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Pear Walnut Salad with a Must Taste Orange Mustard Dressing

It’s a bittersweet time of year. The Christmas buzz is fading away, happy memories mingling with dark, cold days and the next holiday still probably a long way off.

So we thought we’d take a salad to mirror our mood.

This pear walnut salad combines two distinct types of flavour – we mix the naturally tangy, bitter taste of the rocket or lamb’s lettuce with the sweetness of pear and dried dates, cranberries or raisins and top it off with a hint of orange.

It somehow tastes light and wintery too – perfect for brightening up chilly days or gloomy evenings.

If you’re feeling you’ve slightly overindulged during the holiday period (like most of us, I imagine), this is a great way to get back to a better eating regime.

Boring salads suck and are liable to put you off them – so how about one with added walnuts, balsamic cream and a little dijon mustard mixed together? Sounds (and tastes!) good to me.Pear Walnut Salad with a Must Taste Orange Mustard Dressing


Health Benefits – Pear Walnut Salad

If your body is feeling in need of a quick pick me up, then look no further than rocket (often known as rucola or arugula).

It’s packed with a wide range of vitamins such as A, K and C, as well as all-important minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.

Pears are also a bit of a fiber beast – just one small pear contains nearly one fifth of your fiber needs for the day – and most people get nowhere near their recommended amount! It helps against so many things, including heart disease, diabetes and even weight loss.

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Turmeric

Is Turmeric Vegan?

fresh-turmeric-web.jpgCommonly referred to as the “king of the spices”, turmeric is used as a flavoring spice as well as medicinally for its numerous benefits.

Should I Eat Turmeric?

Closely related to the ginger plant, turmeric has been eaten for millennia and is an excellent additional to your Vegan diet.

In Asia and India, turmeric was first used as a dye and then later became a fundamental component of Ayurvedic and other traditional systems of medicine. Today, most turmeric is commercially grown in India or China. Most people in the west eat the dried and powdered form of turmeric, although there are Indian dishes that incorporate the leaves as well. In some health food stores, it is possible to get whole fresh turmeric.

In the west, the name is often pronounced as though the “r” is silent: tu-mer-ic.

Nutritional Value of Turmeric

As a powerful spice, turmeric is usually consumed in small quantities. The following information is for 1 tablespoon (6.8 grams) of turmeric:

  • Calories: 24
  • Total fat: 0.7 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0.2 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 0.1 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0
  • Sodium: 3 milligrams
  • Potassium: 172 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates/Sugar: 4.4 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 1.4 grams
  • Sugar: 0.2 grams
  • Protein: 0.5 grams

Turmeric is also an excellent source of iron and contains magnesium, vitamin B-6, calcium and vitamin C.

Health Benefits of Turmeric

In alternative forms of medicine, turmeric is widely used to address digestive problems and liver issues as well as being applied to cuts and sores. Turmeric has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties and research is ongoing to determine its clinical use for treating diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, autoimmune disorders, digestive problems and Alzheimer’s disease. Absorption of turmeric is markedly increased when consumed with fat and black pepper.

It should be noted that the consumption of turmeric will stimulate type TH2 cells so individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases should consult their healthcare practitioner before adding turmeric to their diet.

Where to Buy Turmeric

Ground, powdered turmeric is widely sold in supermarkets and health food stores. In certain cities, it may be possible to get whole raw turmeric or pickled whole turmeric. The spice is ubiquitous in Asian and Indian cooking so many be available in different varieties at specialty shops.

How to Make Turmeric

Due to being a tropical plant, turmeric is difficult to grow in temperate zones like the United States. Turmeric is usually quite affordable and purchased already dried and powdered from grocery stores and spice shops.

Below are two recipes for turmeric.

Anti-Inflammatory Tea

Considered to be very effective in reducing inflammation and the symptoms of many auto-immune disorders.

Ingredients:

  • 32 ounces of boiling water
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • the juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. of grated fresh ginger

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients and add to tea ball, strainer or tea cloth
  • Pour boiling water into vessel and allow to steep for 10 minutes
  • Strain, serve, and enjoy!

For individuals wishing to eat turmeric for its taste as well as beneficial properties,:

Turmeric Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • Half of one cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. turmeric powder

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
  • Place ingredients in bag and shake until cauliflower florets are evenly coated
  • Arrange evenly in a baking dish being sure not to let the florets clump
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil
  • Roast for 75 minutes
  • Serve and enjoy!

