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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

Lauren says …

I love Stevia! At first I didn't, but I figured out I was trying to use too much... the key is using just a bit. I use a brand that has a miniature scoop inside-- you almost think it won't do anything, but it's the perfect amount. I use it in smoothies, oatmeal, tea, and sometimes baked goods.

Geraldine says …

For whoever requested it, here's the link to a Stevia-Sugar Equivalency Chart from the Stevia site: http://www.steviainfo.com/?page=equivalency_chart

Amanda says …

I've been using Stevia for several years now. I use nothing but in in my Tea and Coffee. It is truly amazing and healthy plant. <3

A. Th. Mann says …

The king of Thailand consumes Stevia to all his drinks and sweet dishes, replacing all sugar. We grow Stevia, dry, and pack it similar to tea leaves, only much less as Stevia is around 300 stronger in sweetness than industry sugar and difficult to measure for unfamiliar people. Too high concentration of Stevia gives kind of bitter taste. In fact does Stevia not have any side effects as someone in the comments meant to relate nausea to nausea. Mate de coca (the yellow tea) can have that, but now Stevia. We recommend Stevia strongly to anyone, but urge to train with the concentrated sweetness. Other than most of those synthetic sweeteners it does not have carcinogen characteristics. You can inquire with us.

Marrlene says …

I remember when aspartame first came out. It was a "natural" derivative from grapefruit or so they said. Now it turns out not to be such a great thing after all. I'll wait till the jury comes back in on Stevia. It will take a few years though.

Jim Purdy says …

"These purely synthetic compounds do not exist in nature, so it’s no surprise our human bodies may be ill-equipped to handle them." Excellent point! I used to use stevia regularly. Thanks for reminding me to buy some more.

Caroline says …

Most of the most available stevia products contain maltodextrin - a known GMO product. Please read the labels because there are other many nasty fillers used.

Connie Snyder says …

Hey You-All! I was a sugar-a-holic in ways such as; an inch of sugar standing in the bottom of my iced tea glass; "Had-to-have my home-baked "treats" I called them. When I realized what it was doing to my body, I began acclimating(getting used to)stevia. Now, I LOVE IT-CAN'T BE WITHOUT IT!...use it in just about everything...attempting to get my other family members to see this. I tell them that our training our bodies are like training animals to do something...repitition. Everyone out there...BE DETERMINED...YOU WILL THANK YOURSELF LATER!

Kim says …

My husband and I have used stevia for years, I like the liquid and he likes the powdered. I have 5 different liquid flavors and use them in my water when I'm in the mood. If you're dieting the different flavors make such a difference and adds so much to different foods. It just makes perfect sense to use it when possible since we're trying to eat healthy in every other way.

lila kahan says …

Is there any other product made from stevia such as sun crystals?

kay says …

I use stevia daily and love it. I have never experienced even one side effect. Stevia rocks!!!!!

Sheridan says …

WF carries a stevia product called "Sweet Leaf" which is JUST stevia. If you look at "Truvia" and other stevia products you will see extra ingredients (Erythritol, maltodextrin, etc.) Try "Sweet Leaf" if you have side effects with the other stevia brands containing additivies.

Wanda Nuila says …

For anyone not liking Stevia.... you should try Agave Nectar its derived from the Blue Agave plant (kind of like a cactus looking plant) it is very good and you only need a "SMALL" amt. Healthy alternative also low glycemic!

Liz says …

I've just started using Stevia. I'm diabetic and have been using Splenda. I think Stevia is better for our bodies, but, to me, it doesn't taste as good as Splenda. Mostly, I'm using it to sweeten hot tea. Maybe this isn't the best use for it. I'm wondering if others have found this to be true.

JeffS says …

Marriene, aspartame was an ant poison before it was ever a sweetener. Any "natural" image was marketing lies. I would personally be just as wary about Truvia, another in a long line of manufactured "foods". There's always a downside. I'm sure the next stevia news story will be the rainforests that are being cut down to feed our sweet tooths.

America says …

is it better to use the plant itself? can I grow it in southern California?

Jon says …

Someone wanted more info on Erythritol...here you go: Erythritol ((2R,3S)-butane-1,2,3,4-tetraol) is a natural sugar alcohol (a type of sugar substitute) which has been approved for use in the United States[1] and throughout much of the world. It was discovered in 1848 by British chemist John Stenhouse.[2] It occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods [3]. At the industrial level, it is produced from glucose by fermentation with a yeast, Moniliella pollinis[1]. It is 60–70% as sweet as table sugar yet it is almost non-caloric, does not affect blood sugar, does not cause tooth decay, and is absorbed by the body, therefore unlikely to cause gastric side effects unlike other sugar alcohols. Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements, it has a caloric value of 0.2 kilocalories per gram (95% less than sugar and other carbohydrates), though nutritional labelling varies from country to country—some countries like Japan label it as zero-calorie, while European Union regulations currently label it and all other sugar alcohols at 2.4 kcal/g.

