I recently had the chance to sample some new yogurt from iögo, a Canadian brand that launched in 2012. The reason I was interested in trying it was because this particularly yogurt is sweetened with Stevia.
If you’re not familiar with it, Stevia is a plant native to South America. Its leaves taste sweet, and people in the region where it grows have been using them for more than 1500 years for that reason. It’s also been widely used in Japan for over 30 years. However, unlike sugar it doesn’t have an impact on your blood glucose. In fact, some research suggests it may actually increase glucose tolerance. This means it’s often viewed as a good alternative for diabetics. Since it’s derived from a leaf, it’s less processed than many other alternative sweeteners.
While the yogurt I tried does still contain sugar (and I understand why – I’ll be writing more about this), it contains a lot less. A 100 gram cup has six grams of sugar. My regular organic brand, which is less heavily-sweetened than most yogurts, contains 14 grams of sugar in a 100 gram serving. Yogurt often contains a lot of sugar, which seems somewhat ironic for a product that many people eat in an effort to combat yeast. With pre-stirred fruit flavours, my kids especially enjoyed our iögo samples.
I’m not 100% converted. The yogurt isn’t sugar-free. It also contains pectin and starches, which suggests that it needs thickening and maybe isn’t all that well-cultured. Finally, I generally avoid foods individually-packaged in plastic. However, I tried some as well and I have to say it was tasty, and if I weren’t looking for the Stevia flavour I probably wouldn’t have known anything was different. Since I’m working to cut back on my own sugar consumption, I do appreciate that the yogurt isn’t loaded with sugar or corn syrup.
Spurred on by the yogurt, I decided to buy some Stevia to use around the house. My first test was in some tea. The way that Stevia is usually packaged suggests to me that they’re marketing it as a way to sweeten tea or coffee. I added a couple of drops of Stevia to my creme caramel rooibos and gave it a go. The flavour is definitely different from sugar – you don’t taste the sweetness immediately, but it lingers longer and has a distinctive aftertaste. It was fine, but since I generally drink my tea unsweetened, I doubt I’ll be a frequent user of Stevia for hot beverages. I might, however, try it in iced tea. If you can’t shake the sugar in your coffee or tea it may be worth giving Stevia a go.
I also tried to make some chocolate ice cream using Stevia. I added some sugar as well, because as I said Stevia’s sweetness has a somewhat delayed onset. In fact, I understand that many Stevia products to contain some sugar. Without the sugar the bitterness of the unsweetened cocoa is overpowering on the first bite. In the end, however, instead of 1 1/4 cups of sugar I added a single 1/4 cup of sugar and about 60 drops of Stevia. This cut the sugar in a single 1/2 cup scoop of ice cream to just four grams, or about one teaspoon. Normally, there would be 20 grams of sugar in a serving of ice cream, which is about 2/3 of what my food app says I should be eating every day.
My kids enjoyed the ice cream, and didn’t comment on any difference. To me, however, the Stevia flavour was obvious. I still enjoyed the ice cream, but it wasn’t quite the same. I’m going to eat more, however, because I suspect that if I became more accustomed to it I would probably quite enjoy it, and I love ice cream.
Stevia is very concentrated, so you can’t use it as a substitute for sugar in all cases. For example, I’ve heard that most people’s attempts to bake cookies sweetened with Stevia don’t turn out that well, since Stevia doesn’t offer the same bulk and texture. However, for some things it may be a pretty good substitute, with a long history of use in many parts of the world. It isn’t sugar, it’s true. But I think if you can accept that you can probably enjoy it for what it is.
Have you tried Stevia? What were your experiences?