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Tomato Paste

Is Tomato Paste Vegan?

tomato-paste-ripe-tomatoes-web.jpgTomato paste is a commonly used ingredient in Italian dishes such as tomato sauce as well as  in many non-Italian dishes to thicken, color and enhance flavor.  By default it’s Vegan. We also want to talk about if eating tomato paste benefit your health?

Nutritional Value of Tomato Paste (Without Added Salt)

Serving Size 2 TBS (33gms)

  • Calories 30
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 20 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate: 7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
  • Sugars: 4 g
  • Protein: 1 g

Health Benefits of Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins  A, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and folate and the minerals iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Due to its vitamin and mineral content, tomato paste possesses many potential health benefits particularly to eye health, the proper functioning of red blood cells and the immune system. In general, tomatoes that are exposed to heat as they are during the preparation of tomato paste can better release lycopene, which is an antioxidant that can offer protection against hardening of the arteries and several types of cancer.

In general, it’s the canned versions of tomato paste that present problems. In addition to added sugar and excess salt, many brands contain citric acid, a flavor enhancer and preservative  which some people have adverse reactions to.  It’s little known that citric acid used in canned foods is not from citrus fruits as you might expect, but is actually a highly processed and refined ingredient derived from Aspergillus niger mold and fermented sugars.  There’s concern that mold residue left behind can trigger allergies.  Furthermore, Aspergillus niger and the sugars used to produce citric acid are often genetically modified.  Finally, citric acid brings down the pH of canned tomato paste making it more acidic which can contribute to tooth enamel erosion.

Another potential problem with canned tomato paste is the likely presence of bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to coat the insides of most canned goods. BPA leaches into foods it comes in contact with especially acidic foods like tomatoes. A known endocrine disruptor BPA can mimic many of our bodies hormones in potentially harmful ways.  There’s evidence that BPA may also contribute to high blood pressure and adversely affect the brain health of fetuses and infants.  In fact, infants and young children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA.  Finally, if the tomato paste is made with tomatoes not grown organically, there could be a significant amount of residue from pesticides present in the finished product.

Where to Buy Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is a standard product sold in grocery stores and can be found with other packaged tomato products. Shoppers may want to look for organic, additive-free tomato paste in BPA-free cans or other containers in health food stores or health food sections of chain grocery stores.

Should I Eat Tomato Paste?

In order to safely consume pre-made tomato paste, it is best to find brands that are made with organic tomatoes and are sealed in BPA-free cans. Alternatively, try finding tomato paste packaged in jars, tubes, or Tetra Paks to avoid the risk of BPA contamination. As an additional precaution, avoid tomato paste made with sugar or extra salt, or any unwanted additives such as citric acid.

How to Make Tomato Paste

Tomato paste recipes are fairly simple. Fresh tomatoes are briefly cooked on the stovetop before being placed in a low temperature oven for several hours to dehydrate them.

  • 5 lbs. plum tomatoes
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Set the oven to 300 degrees. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Over high heat in a 12-inch skillet, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil and add chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle them with salt to taste and allow the contents to come to a boil. Cook the mixture for 8 minutes or until it is very soft. Stir while cooking. Take the cooked pulp and push it through the sieve of a food mill to separate it from the seeds. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil and spread the tomato paste over the surface in an even layer. Bake the puree, turning it over with a spatula periodically, for 3 hours. Watch for the color of the puree to grow dark. The water should evaporate as well. After 3 hours, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook until the puree is dark red, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Tomato paste will keep for a month in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight container. If frozen and packaged in plastic wrap, tomato paste will keep for 6 months.

Tapioca Flour

Is Tapioca Flour Vegan?


Tapioca flour, also known as tapioca starch, is an ingredient often found in Vegan recipes. It is made from the starchy root vegetable known as the yucca or cassava. It is automatically Vegan since it’s derived from a vegetable, but should it be part of your diet?

Nutritional Value of Tapioca Flour

Serving Size: 1/4 cup of tapioca flour

  • Calories: 100
  • Calories from Fat: 0
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0 g

As you can see, tapioca flour isn’t exactly nutrient dense. In fact, in a 1/4 cup serving, you can expect to get 26 grams of carbs and 2% daily value of iron. That’s it. It is a starch, plain and simple. The whole yucca plant offers more health benefits and vitamins, but when considering the starchy flour on its own, it has a similar nutrient comparison to white rice.