Ann Beckett says …

I am just recovering from eight weeks of severe explosive diarrhea, painful cramping, bloating, gas as a result of drinking one or two Zevia colas a day. As someone who does no added sugars, I was really happy to find Zevia. I even called the company and queried them about the purity of the ingredients. My doctor couldn't figure out what was going on since tests for parasites and bacterial infection came back negative. Finally I thought, what have I done differently these eight weeks and the answer was Zevia. I eat a really, really clean, almost all organic diet, so it wasn't hard to isolate once I asked the question. I stopped the cola and within a day the symptoms began to clear. I waited five days and drank one cola in the evening. In the morning the symptoms were back. With regret I dumped all my Zevias down the drain. It's five days later again and my gut is effectively back to normal. You read that erythritol doesn't cause gastric symptoms, yet if you research it on the net, you find myriad people documenting these symptoms as a result of consuming Truvia, which is Cargill's tabletop sweetener marketed as if it were 'true stevia', but which is mostly erythritol combined with a small amount of one fraction of stevia. I can't figure out how much of this same stevia fraction (reb A), is in Zevia cola, but the erythritol content is 10-13 g, depending on which Zevia flavor soda you're talking about. Erythritol is made from corn, so I also wonder about the GMO issue. Zevia's being touted on raw food and other health sites and until I had this experience I would have been right in there cheering. Clearly now it's off limits for me, but even if you're not someone whose gut reacts this drastically to erythritol, there may be other questions to ask about the healthfulness reb A and the reb A/erythritol combo. Like the GMO question.

Rosa says …

Hi, I would like to know where I can buy Stevia powder to substitute sugar in a birthday cake. Thanks!

http://www.BarleyDistributor.com says …

I heard you can use it as a facial mask. I would like to try it for that.

Sue says …

KAL is the only brand of stevia that is good tasting I think. If you have tried stevia and didn't like it.........then try one more time and buy KAL Pure Stevia Extract. It is good. I've tried others that were just plain disgusting!

Ken G. Knott says …

I'm surprised your store doesn't carry erythritol. It's a natural sugar that tastes better than stevia and provides little caloric impact and does not stimulate an insulin response. It is a better alternative than any sugar substitute in the market place. Come on, you guys need to catch up! My second choice would be stevia, but you can use it in your coffee and tea all you want and continue telling yourself that it tastes great. For me, I would rather have something that tastes great and affords the same health benefit. Maybe you folks have gotten too big and can't get out of your own way. It happens you know. Thank you, Ken G. Knott, M.D.

Rosa Pariury says …

We always shop at you store.I have been taking stevia for most of my sugar substitutes . Do you make have it in different flavors? Chocolate , vanilla, etc? Thank you

Terri Nielson says …

Hi, Stevia is "not" an artificial sweetener. It comes from the Stevia plant. So, I guess many people refer to it as artificial, when it is a natural, alternative form of a sweetner.

Amy says …

Truvia seems to be a very questionable product. I wonder why WF decided to include it on it's shelves?

Blanche says …

Enjoyed the article about stevia. I plan to come to the store tomorrow to pick up a package, jar, whatever. Blanche

Stephanie says …

Truvia is made with GMO corn! Please take it off your shelves! I naively trusted that Whole Foods wouldn't allow such an abomination to be sold in their store. Just tossed the Truvia I spent almost eight dollars on in the trash. Maybe I need to start researching the other products I bought. Maybe its pointless to shop at Whole Foods.

Belinda Honberger says …

Refreshing blog post you have hereabouts. I hadn't considered aforementioned.

valeria says …

Thank you for your information. Just found out I need to change the way I eat and that includes exchanging sugar for an alternative went to other store sites, You stand head above the rest. thank you

India Dircks says …

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karenk says …

Stevia is a horrible sugar substitute. It contains Corn. Sun Crystals are the only product without Corn as a binding agent.

Laurence Hammett says …

I would really like to see some stevia ice cream made with natural stevia. I did see some comments about truvia, rebaina and others which aren't really natural and pure. I suppose we should have seen this non-sense coming. Adulterating the food sources. I many of the stevia products do whet many of the artifical sweetner products to and that is assume that every one wants things sickly sweet. I like the Blue sky sodas. Not overly sweet and the cola tastes like cola. I haven't had soda in years but I drink this stuff. Now if I could just get some natural stevia ice cream and other frozen confections then the crops would be saved.

Angela says …

I LOVE Stevia...I use it for everything...Im looking at getting flavored Stevia next..

