What is stevia?
Stevia (pronounced steh-via) is a leafy green plant of the Asteraceae family, genus Stevia, species Rebaudiana. Stevia is related to lettuce, marigold and chicory. You may be familiar with stevia by one of its many other names: Sweet Leaf. Caa-he-E, or Erva Doce. Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni identified and classified this plant in the late 1800’s. He named the plant Stevia Rebaudiani Bertoni in honor of a Paraguayan chemist named Rebaudi. The Guarani Indians in South America had been using the leaves of the plant for centuries to sweeten bitter teas and as a sweet treat. When Dr. Bertoni received samples of the plant, he wrote “one small piece of the leaf will keep the mouth sweet for an hour.”
Is stevia safe?
Is stevia safe? Absolutely. People have used stevia since pre-Columbian times with no reports of ill effects. Decades of research have proven stevia safe for human and animal consumption, unlike some commercial sweeteners.
What are the benefits of using stevia?
- Sugarless & adds no calories
- 100% natural, not chemically manufactured
- Potent – 250 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar
- Stable to 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius)
- Plaque retardant, anti-caries (prevents cavities)
- Does not impact blood sugar levels
- Excellent health safety record
1 have Candidiasis; will using stevia help this problem?
Candidiasis is a fungal yeast overgrowth in the body that thrives on sugar. Remove sugar and you remove its food source. Stevia will not promote fungal growth as it is a sugar-free natural sweetener.
Is stevia safe to use during pregnancy or when nursing?
*When pregnant or nursing, notify your health professional before taking any dietary supplement or drug.
According to recent research and decades of documented stevioside use in Japan, stevioside has no reported negative side effects when used during pregnancy or nursing. In fact, our founder’s daughter, Tanya Rodrigues, used stevia during all of her pregnancies and while nursing, and her children have been enjoying stevia tea since infancy. They are all bright, healthy young adults now.
I've heard that the natives of South America used stevia as a contraceptive. Does stevia reduce fertility?
No, stevia does not reduce fertility. There have been reports of native Paraguayan Indians using the whole green stevia leaves with other herbs for contraceptive purposes. However, according to modern research, stevia extract taken orally does not affect fertility.
Does stevia have any effect on hypoglycemia or diabetes?
According to scientific research, stevia does not impact blood sugar levels. It allows the body to regulate blood sugar levels naturally. Along with a healthy diet, stevia is a wonderful way to satisfy cravings for sweets without adding sugars.
Can stevia stop my sugar cravings?
Many people report that using stevia has helped them reduce or completely eliminate their sugar cravings. These cravings often Occur when the blood sugar becomes low. Sugar gives a quick boost of energy that can feel like a brief ‘high’, followed by a deep crash as the insulin in the pancreas reacts to store the excess sugar in the liver and muscles, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. Eating a balanced diet with enough protein and fat can help eliminate the energy fluctuations that can lead to sugar cravings. Since stevia does not affect blood sugar levels like sugar, it can help break the sugar cycle.
Where is stevia grown?
Originally, stevia grew wild in the regions of Northern Paraguay and Southern Brazil. Today, stevia is grown and used around the world. China, Japan, and other Asian countries, South America, Europe, India, the Ukraine and even North America, grow or import stevia and stevia products.
What are the types or forms of stevia?
Fresh Leaves – These have a mild licorice flavor.
Dried Leaves – Dried form of the fresh leaves. Usually about 10-15 times sweeter than sugar. Used in brewing herbal teas and for making liquid extracts.
Tea Cut Leaves – Small pieces that are sifted to remove twigs and other unwanted matter.
Ground Leaves (Powder) – Dried leaves ground into a fine powder. This is used in teas and Cooking but does not dissolve.
Dark Stevia Liquid – A concentrated syrup made from the whole dried leaves in a base at water and alcohol. Sweetness may vary between manufacturers.