Health Benefits of Tapioca Flour

While there are not a lot of good things that tapioca flour does in the body, there are also not a lot of bad things, either. Tapioca flour is a hypoallergenic food that allows people with food allergies or restricted diets to still enjoy “fluffy” baked goods. When mixed with other Vegan flours, tapioca flour can add that “fluffy” bread goodness that isn’t often present with just coconut or almond flour alone.

Should I Eat Tapioca Flour?

Tapioca flour, like other gluten-free flour alternatives, is not something that should be the foundation of a person’s diet. Even gluten-free baked goods can contribute to obesity, digestive problems, and other health issues when they become the primary source of food.

Tapioca flour is great to be used for occasional treats and desserts. It’s hypoallergenic and won’t damage the digestive tract. For those who are diabetic or are sensitive to carbohydrates, it might be better to avoid and use only coconut flour.

Tapioca flour does not substitute grain or gluten free flours 1-for-1, but instead, works best when combined with almond flour, coconut flour, or sweet potato. Tapioca flour on its own works well for making things like gluten-free versions of tortillas and crepes.

Sugar Alcohol

Sugar Alcohol: What It Is, Pros and Cons

 

Added sugar alcohols are a popular alternative to regular sugar. However, is this low-calorie sweetener too good to be true?

What Is Sugar Alcohol?

A sugar alcohol, known as a polyol, is a type of carbohydrate that is a mix of a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule (without the ethanol). Sugar alcohols are found naturally in fruits such as apples, berries and pears. These naturally-occurring sugar alcohols are FODMAPs and you can read more about them in this post. Sugar alcohols are also made by the body, as in the case of xylitol.

The sugar alcohols most commonly found in food include sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol and xylitol. The carbohydrates found in these plant products are altered through a chemical process to produce a sugar substitute that provides fewer calories than table sugar. This is largely due to the fact that they are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body. (1)

 

Nutritional Value of Sugar Alcohol

The calorie count on sugar alcohols can range from zero to three calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram for sucrose or other sugars. (2)

  • Table sugar: 4 calories per gram
  • Xylitol: 2.4 calories per gram
  • Erythritol: 0.24 calories per gram
  • Sorbitol: 2.6 calories per gram
  • Mannitol: 1.6 calories per gram

The Pros of Sugar Alcohol

Blood Sugar Balance

 

Since sugar alcohol is not completely absorbed by the small intestines, they require little to no insulin as they are being converted into energy to be used by the body. This allows your blood sugar levels to avoid extreme highs and lows, helping to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Sugar alcohols were found to be beneficial in diabetics, as they can cause less of a postprandial glucose response than sucrose or glucose. (3)

Calorie Saver

 

Due to the low-calorie count of these sugar replacements, sugar alcohols are popular in low-calorie and low-sugar foods, such as protein bars. Since they still provide a sweet flavor, many manufacturers use sugar alcohols to keep calories low while keeping the flavor profile high. This can support healthy weight management, especially for those individuals who are looking to track macros, sugars and blood glucose levels. (4)

Healthier Teeth

 

 

Sugar alcohols are not broken down by the bacteria in the mouth, unlike regular sugar, which has been linked to tooth decay. Sugar alcohols, and xylitol in particular, were found to inhibit oral bacteria and are often used in many natural toothpastes and mouthwashes. Xylitol reduces the levels of mutans streptococci (MS) in plaque and saliva by disrupting their energy production process, leading to cell death. Studies recommend habitual use of xylitol (6-10g/day) to prevent tooth decay. (5)

The Cons

Since some of the sugar alcohols are not absorbed into the blood, they pass through the SI and are fermented by the bacteria in the large intestines. This might cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain for some individuals. Excessive consumption of sugar alcohols could cause diarrhea, so use with caution. The amount tolerated varies with individuals, although most adults can tolerate 40 g/day. (6)


4 Different Kinds of Sugar Alcohols

 

1. Mannitol

Mannitol is made from processing the sugar maltose, and is said to have a taste very similar to regular sugar. It is about 90% as sweet as sugar, with about 50% of the calories. This is very common in “low-carb” products as well as “sugar-free” products. (7)

