- An excellent natural substitute for sugar that is calorie-free!
- Up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
- Great for diabetics—good blood sugar control.
- Suitable for cooking.
- Does not cause tooth decay like sugar does
Stevia is derived from the herbaceous perennial Stevia rebaudiana, which is native to rainforest areas of Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Paraguay. The indigenous Guarani people of Paraguay have used the leaf for almost two thousand years as a natural sweetener and also as a way of disguising the taste of unpalatable medicines. This practice was followed by European colonists as they progressively settled throughout South America in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
Two compounds, stevioside and rebaudioside, are responsible for the intense sweetness of Stevia, which is up to three hundred times sweeter than sugar. For this reason Stevia is a valuable alternative, not only to sugar, but also to artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (Nutrasweet) and saccharin. Stevia has been used extensively in Japan since the 1970’s where consumers embrace the compound as a way of avoiding introduced chemicals into their diet.
So successful has Stevia become in the Asian market that in Japan alone it represents 40% of the non-sugar sweetener market and is now used extensively in Israel, Korea, Thailand and China, as well as in its traditional South American environment. Apart from its obvious use as a means of weight control, Stevia may be a useful aid in helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It contains no calories, nor does the body respond to it as it does to a carbohydrate such as sugar; hence Stevia is of immense value in assisting with weight management.
It also remains stable when exposed to heat and is therefore suitable for use in cooking. In addition, Stevia does not cause tooth decay, a well-known and unwanted side effect of sugar.
There are no known side effects associated with the intake of Stevia, either historically in South American countries, or more recently, from Asian consumers. Interestingly, artificial sugar substitutes, such as aspartame, account for substantial numbers of food additive-related complaints in the US alone.
Stevia comes in several forms, including concentrated powder and liquid extracts, and is commonly added to many foods such as ice cream, chewing gum, cookies, tea and even skincare products.