What is Stevia
Stevia is a plant native to South America. It is part of the sunflower family and its leaves are naturally sweet. In fact, the indigenous people used to chew them for their sweet taste and use them to naturally sweeten beverages. As a product of nature, the stevia plant is actually quite complex. Its leaves contain different sweet tasting components, scientifically called steviol glycosides. There are many different kinds of steviol glycosides, but 11 of them are most abundant in a typical leaf. Each of these steviol glycosides has its own unique taste profile and sweetness intensity and each can be anywhere from 200 to 350 times sweeter than sugar – but all without the calories.
Stevia Leaf Extracts
To release the sweetness, the steviol glycosides are extracted and purified like other ingredients you may commonly use, such as cane sugar or natural vanilla extract. At the end of the process, the sweet components are the exact same compounds as the ones originally found in the leaf. This process produces highly purified stevia leaf extract, which is what is approved by major regulatory bodies for use in foods and beverages around the world. Crude stevia extracts or whole stevia plant leaves are often sold as dietary supplements in some countries, but it is important to note that only high purity stevia leaf extract has been evaluated and approved for use as an ingredient in food and beverages by the world’s major regulatory agencies. Throughout this website, we will refer to high purity stevia leaf extract simply as stevia.
More and more food and beverage companies are using stevia to help create great tasting food and beverage products with fewer total calories. As a result, you may see a reduction in the total calories per serving . On the ingredient label , you may see stevia listed in different ways: stevia, stevia extract, Rebaudioside A, Reb A, steviol glycosides and other variations depending on the country and the manufacturer. You will find stevia in more than 5000 foods and beverages around the globe today, including soft drinks, juices, waters, flavored milks, yogurts, baked goods, cereals, salad dressings, sauces, confections, tabletop sweeteners and more. This powerful combination of a zero calorie sweetener with a plant-based origin, makes stevia distinct in the food and beverage world.
How is stevia made?
Stevia has been used for hundreds of years and today its use in foods and beverages is backed by modern science. The form of stevia found in today’s food and beverages around the world is generally high-purity stevia leaf extract, which is a purified form of stevia extract that has been evaluated and approved by global regulatory agencies. There are over 200 scientific research studies that support the safety of high purity stevia extracts for use in foods and beverages and demonstrate the properties of stevia and its metabolism.
Stevia leaf extract is produced through a process that is similar to how other plant ingredients, such as sugar and vanilla are produced. The sweet molecules called steviol glycosides of the stevia plant are naturally found in the stevia leaf and are extracted and purified to produce stevia ingredients with a purely sweet taste. There are many steviol glycosides naturally present in the stevia leaf. Purified stevia leaf extracts can contain one steviol glycoside or several different glycosides, which can be up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose.
High purity stevia leaf extract is a versatile sweetening ingredient for foods and beverages and offers consumers and food and beverage producers a new option for natural-origin sweetness without the calories.
The sweet components within stevia leaves are a group of compounds called steviol glycosides, which share a common steviol backbone. Steviol glycosides are not absorbed in the stomach or small intestine, which is largely responsible for stevia’s safety and zero-calorie impact. Research also shows that there is no accumulation of stevia (or any component or by-product of stevia) in the body.