2. Erythritol

This sugar substitute has 70% of the sweetness of sugar, but only about 5% of the calories, and is processed by fermenting the glucose in corn starch. Erythritol is generally the main ingredient found in the Truvia sweetener brand. Most of the erythritol ingested is absorbed in the bloodstream and excreted in the urine unchanged. Recent research has even found erythritol to possess antioxidant properties, and has been found to protect against hyperglycemia-induced vascular damage. (8, 9)

3. Xylitol

This is one of the most popular and well-researched sugar alcohols. Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gum, mints and toothpastes. It is still pretty sweet compared to regular sugar, but contains 40% fewer calories. Xylitol is generally well tolerated. (10)

 

4. Sorbitol

This sugar alcohol is roughly 60% as sweet as sugar, with 60% of the calories, and is popular in sugar-free foods and drinks as well as candies. It may cause some digestive distress, however.


Is Sugar Alcohol Healthy?

 

You can find sugar alcohols in everything from chewing gum, throat lozenges, and cough syrups to mouthwash, “sugar-free and low-sugar” treats, and even some “health foods,” such as protein bars and powders. These sugar substitutes have grown in popularity over the years as they contain fewer calories and have been found to minimally affect insulin levels.

Sugar alcohols are sweet, like regular sugars. However, they are often problematic for the digestive tract, as they can be difficult to break down. Sugar alcohols are resistant to fermentation by the bacteria in our mouths, although our colonic bacteria can ferment these sugars. Sugar alcohols travel to the large intestines to be metabolized by gut bacteria.

Excessive amounts of sugar alcohols (particularly sorbitol and maltitol) can lead to bloating, gas and abdominal pain, and they would be best to avoid if you are already experiencing digestive difficulties.

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Is Unsweetened Shredded Coconut Vegan?

 

Nutritional Value of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Serving size: 3 Tablespoons (15 g)

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 10 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Lauric acid: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 4 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Fiber: 2 g

Health Benefits of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Unsweetened shredded coconut is composed mostly of fat, 90% of which is saturated in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, also called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are associated with many health benefits and have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, provide an immediate source of energy, increase satiety, and increase metabolic rate. Furthermore, the MCFAs in coconut, namely, lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid are antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. In addition to these benefits, phenolic compounds in coconut act as antioxidants.

Therapeutically, due to their ability to form ketones, MCFAs have been used to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients as well as uncontrolled seizures in children. For people with limited GI function, MCFAs provide an easily digestible and absorbable form of fat because they do not require the assistance of pancreatic enzymes or bile salts for processing and they transport directly from the intestinal tract to the liver via the portal vein.

Inulin, a fructan, is a prebiotic fiber found in coconut meat that promotes the proliferation of healthy bacteria. However, fructans can aggravate symptoms in people with IBS, SIBO, or FODMAP intolerance and may need to be limited.

Seasonality of Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Coconuts are available year round but are at their peak October thru December. Green coconuts are immature and are harvested for coconut water. Mature coconuts have a very hard brown shell that is covered with stringy fibers and are harvested for coconut water and meat from which coconut milk, oil and all other coconut products are made.

How to Make Your Own Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

To make your own unsweetened shredded coconut, look for brown mature coconuts that are heavy, have no soft spots other than the eyes, and have a good slosh of liquid when shaken. Using a hammer and a large nail, tap a hole in the softest eye of the coconut and bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes or so until it cracks. Pull apart or carefully pry open with a strong knife or screwdriver. Once you get your coconut open, cut the meat out of the shell with a paring knife, remove the brown skin and grate by hand or shred in a food processor. One medium coconut will yield three or four cups of shredded meat. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for up to six months. Whole coconuts can be kept at room temperature for up to six months.

If you’re not making your own, you can find unsweetened shredded coconut at the supermarket in bulk bins, the baking isle, the specialty food isle or the freezer section. You may have to go to a health food store to find organic products that contain no added sugar, sulfites or preservatives, or you can order these products online.

Vanilla Extract

Is Vanilla Extract Vegan?

Vanilla extract is often called for in baked items in lots of Vegan recipes. Can you include it in your Vegan diet without compromising your health goals?

