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  1. The weigh in on sugar substitutes If you want to lose weight, or are looking to reduce your sugar intake due to health reasons, switching from sugar to a natural based sweetener can be a great way to start. Especially if you are not quite ready to commit to quitting sugar entirely. Here are some factors for you to consider when deciding which alternative is the best for you. There are a myriad of sugar substitutes available, however many of these contain chemically manufactured ingredients like aspartame, phenylalanine, and methanol, which is a derivative of the toxic chemical formaldehyde. These synthetic ingredients are carcinogenic and can damage the body on a cellular level. Possible side effects include depression, addiction, brain seizures, and vision problems. If this sounds concerning and like something you wouldn't want to ingest, rest assured, there are now some natural alternatives on the market. Stevia Rebaudiana is a plant native to South America. The sweet leaves have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in both Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten their herbal teas and medicine. Because these leaves are up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose, only a a small amount needs to be used. For many years it has been well known and widely used in Japan, and is now also gaining steady popularity in Western culture. Stevia is very low in carbohydrates and calories, which is ideal for people on a carbohydrate controlled diet or with diabetes. It also has no known harmful reactions, because it is a natural commodity. The Stevia Rebaudiana plant can be found in most garden nurseries, and like most herbs it is quite easy to grow and can also be dried out and stored for later use. It is also available in liquid or powder form, for ease of use in cooking. Overall, Stevia is a great natural way to sweeten food and drinks, without the worry of potential ill health and nasty side effects. http://healthyhints.com.au/the-weigh-in-on-sugar-substitutes/?nb=1 The possibilities are endless when it comes to cooking & baking with Stevia. Since stevia can be heated up to 400 degrees you can use it in your next batch of cookies or in that special birthday cake you bake. http://www.steviainfo.com/?page=cooking_tips
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