Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Uncover the Secret of Stevia

I’ve said it before: Americans love sugar. In practically everything! Yet it’s a rare one of us that doesn’t know that we need to cut back, and for some of us, maybe even avoid it altogether. Food manufacturers have known this for a very long time. They constantly seek to meet the demands of the American taste buds while at the same time trying to follow “healthy” guidelines and standards set forth admonishing us all to reduce our sugar intake. Their answer? Artificial sweeteners. They’re in everything from yogurt to flavored water, ice cream to iced tea and hot cocoa mix. But not here.

Just take a trip down the aisles of any Whole Foods Market and you won’t find ANY products containing any artificial sweeteners. These purely synthetic compounds do not exist in nature, so it’s no surprise our human bodies may be ill-equipped to handle them. Enter stevia, the sweet secret known for years by the natives of South America and eventually adopted by European colonists. The stevia plant originally comes from the rain forests of Brazil and Paraguay where it is known as the “yerba dulce” or “sweet leaf.” It’s still available in those regions, and it’s also now grown in Japan, Korea, Thailand and China where it’s commonly used. Today, the greatest use of stevia is in Japan. Stevia gets its flavor from various glycosides, particularly stevioside, which is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It has no calories, minimal to no carbohydrates and a glycemic index of zero, After only allowing stevia as a dietary supplement for many years, the FDA has approved the use of certain stevia extracts in food products, making way for a variety of new products to enter the market.

One such new natural sweetener, Truvia™, is turning up in conventional grocery stores as well as natural food stores nationwide. Stevia is available in powdered white or powdered leaf form, or as a liquid extract. The white powdered and liquid forms are the strongest, so start with just a pinch. You can use it in beverages, baked goods, custards, puddings, frostings and sauces. It is heat stable, up to about 400°F, so you can use it in practically any recipe. Remember that it is not sugar, and when baking, it does not act like sugar. It won’t caramelize and brown your baked goods so some recipes won’t work with stevia. Ready to try some stevia?

Start here:

  • Use it in your tea or your coffee, hot or iced
  • Add to yogurt or cream cheese
  • Add a pinch to a fruit salad
  • Stir it into strawberries
  • Add to oatmeal or other hot or cold cereals
  • Add to popsicles
  • Bake with stevia; here’s a “Stevia Info” guide to help out.

Have you ever tried stevia? Do you bake with it or use it in beverages? I would love to hear!

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178 comments

Comments

Cindy says …

We switched to Stevia years ago. There is no after taste to it and no chemical flavors. There are wonderful flavored liquids for coffee, tea, or water, too! Flavors such as English Toffee, Grape, Orange, etc. We use so much less than sugar that a bottle of powder lasts a VERY long time in our house. The news of the FDA approval is wonderful!

Karen Goeller, CSCS says …

Informative article, but WHY would you add stevia, a sweetener, to a popsicle or to yogurt? They already have sugar in them?

judy says …

Anne, The reaction you had sounds like Truvia brand and not pure stevia. I have the same reaction to Truvia but have been using "real" stevia for almost 12 years with no side effects at all!

Katy Long says …

My mom is growing a stevia plant and I ate one of the leaves the other day. It is amazingly sweet and, mercifully, does not have that "fake" sweetener taste, which I cannot abide. I do try to minimize the amount of sugar I consume, however, I cannot tolerate artificial sweetener and have learned to like most things without it where I need to save calories, such as in drinks. I now prefer tea and coffee unsweetened. But I'll be glad to use stevia to sweeten cereal and baked goods for my son since it's a natural, sweet, no calorie product. I will be able to feel good about giving him a sweet treat filled with natural, healthy ingredients. (I never allow him artificially sweetened treats.)

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

The place that I like liquid stevia most is in my yogurt to jazz it up. I always carry a few packets in my pocket when I'm out for coffee

Lily says …

Does it work for people with diabetes?

susie says …

I've been using stevia for about 8 months and it's a gold mine..just get the container of the powder with little shaker holes, put it on the tiniest holes and just shake once or maybe two times. Perfect for your coffee,tea,cereal,anything really. It's surprising how long a little bottle lasts!