Nutritional Value of Vanilla Extract

Serving size: 1 tsp (4 grams)

  • Calories: 12
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 0 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fiber: 0 g

Health Benefits of Vanilla Extract

Some might wonder if there are any health benefits for something that is used in such tiny quantities. If the vanilla extract you’re using is natural (i.e. free from sugar and other preservatives), then don’t be alarmed by the presence of alcohol. Alcohol is used to extract the scent and flavor from the vanilla beans, and dissipates when the vanilla is cooked. Even if you’re adding to items that won’t be baked, there isn’t enough alcohol contained in a teaspoon of vanilla extract to be problematic for health reasons.

Please note that there is a difference between vanilla extract and vanilla flavoring. Vanilla flavoring is artificial, and may bot be Vegan. Real vanilla extract contains antioxidants, albeit in tiny amounts. Artificial vanilla flavoring has no health benefits, and may actually be harmful.

Where To Buy Vanilla Extract

Most grocery stores will carry vanilla extract, but all may not carry a quality product. You can find good vanilla extract from stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and from online markets or other specialty stores. The good quality stuff is often significantly more expensive than the artificial vanilla or the vanilla extracts that also contain sugar. Costco’s vanilla extract, for example, also has sugar listed as an ingredient.

Should I Eat Vanilla Extract? 

Vanilla extract is consumed in such tiny amounts that it isn’t health supportive or health adverse when consumed in the natural form. Vanilla extract packs a lot of flavor punch for such small amounts, and often makes baked good, Vegan desserts, and even smoothies have more flavor. If, however, you’re avoiding vanilla extract, leaving it out of recipes shouldn’t cause issues and wouldn’t need a replacement alternative.

White Potatoes

Potatoes Are Vegan

 

 

Potatoes are tubers. They have quite a few nutrients in them, and they’re a very easy source of carbs. You don’t need to soak them, sprout them, or bury them in a hole and smoke them for days before you can eat them. They don’t contain cyanide like tapioca does, and you can peel them to get rid of their most toxic phytochemicals.

All you have to do is boil them, sauté them, bake them, or grill them and you have yourself a fantastically cheap food source.

 Who Should Not Eat Potatoes

Having said that, there are people who can’t tolerate nightshades, and potatoes are nightshades. Some people get joint pain, headaches, or gastrointestinal symptoms upon eating potatoes. If you are one of those people do not make them a regular part of your diet.

Also, if you’re diabetic, you’re probably not going to want to eat them very often unless you smother them in fat, and even then some people’s blood sugar levels will not be able to handle them.

But know that their glycemic load is no different than that of sweet potatoes.

You can look that up on nutritiondata.com to see for yourself. And they will not inherently make you fat. If you’re an active person and you don’t have a sensitivity to potatoes, you may want to eat them every day even. Yes, every day. One medium sized potato (about 2-1/4″ by 3-1/4″) contains about 37 grams of carbs, 4 grams of which is fiber.

In Conclusion

So all in all, I say if you think you may have a sensitivity to potatoes, remove them from your diet for a couple weeks and see if you feel better. If you don’t have a sensitivity to them and they don’t mess with your blood sugar too much if you’re type 2 diabetic, then eat them. They’re a really cheap and easy source of calories that can be added to pretty much anything.

Stock vs. Broth

Stock vs Broth. Can it be Vegan?

 

Broth is often made by utilising the bones of animals…clearly not a Vegan option. Broth is popular because people claim it promotes gut health, strong bones, smooth skin, healthy hair and nails, and energy. Is there a Vegan option that can give us these health benefits too?

Let’s break down some key information about broth and stock in general, and why you need to start incorporating health-supportive bone broth into your diet.


Stock vs Broth

 

The term broth is pretty much a catch-all for any flavorful liquid. When you purchase stocks or broths from the grocery store, you will often see the same ingredients listed for both.

Broths and stocks both come salted and unsalted. Is the difference between the two simmered liquids just in the eye of the beholder?

Yes. There are key differences between broth and stock, according to their culinary definitions.

Stock

Making stock involves simmering. It’s often simmered with aromatics for four to six hours. Usually stock is used to replace water for soups, stews, braises, sauces or for poaching.

Broth

Broth is made from simmering vegetables. Broth requires less simmering time than a stock, around 45 minutes to two hours. It can be served on its own and stays fluid when chilled.


What Really Sets Broth and Stock Apart?

These are the technical culinary definitions of broth and stock, but if you ask a chef, they’d probably tell you it’s not about the way the liquids are prepared, but how they’re used.

In most kitchens, a stock is an unseasoned, flavorful liquid used as a building block in reductions, sauces, braises, soups, stews or as poaching liquid. It may or may not be gelatinous when chilled, depending on simmer time in the preparation.

