so excited to bring its functionality, sweetness, and rich history to our Raw Chocolate for your health and pleasure!
The Leatherhead Food Research Organization gives promising news in their report on the top food and beverage trends for 2011: we’ll be seeing an increasing focus on sustainability, improving the obesity epidemic, and the reformulation of products towards lower levels of sugar and fat. Stevia plays an important role in each of these emerging trends, and its popularity since 2008 shows it - at 28%, Stevia has the highest growth rate of all the new sweeteners.
The Story of a Curiously Sweet Leaf
A member of the sunflower familia, Stevia is native to subtropical and tropical regions in western North America and South America. While sugar cane requires ample amounts of water and nutrients from soils, Stevia plants can actually grow on poor soils and less water. Stevia plants require less land than sugar cane crops for the same amount of sweetener, since Stevia extract is so much sweeter (30-45 times!) than sugar.
Scientist Antonio Bertoni who first recorded the use of Stevia by the Paraguayan Guarani in the late 1800s. Known locally as Caaí-ehe or Kaaíhe-E (translation: "sweet-herb"), Stevia was used indigenous populations to sweeten bitter beverages and treat multiple illnesses. By the early 1900s, scientists became fascinated by these sweet, functional leaves and began to explore sweetener extraction.
Stevia’s popularity has grown steadily around the world. In Japan (where Stevia’s effects have been researched for decades), it has 40% of the sweetener market. Its popularity in the US has been slowed by opposition from the sugar industry, but in 2008 it was approved by the FDA as a food additive and is growing in popularity as a natural, calorie-free way of satisfying our country’s sweet tooth while alleviating our excessive use of sugar.
Why Your Body Will Love Stevia
The species Stevia rebaudiana or Stevia has a 1,500 year-old history. In Paraguay, the ancient Guarani people found that its delicious green leaves were not only useful for sweetening teas; it also served to improve the skin and aid digestion. In Brazil, it is regularly used for the treatment of diabetes; and in China, people drink stevia tea for its anti-aging benefits.
Stevia has no carbohydrates or calories, its glycemic index is 0 (zero!), which means that it produces only tiny changes in blood glucose and insulin levels and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The nutrients found in stevia leaves such as chromium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, zinc and niacin are known to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Research points to its beneficial effects on circulation and ability to aid in kidney function for those with diabetes and diabetes-related renal disorders and have suggested that Stevia contains properties that make it an anticancer agent. Studies have also shown that Stevia inhibits gum disease, tooth decay, and plaque formation; and can heal skin issues.
An Answer to the Most Important Question - How Does Stevia Taste?
Stevia’s small green leaves pack a powerfully sweet punch! At 35-40 times sweeter than sugar, you’ll need a much smaller amount of Stevia than you would of sugar. Stevia also touts a refreshing taste; as well as a longer-lasting flavor than other sweeteners - you’ll notice that its sweetness takes a moment to kick in, and fades slowly.
For those of you with candida or diabetes, or who are looking to avoid all forms of sugars (even low-glycemic coconut palm sugar or agave), we’ve got you covered! In our Zero G bar, Stevia plays a starring role, and you’ll notice a delightfully bittersweet flavor followed by a licorice-like sweetness that will gently linger as you savor your chocolate knowing that it contains the lowest glycemic index sweetener possible.
Unlike many other chocolates on the market that claim "Sweetened by Stevia" on the label, we do NOT use inulin, erythritol, or xylitol and then add a pinch of stevia. This bar is a hardcore 96% cacao content, with stevia as the only sweetener. So if you don't like stevia or normally reach for milk chocolate, you might want to avoid this bar!