Catherine says …

I've been using stevia now for a few years and love it; especially in liquid form. I carry a small dropper bottle in my purse so I have it with me at all time. I like 'sweet tea' and stevia helps me get it as sweet as I want with out the bitter taste or hazards of the other artificial sweetners and without the calories of regular sugar. Thank goodness for Whole Foods and other organic stores that carry the 'real' stevia....

Megan says …

I've been using Truvia in my coffee for a few months now and I LOVE it. It doesn't have that horrible aftertaste like artificial sweeteners. I also drink a lot of Zevia soda - which is made with the stevia plant. It's a nice alternative to diet soda (and regular soda)! Tastes great. In response to an earlier question about Diabetes, it does work! I looked into it initially when I had gestational diabetes and needed a sugar-free fix without the guilt of artificial sweeteners.

Jackie Smith says …

I have been using Stevia for only about 2 years. I found it a little bitter at first and used a little sugar or other sweetener with it, now I love it in a cup of tea or occasionally some ice tea and don't' think it is bitter at all. I think we as America are just too used to a sugar taste. I would LOVE to be able to buy a drink or food item with stevia in it. I have also used it in strawberries, with just a touch of raw sugar (the sugar brings out the "juice" in the strawberries and it freezes better)I am looking forward to reading more on cooking with it and am going to read the tips given here soon.

Lora says …

I love Stevia! I grew it in my garden last summer. The leaves are amazing! Sweetness like you've never tasted before. I have used stevia extract in beverages and I am a fan of Truvia. I do not like any artificial sweeteners though. Stevia has helped me cut out a lot of sugar in my everyday life.

Dawn Needham says …

I don't like to use stevia, and I seek out products that don't have added sugar -- like salsa, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter. I'll just keep doing that so my taste buds don't get used to things tasting sweeter than they should.

anne says …

i tried stevia, but shortly after eating it, i became extremely light headed and nauseous. not sure if that is a common side effect, but it disturbed me greatly. i will not be using stevia - or any other artificial sugar. i have cut my refined sugar intake a lot.

FV says …

Stevia is a plant and if used as nature intended, without chemical processing, is a wonderful alternative to processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. You can easily grow your own stevia plants, in late fall harvest the leaves, and store. You can grind the leaves to a powder form, or make a liquid concentrate by adding chopped leaves to boiling water strain off the leaves and now you have a liquid form of stevia. Stevia has been used for hundreds of years I am going to side with hundreds of years of the use of stevia vs artifical sweeteners which were only discovered in 1879. Anyone remember Saccharin? Look at all the damage man made chemical food products have done to our society. Artificial sweeteners seemingly make economic sense as they employ factory workers, etc. down the line, but does not make up for the future harm.

Harriet says …

I use stevia in both the liquid and packet form, which I purchase from the health food store. The Truvia which is sold in the grocery stores I have not tried, and I do not plan to really. It is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol, which causes gastric disturbances for many people. Since other sugar alcohols do upset my stomach, I prefer to use the health store version which is not mixed. Since I have diabetes, I need to use it, and I would love to try the truvia as a sample; but I don't want to invest in a box of it which I probably would not be able to use.

Stephanie says …

I have been using Stevia in place of sugar or artifical sweetner in my coffe and tea for a while now. Unlike artifical sweetners, Stevia has no ill effects. Not only do I feel good when I use it, I feel good about supporting those producing it!

Jennifer P. says …

I have been using Truvia for a little over two months. I really like it and have no troubles with it at all. In fact, it is a little too sweet to use an entire packet for most things, so I use 1/2 packet. Use in smoothies, lattes, oatmeal. Haven't used to bake yet.

Elysha says …

My children like the flavored liquid stevia. The best are the vanilla and chocolate. We add it to milk and plain yogurt.

Melissa says …

Although I'm very happy that there are natural alternatives to chemical artificial sweeteners, unfortunately Stevia still *tastes* artificial to me - and my kids. :( I have no objection to labels on products containing Stevia saying they don't contain "artificial sweeteners" but would really prefer a clearer label like "sweetened with natural Stevia" so people (like me) can avoid it if they wish.

M Tung says …

I use Stevia every morning in my coffee, in my iced tea, smoothies, sugar-free cereal and oatmeal! Have yet to bake w/it, though. It's fantastic, but the best part is the weight loss that comes along with giving up regular & artificial sugars. One does go through a withdrawal period, just like you would with anything else being eliminated from diet...caffeine, simple carbs. My kids have yet to complain. I don't think they're even aware of the change in their diet.

