Saving Stevia/FOS

I've written in the past -- and in several of my books -- about stevia/FOS blend. But for those of you who have missed it, here's the deal:

"Stevia" is short for stevia rebaudiana, a South American shrub with remarkably sweet leaves. (Indeed, the native name for the plant translates as "sweet leaf.") The sweet substance is extracted from the leaves to make a white powder. This is the stevia you find in health food stores, and it's a naturally occurring non-nutritive (that is, non-caloric) sweetener.

The stuff is ridiculously sweet. Those of you who are middle-aged like me will remember the old, teeny saccharine tablets -- one tablet about twice the size of a pinhead was the equivalent of a teaspoon or two of sugar in sweetness. Stevia is about that sweet. This makes stevia a little hard to use, since the quantities needed are so small.

There is another natural sweetener called fructooligosaccharide, usually just called FOS; it's also called inulin. FOS is a carbohydrate, but it's too big a molecule for the human gut to digest or absorb. Think of it as a sweet form of fiber. FOS has a nice, clean sweet flavor, but it's about half as sweet as sugar. You can't just use twice as much, though, for two reasons: One, the stuff is hideously expensive. And two, eating a massive dose of fiber has, er, consequences, you know?

FOS has another interesting property: You can't digest or absorb it, but the good bacteria in your gut can. So eating FOS will increase your healthy intestinal flora.

Some genius had the idea of combining the too-sweet stevia powder with the not-sweet-enough FOS, to make an all-natural sweetener that's easier to use than straight stevia. It's one of the sweeteners I keep on hand. I find it works better for some things than others -- I particularly like it for sweetening yogurt; it tastes good, and makes all those friendly bacteria more likely to flourish inside me.

Okay, all of this I've explained before. There's one new piece of info, though:

I've learned that stevia/FOS blend -- I buy a brand called Stevia Plus, from the Sweet Leaf company -- does not have an unlimited shelf life. It doesn't go bad. But it cakes. Oh, boy, does it cake! It turns into a substance not much different from the Indiana limestone in my yard. And it stubbornly refuses to become un-caked. I've tried breaking it up. Hah! I've tried putting it through the blender with water, to make a liquid sweetener. No dice. I ran the blender for a good five minutes, and still had big chunks of white stuff.

Since the stuff is not cheap, this was maddening. But I've finally come up with a way to use up caked stevia/FOS blend: I pour apple cider vinegar into the shaker jar.

This does not magically dissolve all the stevia/FOS. But over the space of a few days, I end up with sweetened cider vinegar. What good is that, you ask? I'm finding lots of uses for the stuff.

First of all, I'm drinking a lot of "Cider-Ade" -- think lemonade, only apple-flavored. I put a shot of the sweetened vinegar in a big glass, add ice and water, and I have a delicious, refreshing beverage with all the healthful properties of apple cider vinegar.

But I find myself reaching for the sweetened vinegar more and more -- it's wonderful in salad dressings. How many dressings call for sugar or honey, and also require vinegar? I just use the sweetened vinegar. I'm going to try it in marinades, too.

I've refilled my bottle with the caked stevia-FOS with vinegar at least a half a dozen times, and there's still a big chunk of the stuff in the bottom, so I'll be using it for quite a while. Be aware that since the stevia keeps slowly dissolving, the end of each batch will be sweeter than the beginning. If you want it tangier, just add a little unsweetened vinegar, too.

This doesn't keep me from having to buy a new bottle of stevia/FOS for general sweetening. But it does keep me from tossing several dollars worth of the stuff in the trash, and gives me a useful new seasoning in the kitchen, to boot.

I knew that if I had caked stevia/FOS on hand, someone else did, too. Hope this helps.

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stevia/FOS blend

I'am trying to make some peanut butter cookies from your 1001 recipes which calls for using stevia/fos blend. Can't find it anywhere around the Baltimore area and no one has ever heard of the product. Can you tell me where I can purchase some? Thanks Jim

Stevia/FOS blend

The one I used for the recipe is available at Amazon. You could just look at the label, too, and then see if you can spot it at a local health food store.

However, I must say that I haven't used the stuff in baking for a long time; I've come to prefer a blend of erythritol and Splenda. For that matter, I'd be more likely now to use Truvia if I wanted to use stevia in baking. IIRC, the Stevia Plus is about 4 times as sweet as sugar (and therefore as Splenda Granular, and I believe as Truvia, but read the label.) That should help with recipe conversion.

good advice but small warning

((But I've finally come up with a way to use up caked stevia/FOS blend: I pour apple cider vinegar into the shaker jar.))

one of the recorded disadvantages of FOS is it's instability in an acidic environment...

Fructo - oligosaccharides are chains of fructose (a natural nutritive sweetener) joined together by hydrolysis resistant bonds; (on other words they don't dissolve in water, and your stomach enzymes cannot break them down)

but the bonds do break down in an acidic enviroment to form plain old calorie rich fructose sugar ((this explains why you could not get a liquid sweetener from the blender full of water, but could with apple cider vinegar))

Now... because the main sweetening agent is the stevia, the cider vinegar is definitely of a lower caloric value than if you had brought it to the same sweetness with table sugar. But it is no longer low calorie, and as excess fructose is converted to fat more quickly in the liver it is not really appropriate for anyone concerned about weight control.

Now foods produces a stevia/FOS blend with chromium, a necessary mineral and anti-caking agent.

"Is inulin stable in acidic food applications?

