What is stevia?
Stevia (two brand names: Pure Via and Truvia) is a plant-based sugar substitute that has no calories. The term “stevia” refers to Stevia rebaudiana, which is a South American plant. Only certain parts of the plant are sweet. Highly purified extracts from the leaves of the plant are called “steviol glycosides.” They are 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.
The term “stevia” can refer to the whole Stevia rebaudiana plant. However, in this article, “stevia” refers to the sugar substitute made from steviol glycosides. That is how the term is commonly used.
Stevia provides sweetness and enhances the flavor of food without adding the calories of sugar. Unlike sugar, it does not contribute to tooth decay. It also does not raise blood sugar levels. This may be helpful if you have diabetes and have to be careful about how much sugar you consume. Some people may notice an aftertaste when they consume stevia.
What products contain stevia?
Stevia is found in many processed foods and drinks, such as desserts, chewing gum, baked goods, candy, and yogurt. It is also used as a tabletop sweetener (for example, to sweeten a glass of iced tea).
Stevia can be used as a substitute for sugar when you are baking. For best results, follow the package instructions for using it in your recipes.
Is stevia safe?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), steviol glycosides are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). This means that qualified experts agree the available scientific evidence about this sugar substitute shows it is safe for use in foods and drinks.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff