Back again! I've been busy getting prepped for the start of my month of raw tomorrow. So busy, I haven't had much time to blog about it.
I've been getting myself prepped to help avoid pitfalls I may encounter. One of which, is my sweet tooth the size of Russia. So, ok- I've admitted it, I've got a substantial weakness for all things sugar-like.
One way I've discovered to help in regards to the sweet tooth, is this little gem of a plant. I first learned of this plant while at one of Gary's friend's house. He is a man in his 40's or 50's (maybe?) who is bound in a wheelchair due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). He lives on a very strict diet of zero sodium, no sugar, no dairy, meats, or alcohol.
Do you know how hard it is to have a zero sodium diet? Do you know there is naturally ocuring sodium incarrots? How about corn, apples, lemons, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, artichokes, brussels sprouts, squash, sweet potatoes, cherries, avocados, blueberries, honeydew melon, AND swiss chard? My goodness, what in the world does this man eat? I know...I asked the same questions.
Well, in my questions- I found an answer to my achilles heal- my sweet tooth.
His answer for the zero sugar?
While Gary and I were browsing the farmer's market one Saturday morning (we're lucky to have a great, diverse, farmer's market just 2 miles from our house), I stumbled upon a bag of dried Stevia. I had seen the powered form of it in the grocery store, but never bought it due to the processed nature of it. But this stevia was from a farm. In Pittsfield. Organically grown. The leaves where right there in the bag. I asked Tom if I could try a leaf. (Yes, Gary and I know a few of our farmer's market vendors by name- we just so happen to know Tom because he looks like Gandalf with a wooden pipe, green wool pants, and he wears a piece of paper clothed-pinned to his flannel shirt that says "TOM"........ If you don't believe me, check out his picture- here.)
Anyways, back to the story- Tom encouraged me to try a stevia leaf, and as I placed it in my mouth, the raw sugar-like sweetness excited the area of taste buds on the front of my tongue that get all happy when they experience sweet.
It was love at first taste.
I bit the bullet and bought a one-ounce bag of the Stevia for $5.00. It was one of the best purchases I've made. I swapped out the raw honey in my tea for stevia. 1-2 leaves per cup of tea is comparable to a spoonful of honey.
I also make up a strong concentration of "tea" by brewing some leaves in a small amount of water. This sweet water can then be added to smoothies or anything for baking. The leaves can also be blended and pulverized for a sugar-effect.
I've had the bag of stevia now for nearly 3 months, and as you can see- it only takes a small amount to make a big impact.
What Are the Benefits of Stevia?
Stevia doesn't contain any carbohydrate molecules. It gets it's sweet taste from glycosides. What does this mean? This means that your body does not react to stevia like it does to sugars and carbohydrates, but is actually about 30 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia can help your pancreas regulate your blood glucose levels rather than disrupt it, making it a safe sweetener for diabetics. Stevia has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce gas, sooth upset stomachs, and aids in digestion. Stevia has even been shown to reduce bacterial growth that causes gum and tooth decay, making it an excellent additive for toothpastes. Stevia is also beneficial to the skin and has been shown to decrease skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, burns, lip sores, and even to help reduce scarring from wounds.
What Are the Down Falls of Stevia?
Stevia, being a plant, has very little known problems with it. To give you the raw truth, I should note that some studies suggest a link between large amounts of stevia and a decrease in male reproductive function. Also- a possibility of very large amounts of stevia may disrupt the normal breakdown of carbohydrates in your body. And, another study suggests that in large quantities, stevia may negatively effect the kidneys.
My raw opinion?
None of the negative effects of stevia have been proven, and if used in moderation as everything else should be, stevia can be a wonderful replacement for unhealthy refined sugars.
To do your own homework- just google "Stevia" and read all there is to read!