Liquid Stevia Extract- Stevita uses an all natural cold pressed system to create a translucent great tasting liquid – Just pure organic stevia leaves, purified water, and grapefruit seed extract as a stabilizer. Other companies use solution of powdered steviosides dissolved in water, alcohol or glycerin.
Stevioside Powdered Extracts
‘Stevioside’ or ‘white-powdered stevia’ is the purified or processed form of stevia. Removing unwanted plant matter concentrates the sweet glycosides into an off-white powder 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. The quality of the powder depends on the purity of the glycosides (i.e. 80-100% pure). The higher the concentration at stevioside, the better the taste.
Due to the great strength of the Stevioside Powdered Extracts, manufacturers often add filler to “tone down the strength.” This makes the Stevioside easier to Use and more palatable. These fillers are usually non-sweet food additives with little to no nutritive value, such as lactose (derived from milk) or maltodextrin. These fillers make the stevia product easier to measure and use in recipes.
Does stevia perform like sugar when used in cooking and baking? Can I substitute stevia for sugar cup for cup?
No. The molecular structures of sucrose (sugar) and stevioside differ too much to substitute directly. Sucrose, when heated, will brown or caramelize, making possible such delights as gooey cookies, fudge and caramel. Stevia will not caramelize. In addition, you can not substitute stevia for sugar cup to cup. Because of these differences, cooking with stevia takes some practice. (See Successfully Cooking With Stevia.)
Will stevia lose its sweetness or break down at high temperatures like aspartame?
No. One of stevia’s biggest advantages is its heat stability. Stevia remains stable to about 392 degrees Fahrenheit, or 200 degrees Celsius, so it can be used in most recipes.
Why are some stevia products so expensive?
Several different factors influence the price of stevia products. As a plant, stevia requires cultivation before it can be harvested for use as a sweetener. This requires large investments of capital to buy plants, farms, equipment, and labor to grow and harvest the plants. Then, there is the expense of processing the leaves into pure stevioside. When compared to sugar and the artificial sweeteners, yes, stevia is expensive; it is not as well-established as the sugar cane industry or as easily produced as the chemical sweeteners. Chemical sweeteners are a blend of inexpensive chemicals that costs very little to manufacture, which is why these companies are so profitable.
Why aren't diet soft drinks sweetened with stevia?
Money, pure and simple. The diet soft drink market is huge, worth billions of dollars, and the manufacturer of aspartame does not want to share that market. Armies of special interest lobbyists were called in to make certain the FDA did not approve stevia for use as a food ingredient. A patent on the aspartame molecule guarantees big profits; stevia is just a natural plant that can be grown by anyone and everyone, and therefore cannot be monopolized.
What should I look for when purchasing Stevioside or stevia blends?
For best quality, when purchasing a product with pure steviosides, insist on:
- A high percentage of steviosides, at least 90%
- A high percentage of rebaudiosides, at least 20%
- Unbleached, naturally processed stevioside
- Organic certification
- Always buy from a reputable company
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a non-sweet complex carbohydrate used as filler in stevia blends, and is virtually tasteless. Maltodextrin can be derived from corn, rice, tapioca, or other starches.
What is F.O.S.?
F.O.S. is the common term for fructo-oligosaccharides, which may be blended with Stevioside extract to make ‘spoonable stevia’. F.O.S. are naturally occurring sugars, and mildly sweet tasting. F.O.S. promote the growth of certain beneficial internal bacteria. Some people do not tolerate F.O.S. well. These people may experience gas, bloating, or nausea from the use of this product.
What is Erythritol?
Although relatively new in the USA, erythritol has been the stevia partner of choice in Japan for years. This white granulated powder is derived from natural grains and fruits. It has virtually no calories and a very low glycemic index. Erythritol has the appearance and texture of white table sugar. Best of all, when combined with a high quality stevioside the resulting stevia blend dissolves quickly and tastes almost like sugar. In addition to its great taste, erythritol is easily digested, promotes healthy teeth, and is safe for diabetics. (Erythritol is also used commercially to add texture to sugar-free foods.)