Increasingly popular as a sugar substitute the Stevia plant originates in Central and South America and has been used by native peoples, in particular the Guarani Indians, for centuries as a sweetener in teas and beverages.
The leaves of this herbaceous perennial are between 30 and 40 times sweeter than table sugar. While Stevia products are readily available they are highly concentrated and often bulked out with additives, and the healthiest choice is to use fresh stevia leaves as a natural sweetener.
Fresh leaves can be added directly to foods but best use is by harvesting all the leaves from mature plants and drying them before crushing and grinding them into a fine powder that can then be added to food and beverages as a substitute to sugar.
On average 1 tablespoon of powdered stevia is equal to about a cup of table sugar.