WHAT IS STEVIA?

  • 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

  • The best-known leaf extract is Rebaudioside A (Reb A or rebiana) which is used in most tabletop sweeteners 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 can be seen on the ingredient list as stevia leaf extract, stevia extract, steviol glycoside, Reb A, Reb D, Reb M, or stevioside

  • The best tasting tabletop sweeteners are 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

KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY

 

  • 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.

 

Stevia Sweetener

FILLERS or CARRIERS

  • To understand why fillers (or carriers) are used, you need to know how much sweeter stevia (pure leaf extract) is when 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 or carriers so they can have an overall resemblance to table sugar. The basic idea is that something is needed to fill in that empty space.

  • 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). 

 

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

Stevia | Pure Extract
Stevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of pure stevia leaf extract.
Stevia | Liquid
Stevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here brands of liquid stevia. The most common carriers include glycerine, erythitol, alcohol, and cellulose. Some are sold as dietary supplements and allow health claims on labels.
Stevia | with Erythritol
Stevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of stevia-erythritol blend.
Stevia | with Inulin
Stevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here a variety of brands of stevia-inulin blend.
Stevia | with Sugars
Stevia leaf extracts are food ingredients with GRAS status. The leaf extracts go through a great deal of processing and purification until they become palatable and free of impurities. They provides zero calories and are 200 to 400 times sweeter than table sugar. Find here brands of stevia-carbohydrates blends. Most common carbohydrates include maltodextrin, glucose, and cellulose.
Stevia | with Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin-based sweeteners that measure like sugar on a 1:1 ratio are included with 'blends with less sugar'. Maltodextrin is not a sugar, but is broken down into sugars (maltose & glucose) in our mouth, stomach, and small intestine, being absorbed as pure glucose.
Stevia | with Xylitol
Stevia | with Rare Sugars
Stevia | with Monk Fruit
Stevia is the term used to refer to steviol glycosides (highly refined extracts from the leaves of the stevia plant) 
Monk fruit is the term used to refer to mogrosides (extracts obtained from the luo han guo fruit)
Stevia | Cubes and Tablets
Stevia cubes and tablets contain stevia leaf extract plus other ingredients such as erythritol, glucose, or cellulose. Each cube or tablet is as sweet as one teaspoon of table sugar.
Stevia | Dried Leaf
The whole-leaf Stevia is dried, cut, and turn into a green powder. It has a very mild sweet taste and does not dissolve well. Extracts (highly refined with > or = 95% purity) from the leaf are approved by the FDA but the leaves itself are not due to inadequate toxicological information.
Stevia | with Benefits
Show More

Stevia Sweetener

FDA APPROVAL

 

  • 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 grinded 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.

 

Stevia

SYNTHETIC or NATURAL

 

  • I want you to be aware that some steviol glycosides, such as reb D and M, may also be produced by fermentation without a need to use the stevia plant or without them being directly isolated and extracted 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; check out Bestevia Reb M, Bestevia Reb D, and EverSweet Reb D + Reb M

  • Not all Reb D and Reb M are synthetic. Check out Starleaf stevia leaf extract, which is obtained from a stevia plant developed by using traditional breeding techniques to result in a stevia variety with 20x more sweet tasting steviol glycosides than standard stevia.

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

 

Stevia Sweeteners

BRAND NAMES

 

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Copyright © 2019   WhatSugar Blog | By Adriane Mulinari Campos 

Everywhere in the USA | Based in Richmond,VA | Email me at info@whatsugar.com

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