What is Stevia?
San Antonio TX. The stevia extract, from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, is an alternative, zero calorie sweetener of natural origin. It has been used for centuries by the Guaraní people from South America, to sweeten their traditional drink called yerba mate, as well as teas and medicine. They also chew the leaves for their sweet taste. Today, the stevia plant is grown in countries such as China, Kenya, Paraguay and the United States and its extract is currently taking off as a zero calorie sweetener in foods and beverages all around the world.
The compounds that give the stevia leaf its sweetness are called steviol glycosides – steviosides, rebaudiosides and dulcosides – being rebaudioside A (Reb A) the main one. To capture their sweetness for meals, steviol glycosides go through a process of extraction, filtration and dehydration. The stevia extractformed by steviol glycosides, after going through this purification process, is what is used as sweetener in foods and beverages. The crude extracts are not approved for use by Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Global Stevia Institute (GSI) states that reason for the stevia extract being zero calorie is because steviol glycosides are poorly absorbed in the body and pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and small intestines, fully intact. Once steviol glycosides reach the colon, gut bacteria hydrolyze steviol glycosides into steviol by snipping off their glucose units. Steviol is then absorbed via the portal vein and primarily metabolized by the liver forming steviol glucoronide, and then excreted in the urine. Several research studies on stevia have shown there is no accumulation of stevia (or any by-product of stevia) in the body during metabolism.
The stevia plant is also friendly with the environment. Since it is intensely sweet – according to the GSI, its extract can be up to 350 times sweeter than sugar, so the plant typically requires only a fifth of the land and much less water to provide the same amount of sweetness as other mainstream sweeteners.
The stevia extract adds a delicious sweet taste to food and beverages and, according to the GSI, it is safe to consume for the whole family. Major global regulatory organizations have determined highly purified stevia extracts to be safe for consumption by the general population.
Swap a full calorie food or beverage for one that is partially or fully sweetened with stevia extract. You can choose from more than 5000 food and beverage products from around the world. You can identify them by their ingredient label which must say: stevia leaf extract; stevia extract; rebaudioside A; Reb A; or steviol glycosides.
SVETIA® Calorie – Free Sweetener is made with cane sugar and stevia extract. One packet of SVETIA® contains only one gram of carbohydrates. People with diabetes are advised to check with their registered dietitian or physician.