All About Stevia
Posted on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am
There are many different types of sweeteners that can be found in foods and drinks. People can become confused when a certain ingredient is given several different brand names. This seems to be especially true in regards to sweeteners that are used in diet or zero-calorie beverages. Stevia is among them. Here are some quick facts to know about Stevia.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a plant. The latin name for it is Stevia rebuaudiana. It belongs to the same food family as dandelions, daisy, ragweed, and chrysanthemums.
There are many types of Stevia that grow in several places around the world. But, the one that is used as a sweetener in diet foods and beverages comes from Paraguay and Brazil. That variety is also called Bertoni.
Why is Stevia used in diet products?
The primary reason why Stevia is used in diet foods and beverages is because it has no calories. It is also 200 times sweeter than sugar (in the same concentration). This means food manufacturers can use a smaller amount of Stevia to sweeten a product than if they wanted to use sugar. It also means they can provide a zero-calorie version of their products.
You might be able to find Stevia sold as a sweetener just like you would find sugar. Pure Via, Truvia and Sweet Leaf are the brand names of some sweeteners that are made from Stevia.
How is Stevia made?
The first step is to collect the leaves of the Stevia plant. The next step is to extract the glycosides from the leaves. Glycosides are the components of the Stevia leaves that make them sweet.
The leaves are placed into hot water which is then passed through a resin material that will trap and collect the steviol glycosides. Next, the resin is washed out with alcohol. This frees the glycosides. The product then undergoes a re-crystallization process that results in the purified glycosides as an end product.
Is Stevia safe?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been asked the question: “Has Stevia been approved by the FDA to be used as a sweetener?” The answer was given on January 26, 2015.
“Based on its review of information and data submitted by industry, FDA has concluded there is no basis to object to the use of certain refined Stevia preparations in food. These refined preparations may be lawfully marketed and added to food products in the United States.”
More specifically, the FDA approved the use if Rebaudioside A, or Reb-A, as a sweetener in 2008. It is a highly purified component of Stevia. The FDA has not approved of the Stevia leaves themselves (before the glycosides are extracted).