VALERIA says …

I'm brazilian and the only way we use " erva doce" is as TEA for babies( gas_) and adults. however i will try it. just because i'm a big whole foods fan and I trust this brand

franni says …

I have tried Stevia but have a terrible time trying to regulate the amount to use. I switched to Agave nectar but hear now it is not much different from plain, old sugar. I'll try Stevia once more...

Terrie says …

I use stevia regularly to sweeten my tea and I was thrilled to find recently that Vitamin Water has reengineered their low-calorie drink so that it has zero calories and is sweetened with stevia. I love it!

Debbie Moreno says …

My Lymphatic thereapist turned me onto stevia. I love it. Right now I just use the powder packets for ice tea., but I hope to cook something with it soon. I bought the big bag of powder to cook with. Can not wait to see what happens. I downloaded several recipes from the stevia website. We shall see.

Debbie Moreno says …

In answer to the diabetic question. I am diabetic and have noticed a lowering of my sugar to a more controllerable number. I also gave up all soda pop and lowered my sodium intake. I lost 100 lbs in 8 months. I also have systemic lupus, severe RA, dermatomyositis, and osteoparosis. Stevia has helped me change my drinking habits. I only drink ice tea mostly decaff.

Mary http://www.mygreendiet.com says …

How is the stevia processed? How does it go from the plant to the powder or extract form?

Michelle says …

Natural or artificial, it's still an added sweetener. In a dropper bottle, it is also not a "whole food".

Tamie Spears says …

BEWARE of Truvia and PureVia - the erythritol in them comes from corn and is supplied to Coke & Pepsi by Cargill. 30% of the corn Cargill grows is GMO! And the stevia in these sweeteners is not the natural, pure form. They have used chemicals to extract just one tiny portion of the stevia leaf so they could get FDA approval to use it. Beware of drinks containing "rebiana" -- that's the chemically processed one. I just discovered this after using Truvia for months. I'm now going back to using natural, organic stevia extract as I was doing before these new products came out. I blogged more info here -- http://tamispears.vox.com

Robin says …

I use Stevia in my coffee every morning - I love it!

Shirley says …

I have tried the packets of truvia in iced tea and hot coffee. I don't like the after taste. I wonder if the concentrated form would be better? Perhaps it's the additional compounds that are added to dilute the product that give the after taste. Overall, I think the taste of saccharin is less offensive than all the others!

screwdestiny says …

I love stevia. It tastes way better to me than those artificial sweeteners. I have not, however, tried cooking with it yet, so I'm not sure how well I would like it substituting it in my recipes.

Linda says …

When making muffins I use the liquid Stevia instead of regular sugar and they come out so good. Even my son loves them. When making popsicles or fruit smoothies my son is satisfied with the taste, having had eaten the ones with regular sugar that is a good thing. My parents that are in in there 70's changed to Stevia from the artificial sweeteners which is a miracle!! I do not use the whole packet when using in teas or yogurt because it is so sweet. Thumbs up for Stevia changed my life!!

Wendy says …

How do we use the plant form. Do you dry it in the microwave, or use the leaf like a mint?

BJ Michaelson says …

My family and I have been using Stevia for years and love the taste. We avoid sugar as much as possible. It shuts the immune system down and is the root cause of many illnesses. It is among the 3 great whites to avoid: sugar, salt, & white bleached flour. Stevia is sweeter than sugar. I carry packs in my purse for tea and coffee when I am out, and I cook with it at home in powder & liquid form. It makes life SWEET!

rhonda says …

I have tried Truvia but did not like it. I thought it was bitter and had a bad after taste. I guess it is what you get use to, because I don not think the artifical sweetners have this bitterness or after tste.

Robert says …

What is "Stevia Extract IN THE RAW".

Marsha says …

I have read that there is some danger in using stevia ? Is there any basis to this rumor?

Laura says …

I LOVE stevia and have been using it in everything for years! Artificial sweeteners are terrible for your body system and have been connected to a lot of health problems (even increased risk of obesity, believe it or not). However, stevia is great tasting and even has great health benefits. Some recent research has shown that stevia can even decrease one's chances of developing diabetes...how great is that!?! I strongly recommend that you try stevia in your cereals, drinks, oatmeal, etc. It tastes so good and will make you FEEL good (not like artificial sweeteners that make you feel bloated). Stevia is such a great sweetener...I just wish they put it in more store-bought beverages and diet foods...but that day is coming I'm sure!

