What is Stevia?
Stevia is a simple plant originating from Paraguay. It's like the mint or parsley that you grow in your garden. It’s been around forever, consumed for centuries in South America and has been consumed in Japan for decades. In fact, it makes up over 40% of their sweeteners.
The sweetness of the stevia plant comes from the Steviol glycosides in the leaves. There are 10 known Steviol glycosides in the stevia leaf. Some of these glycosides are sweeter than others. Rebaudioside A is considered to be the sweetest.
The leaves are harvested, and processed into different forms of “stevia”:
Fresh leaves which can be added to beverages and teas. This is the most natural unrefined form of Stevia.
Dried leaves which are 10-30 times sweeter than sugar. This will be a green powder or leaf pieces.
Flavored Stevia Liquid Extract is liquid stevia extract with added flavors, spices or extracts in such small amounts that they are not required to be listed in the ingredients.
If stevia is natural, where has it been all this time?
1899 - M.S. Bertoni observes the Guarani Indians using stevia. He is credited with 'discovering' it.
1970's- Japan and other countries begin using stevia as a sweetener.
1991- After receiving an “anonymous” complaint, the FDA banned stevia stating that studies on it’s safety were not adequate.
1995- The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act forced the FDA in approving stevia as a “dietary supplement”.
2008- Beginning in 2008....surprise....surprise....after some lobbying by big corporations like: CocaCola, Pepsi, Merisant (makers of Equal), McNeils Nutritionals (makers of Splenda), the FDA approves two forms of stevia as sweeteners:
- Rebaudioside A (minimum 95% Rebaudioside A)
- High purity steviol glycoside extract (mostly Rebaudioside A and Stevioside)
|Soda sweetened with Reb A|
In 2012, we began seeing Reb A sweetened products in grocery stores. That said, in Canada, most stevia products are still found in the health food section.
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