Broth is also a seasoned, flavorful liquid, but it’s served on its own or as the main component of a dish. It too may or may not be gelatinous when chilled.

Vegan broths are often called dashi broths (made from kombu and bonito flakes) as well as mushroom stocks and broths, where animal products make no appearance.

Stick to the Aromatics

Often, people suggest adding carrots to your broth. It’s really your call, but carrots might be too sweet for the boldness of a proper broth.

This liquid hasn’t yet earned a classic preparation, but purists suggest a few aromatics, peppercorns, garlic, and onions.

Cool Your Broth Properly

 

Not cooling your broth efficiently may create a breeding ground for gnarly bacteria. Allow your broth to cool in large, shallow pans. To cool, add ice, or invest in an ice wand if you plan to make many batches at home.

Stevia

Is Stevia Vegan?

Stevia is sweeter than table sugar but has zero calories, so it’s not surprising to see it replace artificial sweeteners in many commercial food products. It’s extracted from a natural-growing plant that originates from Paraguay.

Should I Eat It?

Purchase a pure powder with no added ingredients. Unfortunately, this will rule out many of the Stevia-based sweeteners found on the shelf at your local supermarket.

Pure Stevia is often created by boiling the leaves of the Stevia plant to create a tea and then turning the tea into a powder. Other processing methods include extracting the sweet components of the plant’s leaves or drying the leaves.

The problem is that many commercial sweeteners contain an extract of the Stevia plant mixed with other artificial sweeteners, preservatives and other ingredients. While these products are marketed as natural sweeteners, the added components may not be Vegan so read the label.

Some prepackaged foods are now sweetened with Stevia, but you must consider all ingredients in the food when determining its suitability for your diet. The safest option is to purchase pure Stevia powder and use it in foods that you prepare at home, ensuring complete control over the ingredients.

Nutritional Value of Stevia

Serving Size: 1 g

  • Calories: 0
  • Total Fat: 0
  • Lauric Acid: 0
  • Carbohydrate: 0
  • Protein: 0
  • Sodium: 0
  • Fiber: 0

Health Benefits of Stevia

Natives of Paraguay have used the Stevia plant as a sweetener and natural medicine for generations, but researcher is just beginning when it comes to exploring the plant’s health benefits. While there is some proof that the Stevia plant is beneficial beyond sweetening food, there has been some controversy regarding safety.

One of the first studies completed did determine that Stevia could cause cancer in humans, and that led the FDA to ban its use in foods sold within the United States. Many supporters came to the sweetener’s defense, citing later studies that found no connection between Stevia and cancer. The FDA designated the sweetener as “generally recognized as safe” in 2008. This designation is shared by many artificial sweeteners today, but Stevia is more popular because it is a more natural alternative.

With the concern over cancer put to rest, researchers have now turned to researching various species of the Stevia plant to determine other health benefits. There is some initial evidence that it may help lower blood pressure and could potentially combat diabetes, but further research is needed before the plant is cleared for medicinal use.

Seasonality of Stevia/Where to Buy Stevia

Stevia naturally grows in the tropical climates of Paraguay and Brazil, but commercial growers in China and many other countries are now producing various species of the plant successfully. You can even purchase Stevia seeds or cuttings to grow your own plants at home. Homegrown plants are utilized in raw or dried form, so you can grow your plants during the warmest months for your climate and dry the leaves out for use during the colder months.

You can also purchase pure Stevia powder online. While natural or health food stores may carry the pure powder, most of the products found in your typical supermarket don’t meet quality standards due to added ingredients. It’s important to read labels to ensure that what you purchase is a pure powder derived from authentic Stevia plants. Online retailers sell the powder in small bags as well as in bulk.

How to Make Stevia

You have several options if you want to grow and harvest your own Stevia plants:

  • Purchase Stevia seeds and start them indoors with a grow light or in a greenhouse.
  • Purchase a cutting from a mature Stevia plant.
  • Find ready-for-the-garden Stevia plants at your local garden center or online.

Purchasing plants that are already started and ready to plant is the easiest route, and the most difficult option is growing the plant from seed. You should plant your Stevia in a sunny location, but you may want to provide some afternoon shade if your climate offers intense summer heat. You can find detailed information on how to grow this plant successfully through Mother Earth News.