Inulin is susceptible to hydrolysis in acidic conditions around pH 3.5 and lower. The degree of hydrolysis will depend on the temperature and duration of exposure to the acidic environment. When hydrolysis occurs, the long chain oligosaccharide is broken down into shorter chains and simple sugars such as fructose."
SOURCE: http://www.cargillhealthandnutrition.com/consumers_educational_inulin.html

http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/nutrition/a/fructosedangers.htm

Liquid Stevia

Hello, Dana!
Welcome back! I was just thinking (last week after all the holiday high-carb snacking) that I really need to get with the program and go back to low carbing. I love this blog, what a great idea!

Your post about Stevia caught my eye because I use this stuff almost exclusively now, except I have a particular fondness for the liquid stevia, especially for beverages. Have you ever tried it? It's by Sweet Leaf and comes in different flavors as well as just the regular. I have to say that the lemon drop flavor is awesome in iced tea and the vanilla cream really makes plain yogurt delicious. A little goes a VERY long way for this stuff - one drop per 2 ounces of liquid (like iced tea, coffee, yogurt, etc.) so it lasts a long, long time. It is kind of pricey for me locally (and I can't get the flavored stuff here)so I have been buying it from Amazon.com for about 2 years now. You should check it out.

By the way, I have some of the stevia/FOS packets that solidified into minature boulders, too, so thanks for the tip on what to do with them. I have my reservations about drinking vinegar though...LOL Maybe I will just try them in some homemade salad dressing.

Trutina

Hi Dana, I've read and own several of your books. They are fabulous!

I was wondering (and please forgive if you've already commented on this prior), have you worked much with Trutina Dulcem? Your caking comments above reminded me of it, and I still have some around (also hard as a rock, but breaks apart fairly easily with a butter knife). Anyway, I pretty much use Splenda now, but the Trutina was sure great before Splenda was widely available (back when it was packaged in a white box-- yes, I'm an "old timer" low carber, LOL!). Anyway, Trutina was great in tea and coffee, but I never used it very much in baking/cooking.

I was just wondering what you think of it and what type of foods/baking/cooking you think it might work well in.

Thanks and so great to find out about the blog! -Jill in Phoenix

I haven't tried Trutina

I haven't tried Trutina Dulcem. Haven't even seen it locally. More info, please?

Trutina Dulcem

Well, it's been years since I researched this stuff, and it seems a lot has changed. Here is what I know.

It is made from kiwi. It is very sweet and has a low glycemic impact. I used it a lot in beverages and cooking (but I don't think for baking) before Splenda was widely available. It was available under the names "Sweet N Healthy" and "Opti-Sweet." I still have some of it and it seems to be in perfect condition, despite being several years old. The Opti-Sweet brand was available in single serving packets and those seem a little crunchy from the outside, but taste the way it should.

So in doing some research this morning, I discovered that consumers can no longer buy Trutina Dulcem (only food makers, I believe). However, there are studies being done for it being used in chocolate and icecream. (Man, wouldn't it be great to be able to buy these, have them taste fabulous, and NOT have any sugar alcohols in them?? I hate polyols!!)

Here is a website that explains the current status: http://www.trutinadulcem.com/

I think it is something we need to "stay tuned" on, but if you have any thoughts on what you read, I'd love to know what you think. Perhaps TD compares to other fruit based sweeteners you've worked with....

Thanks for your time. Love the blog!!

Jill

Vikki Furlong

Leave it to you to make the best of a bad situation. As far as I know I don't have any that's caked but I do like the idea of having the sweetened cider vinegar on hand. Normally I just sweeten the water/vinegar combo with sweetzfree. BTW apple cider vinegar and water is good hot too. I use to have it sweetened with honey, but now I sweeten it with sweetzfree. Now I guess I will be using your stevia sweetened vinegar.

Thanks again,
Vikki

How much stevia?

Dana,
How much stevia packets do you put for say a liter of apple cider vinegar?

Thanks,
Johnnie Ann

How much stevia?

Straight stevia? Or stevia/FOS? And are we talking the stuff that's still powdery, or the stuff that's all caked up?

I really don't have a lot of experience with straight stevia powder, because I find it so difficult to use. It also gets very bitter in concentration. If your packets are the stevia/FOS blend, I'd need to know if they're the same sweetness as the stuff that comes in the shaker jar.

Assuming it is, I can tell you that I'd use about 8-9 teaspoons of still-powdery stevia/FOS blend to a liter of vinegar.

Hope this helps.

Stevia

I use the stevia/FOS blend packets that have caked. I've never seen it in a shaker jar...
Thanks...I'll put about 9 of those packets in and see what happens in a few days. I can't wait to try that cider aid!

Thanks!
Johnnie Ann

So Awesome!

I'm so glad you are back! I've been checking your site for months hoping you'd write soon. I have two of your cookbooks and I absolutely love them. You are a savior for us low carbers!
I'm sooo glad you found a way to use caked stevia. I bought a box for work and home and the home box I use less frequently. I used up the box at work and took my other box to work and found about half of the packets were caked. I'd been just throwing them away but now I won't have to! Thanks Dana!

Single Mama in Albuquerque, NM
Johnnie Ann

Sweeteners

Hi, great to see you back!
Have you tried Sweetzfree? It's liquid and I see some discussion on some LC boards about it.

Sweetzfree

I haven't, but I understand it's liquid sucralose, aka Splenda? I have some liquid sucralose I bought a few years back. I haven't used it as much as I thought I might, for the simple reason that so often I'm cooking in the context of writing recipes for publication, and it makes more sense to use the widely-available Splenda Granular, even if it does have a little carb in it.