Stevia in the raw refers to a product called Stevia Extract in the Raw, made by the same company that creates those ubiquitous brown sugar packs you find at restaurants marked Sugar in the Raw. It's pure granulated stevia suitable for sweetening beverages, cooking or baking.
Native to South America, stevia is an herb with naturally sweet leaves. Primarily used by the native people in Paraguay and Brazil, it is now grown in other countries including China. Stevia has been used for at least 400 years in South America, perhaps longer, as both a medicinal herb and a sweetener. It has a long history of safety with few side effects. The Japanese, for example, have allowed stevia to be used as a food sweetener for close to 40 years. It has taken a long time for it to reach the U.S., but many people, disheartened by the potential for reactions and the reported side effects of artificial sweeteners, seek out a natural alternative. As natural sweeteners go, stevia is probably one of the easiest for people to use. The sweet taste of stevia comes from a chemical called glycosides that are extracted from the leaves.
Benefits of Stevia
Stevia's sweet taste offers sweetness without raising blood glucose levels. That's important, because for diabetics and people with poor blood glucose control, sweeteners such as sugar, honey and even some brands of agave syrup can raise blood glucose levels. Like cinnamon, it may even lower blood glucose levels.
Stevia also has no calories. The taste has been recorded as sweet with a hint of licorice. Most people do find that stevia has a different "mouth feel" than sugar or sugar substitutes and a hint of some kind of after taste, which can take some getting used to.
In addition to diabetics, many people who follow low carb diets such as Atkins and the South Beach Diet find stevia a beneficial addition. Because it does not affect blood glucose, it fits among the low glycemic index foods recommended on such diets.
Stevia in the Raw
Steve in the Raw, or Stevia Extract in the Raw, is the brand name for a stevia powder. It is sold by the box or bag. The company's website provides product details as well as free recipes. It's worth checking out the recipes, because cooking with stevia may require significant adjustments to your favorite recipes. You cannot just substitute the exact same amount of stevia for sugar, for example. Both the taste and the texture of the baked goods won't be the same. The Stevia Extract in the Raw website offers a good choice of recipes to try if you decide to purchase the powdered extract.
Consumer feedback on the product is mixed. Some people just don't like the taste of stevia. If you open a package of stevia and mix it into your tea and expect the same taste as you'd get from a package of white sugar, you'll be disappointed. It definitely has a different taste.
Most people say that this particular stevia product has much less of an aftertaste than traditional stevia extracts. The secret may be in the unique way that the company extracts the naturally occurring sweet compounds from the herb's leaves. Among various stevia products, consumers have frequently cited this one as having the best taste.
For people who complain the product is too bitter, the secret may be in using less. With a taste that is 30 times sweeter than sugar, even a drop too much can create a bitter taste in the mouth. Try just a tiny amount to see if that adjusts the taste enough for you.
Where to Buy
According to the company's website, the product is carried at major supermarket chains including Giant, A & P, Pathmark, Winn Dixie, Safeway, Stop & Shop, and many other stores. You can also purchase it only at Sugar in the Raw, the company's main website.