Casey says …

I use Stevia every day. Love it. I especially like the flavored extracts that I can get at Whole Foods. It seems costly but when all you need is a drop or two it lasts a very long time. Much longer than a bag of refined white sugar! I have also read that it can be a great appetite suppresant, so I sometimes add it to my water for the day. I also hate the taste of artificial sweetners and have not used them in many years. But I have a sweet tooth and need something to meet that craving sometimes. Stevia is perfect for me and I am glad I read about it and a little disappointed that it is not commonly known. Also, for those trying it for the first time, do not purchase the commercial brands that they sell in the local grocery. They are all mixed with some other type of filler or sugar substitute.

Doug says …

I have used stevia for years. Inspite of what many say the powder does have an after taste somewhat like the blue stuff but the stevia extract -- not so much. I use it in tea and coffee and with oatmeal. Works well and helps me cut down on sugar. Does anybody know if it has any beneficial (nutrient)value?

SYLVIA says …

how is it better for us when it is 200 - 300 times sweeter than sugar??? I could never understand that reasoning so help me out ...please ...

Patti says …

Five years ago I tried stevia in powder form and did find it a bit bitter, but after a time I found the liquid to be a better medium. I've switched to Stevia Glycerite (liquid) and need very little. My diabetes numbers are much improved. Now, I use it without thinking; in coffee and my morning hot cereal and my diabetes is better for it.

Aurelia from SC says …

Have been using Stevia now for probably 8 yrs. and love it! Body can't tolerate sugar so using this has been a wonderful blessing! Would love to see more items replace sugar with Stevia. Would also love to find recipes or some conversion chart that would help with baking and cooking using Stevia.

Selda says …

I have couple questions if you may help me better understand please. First what is different with Stevia?. It is organic because it is a plant, I understand that. It is processed, since if I go ahead and chew a Stevia plant probably it would not be calorie free, after processing it becames Truvia. In the other hand,one of the dominant sweetners in the market is Splenda. Splenda's row material is sugar, and sugar is also before all the processing is totally organic. What makes Stevia/Truvia so different? Honestly I would love to learn because I am diabethic and cannot use sugar form. i would appreciate if I can hear back from you. Thank you! Regards, Selda Henry

Grains of Hope says …

I use a teaspoon of ground green stevia when I make whole wheat bread. It sweetens the loaf deliciously and, even though it is not sugar, the yeast seems to do well with it. My bread does not do as well if I put in a pinch of white or liquid stevia. I only use the green stevia because it has the extra nutrients that are removed from the extracts. Most of the stevia extracts are bulked up, so read the labels.

Marilyn Brudno says …

I've been using liquid stevia for more years than I can remember. I buy the large bottle at Whole Foods and use it in tea and my homemade yoghurt every day. When traveling, I take a dropper bottle with me. We haven't bought granulated sugar since discovering this wonderful stuff! I'm wondering if it has any health benefits. Other than substituting for sugar, of course, which is enough benefit right there to use it regularly. Marilyn

Rachel C says …

Yes I LOVE stevia and I bake with it a lot. I have a lot of gluten-free, sugar-free recipes on my blogsite using stevia at UntilTheThinLadySings.com. I really like Sweetleaf brand and NuNaturals is absolutely not bitter at all!!! I like it to make a lemonade (I posted it) and I use it in my coffee too.

Paula says …

If you have hayfever type allergies, try Stevia carefully as you might be allergic to it as I am.

Melody Garrett says …

Love to bake with stevia. I bake muffins and coffee cakes with stevia. Using the liquid form is my favorite way to use Stevia. I use it also in our tea pitcher. I simply add a couple of teaspoons or so in the liquids of the muffins mix I make. Love it!

Mari says …

I use stevia sometimes. It does have a kind of licoricey flavor, but I offset it by using it with sugar as well. I make lemonade and or other fruit waters, and use stevia as well as sugar. It dosent feel right/normal to use stevia in everything, but it is definitely better than using artificial sweeteners, any day.

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