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  • Sweeteners commonly referred to as stevia contain extracts of the leaf of a shrub called Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni)

  • The stevia plant has been cultivated and used for centuries by South Americans; dry leaves were historically used to sweeten drinks

  • China is by far the main grower in the world; other countries include Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and USA

  • Chemically speaking, the sweet components of the stevia leaf are steviol glycosides, which are 25 to 450x sweeter than table sugar

  • The stevia leaf contains more than forty steviol glycosides and the most abundant are shown in the image below:

What is Stevia Chemically Speaking
  • The highly refined stevia extracts are different from the notably bitter whole-leaf or crude-extracts (both cannot be sold as sweeteners)

  • The best-known leaf extract is reb A (short for rebaudioside A) or rebiana which is used in most products you find in stores

  • Pure reb A is 250 to 450 times sweeter than table sugar with a characteristic slightly bitter, licorice-like aftertaste

  • Two sought-after extracts, called Reb D and Reb M, are promoted as being the 'better-tasting' and 'more sugar-like' stevia 

  • Stevia may be listed on product labels as stevia leaf extract, stevia extract, steviol glycoside, reb A, reb D, reb M, or stevioside

  • The best tasting sugar substitutes contain blends of a variety of steviol glycosides, such as a combination of reb A, reb D, and reb M 

  • Stevia has a distinct flavor and works best when combined with stronger ingredients such as coffee, chocolate, or citrus fruits.

Stevia Sweetener


  • Over 150 stevia sweeteners are available to you in stores. They come in a variety of forms: liquid, granulated, individual packets/sticks, and cubes/tablets. Only 25 products have pure stevia leaf extract. The vast majority of the sweeteners you buy are going to have a filler. The most common filler is erythritol. Others include inulin, sugars, maltodextrin, rare sugars, and xylitol.


  • When you buy stevia sweeteners, you are often getting highly refined stevia leaf extract directly isolated from the plant's leaf. After the extract is purified it may contain one steviol glycoside or several. The most common is reb A. New stevia products in stores (such as Splenda Naturals, Whole Earth, and Wholesome) have reb D and/or reb M, which are promoted as the "more sugar-like" stevia. 


  • Note that synthetic extracts (read about it here) may also be called stevia. Synthetic stevia extracts are not directly isolated from the leaf, meaning they are produced by one of the following processes: (1) bypass the leaf altogether, and use sugars to be converted into synthetic reb D or M, or (2) extracts from the leaf are enzymatically modified to produce reb D and/or reb M.

Know before you buy Stevia
Compare Stevia Sweeteners

Stevia Sweetener


  • To understand why fillers (or bulking agents) are used, you need to know how much sweeter stevia (pure leaf extract) is, compared to table sugar. A good rule of thumb is one teaspoon of table sugar is generally equivalent to just 1/64 of a teaspoon of pure stevia.


  • Because stevia extracts provide sweet taste with tiny volume and weight, sweeteners often require fillers so they can have an overall resemblance to table sugar. The basic idea is that something is needed to fill in that empty space created by stevia.

  • Fillers are carbohydrates. They add bulk (weight and volume) but only minimal carbohydrate and calories to each serving. No-calorie sweeteners meet FDA standards for no-calorie foods if they provide <5 calories per serving. 

  • The role of fillers in sweeteners involves: (1) make them spoonable and pourable, (2) improve the mouthfeel (that sensation of thicker or "fuller"), (3) improve taste by masking off-flavors (non-sweet taste), and (4) provide sweetness synergy (boost sweetness)


  • You should note that most sweeteners have just a hint of stevia leaf extract. The weight ratio between filler(s) and stevia is, in some cases, 200 to 2000 (fillers) to about 1 (stevia). It means that although almost 99% of the weight comes from the filler(s), 70 to 99% of the sweetness comes from the stevia extract.

  • The most common filler in stevia tabletop sweeteners is erythritol. Here are all fillers that you may find: sugars (glucose)rare sugars (allulose, tagatose)polyols (erythritol, xylitol, glycerin)soluble fibers (inulin, fructooligosaccharides, isomaltooligosaccharidesand polysaccharides (maltodextrin)

  • Non-sweet ingredients may be added for the following reasons: (1) to improve taste and maintain freshness, such as naturals flavors and preservatives (sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate), (2) to reduce the level of stevia aftertaste (cream of tartar), (3) as anti-caking agents (calcium silicate) and (4) as binders (cellulose). 

Fillers and carriers

There is A LOT to see, 160 stevia products to be precise. Make your choice below: 

Stevia Sweetener


  • In the United States, the FDA does not approve the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts in foods, as you can see in this FDA guidance. However, it is legal to sell whole dried leaves, which are also available ground to a green powder. Since 2008, the FDA does not object the use of some highly refined (95% minimum purity) steviol glycosides as a sweetener. 


  • Unlike most high intensity sweeteners, stevia is not a food additive; instead, its use has a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status. The difference is a food additive must undergo premarket review & approval by the FDA before it can be used in foods, but a GRAS substance does not. Rather, the safety is reviewed by qualified experts with scientific training and experience. 


  • Find here the stevia leaf extracts & synthetic versions (read about it next) that may be ingredients in tabletop sweeteners as their use have a GRAS status. FDA did not have questions following the review of those GRAS notifications. Looking for the production method of steviol glycosides such as stevioside, Reb A, Reb D, Reb M, and enzyme-modified (aka synthetic) stevia? Refer to GRAS notices.

FDA Approved Stevia



  • I want you to be aware that some steviol glycosides, such as the better-tasting reb D and M, may also be produced by fermentation without a need to use the stevia plant or without them being directly isolated from the stevia leaf.​ Reb D and Reb M exist in tiny amounts in the leaf (less than 0.5% in dry weight) but their synthetic copies are produced in a more cost effective way, with greater purity and more consistency 


  • Read more about synthetic stevia leaf extracts by visiting some products available to sweeteners' manufacturers: Bestevia Reb M, Bestevia Reb D, and EverSweet Reb D + Reb M (read about it here and here). Another brand, Starleaf stevia extract is obtained from a stevia plant, developed by using traditional breeding techniques, that contains 20x more Reb M and D than standard stevia varieties but it also contains synthetic Reb D and M produced by fermenting the more abundant Reb A.

  • If you see terms such as "biologically produced stevia", "enzimatically enhanced stevia", or "stevia produced by fermentation", that means it is a synthetic stevia leaf extract.

  • Takeaway: The term 'natural' may be used to indicate a synthetic sweetener (not directly isolated or extracted from a plant). For stevia, the starting materials (a sugar or more abundant stevia extracts) are bioconverted into synthetic stevia. Read about synthetic sweeteners promoted as natural in two of my blog posts:

Synthetic Stevia

Stevia Sweeteners


Stevia Brands

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