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What is stevia?
Stevia is a small, leafy plant that was first discovered more than 200 years ago by the native people in South America. The leaves of the stevia plant are uniquely, naturally sweet and the indigenous people used to chew them for the sweet taste and to sweeten beverages. Today, the sweetness of stevia is extracted and purified into high purity stevia leaf extract and used in foods and beverages around the world.
What is stevia leaf extract?
Stevia leaf extract is a plant extract made from the stevia plant. The leaves of the stevia plant are harvested, dried and then the sweet components of the plant are extracted and purified per regulatory standards. Stevia can be up to 350 times sweeter than sugar and can be used to maintain the sweet taste in food and beverage products without the calories.
What makes stevia sweet?
Stevia’s sweetness, and the sweetness of stevia leaf extract, comes from the sweet molecules within the leaf called steviol glycosides. Steviol glycosides each have a different taste profile and sweetness level. They can be up to 350 times sweeter than sugar and can be used to maintain the sweet taste in food and beverage products without the calories.
Is it natural?
Stevia is a plant. It grows in the ground and requires plenty of water and sunshine to produce a profitable crop for farmers. Stevia is processed for use in a manner similar to how plant-based ingredients like sugar or vanilla extract are made. After this process, the molecules in stevia leaf extract are the same molecules that were found in the original leaf.
To date, there is not one definition around the world for the term “natural” or in many cases there is simply no definition, as is the case in the United States. Given this, stevia is most appropriately referred to as a natural origin sweetener because it arises from the leaves of the stevia plant.
Is it safe?
More than 200 studies have attested to the safety of high purity stevia extract for all members of the family, including pregnant woman and people with diabetes. Multiple major global regulatory organizations have determined stevia is safe. It is approved as a sweetener in major markets worldwide, including more than 65 countries across the globe.
Is it healthy?
Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it does not provide any calories or nutrients to your diet. Given stevia can replace some unwanted sweetener calories, it can be one tool in the toolbox for cutting calories from your daily diet without affecting blood sugar or insulin levels. Plus, it is safe for people with diabetes and has been shown to be tooth friendly.
Where does it come from?
Stevia is mainly grown in Paraguay, Kenya, China and the United States. As increasing volumes of stevia are in demand by consumers, the stevia plant is also now grown in Vietnam, Brazil, India, Argentina and Colombia among other countries.
Where can I find it?
Around the world, more than 5,000 food and beverage products are sold today that currently use stevia as an ingredient. This includes table top sweeteners for baking as well as other everyday items. To see if a product is made with stevia, check the ingredient label for: stevia, stevia extract, stevia leaf extract, rebaudioside A, Reb A or steviol glycosides.
Your dictionary short cut
Still looking for some more clarification when it comes to the words used on this page? Take a look at our stevia terminology section where we provide further definitions about key words related to stevia, its science and major regulatory agencies around the world