My sweet tooth is my weakness. I do not use refined sugar in the house much anymore and I try not to imbibe out in the world either (I do cave sometimes of course…naughty). One must find a substitute. Avoiding these little blue, pink or yellow packets, a while back I started using organic stevia from Trader Joe’s. It is an acquired taste but I am used to it now and I love it. It also has many healing properties beyond a sugar substitute, read on!

It works well in some baking applications and especially well in this millet porridge, puddings, shakes etc. I add a bit to my green juice so it doesn’t taste so grassy. You can also use half and half so in Anthony’s coffee I sneak in a bit in place of the sugar he will not give up. When we lived in Peru we used to buy it in the leaf form but I had never seen it here….until now.

Enter Teena’s Pride a sustainable and impressive farming operation in the Redlands. This family farm produces some of the most beautiful and delicious vegetables and herbs that we have the pleasure of eating in South Florida….and they now grow STEVIA! I highly recommend checking them out and joining their CSA (community supported agriculture) program and get a weekly box of the most beautiful produce for your cooking pleasure.

Please read below for the article that Teena’s sent out this week announcing this new wonder herb. So excited to be able to get it fresh, thank you Teena!

Stevia is a species of shrub and herb native to the rain forests of Paraguay. It is in the sunflower family and is related to lettuce and marigolds.

Also known as sweet leaf and sugar leaf and is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar!

Stevia is used as a dietary supplement and sugar substitute. It has no calories, no carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index which makes it a great natural alternative to sugar and chemical sweeteners. It also has many medicinal properties such as aiding digestion and lowering blood sugar levels.

The best way to get the most out of stevia is to dry the leaves and make your own powder. A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying in about 12 hours is the preferred method.

You can crush the dried leaves by hand using a mortar and pestle or using a coffee grinder. You can use the stevia in this powdered form, adjusting the amount you use to achieve the desired degree of sweetness

You can also make your own stevia simple syrup by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated. It works perfectly for sweetening beverages.

Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses of Stevia:

  • No Harmful Side Effects – Stevia does not have any of the negative side effects that have been associated with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
  • Diabetes – Stevia is nurturing to the pancreas. It can be used by diabetics as a sweetener and also as a method for controlling blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that Stevia actually helps to regulate blood glucose levels in people with diabetes and hypoglycemia.
  • Hypertension – Studies have shown that Stevia lowers high blood pressure and does not affect regular blood pressure.
  • Teeth and Gums – Stevia will not cause cavities and actually helps to prevent them. It has antibacterial properties, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other infectious organisms. Some manufacturers are adding Stevia to toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Skin Care – Stevia can be applied to the skin to treat acne and other skin ailments. It has also been shown to protect against premature aging. A few drops of liquid Stevia extract can be placed directly in a cut to help quicken healing.
  • Digestion – Stevia has been shown to aid with digestion and soothe upset stomach.
  • Weight Loss – Stevia does not have any calories nor carbohydrates which makes it excellent as a weight-loss aid. Some reports suggest that Stevia can help to minimize the sensations of hunger and cravings for sweets or fatty foods.