What is Stevia?
Practically speaking, stevia rebaudiana is used as a no-calorie, low-carb, herbal sweetener that is up to one hundred times sweeter than table sugar – an alternative to sugar and artifical, chemical sweeteners such as aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet©). Used around the world for centuries with no adverse reactions, stevia is also said to be a great, healthful alternative for diabetics.
Scientifically speaking, stevia is …
Stevia (also called sweetleaf, sweet leaf or sugarleaf) is a genus of about 150 species of herbs and shrubs belonging to the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America (north to Mexico). The species are found in the wild in semi-arid habitats ranging from grassland to mountain terrain. Stevia does produce seeds, but only a small percentage of them germinate. Planting cloned stevia is a much more effective way of reproduction.
Video Introduction to Stevia
View a video introduction to stevia, stevia uses, and the history of stevia here.
Zevia: New Stevia-Based Diet Soda
From the ZEVIA® homepage:
ZEVIA® carbonated stevia supplement is THE NATURAL ALTERNATIVE TO DIET SODA® for one very important reason: the ingredients. ZEVIA® contains none of the chemically processed artificial sugar substitutes, artificial flavors or artificial colors found in diet sodas. ZEVIA® is all-natural, has five calories or less, and only 20 mg of sodium (Natural Orange & Natural Twist)
The Stevia Controversy
Manufacturers in Japan and other countries around the world have used stevia since the early 70′s to sweeten a variety of foods. However the FDA in the United States has routinely turned down requests to approve the use of stevia by U.S. food suppliers. In 1994, the FDA claimed,
We don’t have enough data to conclude that the use [in food] would be safe.
It should be noted that the United States isn’t alone in its harsh stance on stevia use. Neither Canada, nor the European Union allow the addition of stevia to food by manufacturers. An EU scientific panel concluded that stevioside (a.k.a. stevia) is
not acceptable as an alternative sweetener due to potential toxicity problems.
These arguments fall on the deaf ears of many stevia proponents. The evidence of repeated and apparently unharmful stevia use for the past several hundred years is all the proof they need. They point to stevia use in Japan over the past thirty years without a single case of documented stevia toxicity or adverse reaction. Read more about the safety and dangers of stevia.
Shopping for Stevia
You won’t find stevia in the sugar/sweetener aisle, next to the Equal, Sweet’N Low, or Splenda, at your local supermarket. You can however shop for it at your local health food store where it is typically sold as a dietary supplement. You can also conveniently shop for stevia right here at Stevia Cafe and save up to 50% off!