Glenna says …

Thank you to Harriet in her comment concerning Truvia. I bought Truvia 3 months ago by accident - and threw it out after one try. It is definitely not the same as Stevia when matching powder for powder. Many favorable comments are about the liquid Stevia - which I'll try soon.

says …

@Gl Your community Whole Foods Market may offer the stevia leaves in their bulk department. The best way to learn if your store offers this product is to reach out to them directly. The link below will help identify the contact information for that store and a Team Member there will be happy to chat with you. Thanks for reaching out. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores

says …

@Beverly Most of our Whole Foods Markets offer the Stevia product. However, our product offering differs from store to store and just to make sure you won't make a fruitless trip for Stevia, I encourage you to reach out to your community's Whole Foods Market directly. A Team Member from your store will be happy to let you know if they've got the Stevia product in stock at your store. The link below will help you identify the contact information for your store. Happy hunting! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/

Beverly Judge says …

Great information. Can it be purchased @ Whole Foods?

Kathy Grace says …

I guess I am not impartial because I'm writing this with the most awful nausea - I bought some Blue Sky Free Ginger Ale sweetened with Truvia and felt awful afterward - a strange feeling of fullness and no appetite and wanted to throw up! I didn't put two and two together though, so I drank MORE of the Ginger Ale to help the nausea . . . got even worse. I've finally done some web research and the culprit was the stevia-based sweetener Truvia found in the Blue Sky Free beverages themselves. Some people just can't handle it.

Penny says …

Does the San Antonio Quarry store carry flavored liquid Stevia?

says …

@Penny Since each store does things a little differently and offers a different array of products the best way to get the most accurate response regarding the availability of the flavored liquid Stevia is to reach out to them directly. The link to your store's contact information is below. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/quarry/

Jana Sheeder says …

Stevia has been amazing for us. My husband and I cut out real sugar, and he lost 20 pounds. We were eating Splenda on everything, and when I went to a nutritionist, she told me NOT to eat Splenda. Splenda is bleached (chemically altered). She said to eat Stevia (from the plant..you can grow one in your yard or on your window sill)...or to eat a version of Stevia (Truvia, etc). We swapped to Truvia and are amazed at how great it is (and how easy it is to put into your diet)...until you try to find listings of items containing Truvia! There are supposedly 150 items with it. We swear by Stevia (Truvia). (and yes, @Lily - it is supposed to work for people with diabetes (substitutes sugar), but ASK YOUR DOCTOR, please. :-)

gl says …

where can i buy stevia leaves for making tea?

CrazeeDave says …

Well, I put in my first comment in on Stevia before reading most of the other's comments. Then I came across a comment about a drink I never heard of, called Zevia, I found the reason why the woman got horribly sick. It wasn't because of Stevia, but because of the other additive Erythritol! I looked up Zevia Cola on WikiPedia first, then Erythritol. There I found the answer. So, Y'all need to stop giving Stevia a bad name, because it's a natural sweeter and has been for hundreds of years. I myself have had no ill effects from it at all.

CrazeeDave says …

I am very happy to find HF has Stevia on their shelves! I had been buying it for many years on-line. I had also quit eating and drinking anything made sugar, HFCS and especially artificial sweeteners! I've gone back to eating natural foods and for my drink, I will put in ie. a 1 qt. mason jar, a squirt of Real Lemon juice, a squirt of Real Lime juice, 1 tiny little drop of Stevia and fill with clean alkaline water. It is so much more refreshing. I also use Stevia for sweetening my Green Tea. It doesn't take much to sweeten anything. I suppose that all those others commenting that it made them sick or whatever, used way toooooo much! Because Stevia is REALLY potent!

Sarah says …

Laurence - extracted components of stevia make it possible for those of us who can taste the strong bitter flavor of other parts of the stevia leaf. Rebiana is not an adulteration, it's an extraction (now it could be adulterated in some way by the extraction process). Stevia just tasted like bitter poison to me until these new formulations came out!

Victora says …

Hi there :) Is the Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops (or other Sweet Leaf products) available in the UK Whole Foods stores???

Ann Shaffer says …

Dr. Oz today said to stay away from artificial sweetners and use Stevia but the lady telling about it said if it has Stevia but has too many other ingredients do not us it and only use the Stevia. We have used Truvia for a year so it is basically the same or do we need the extract kind like you are speaking of above? Either way i want to stay clear away from artificial sweetners and stay with Stevia which i use mainly in ice tea.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ANN - Thanks for your question. I would definitely recommend speaking with your health care professional before making any changes to your diet. Truvia is made with Stevia leaf extract and 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. The form in which you purchase Truvia comes down to your personal taste and how you plan to use it.

KM says …

My research shows that Sweet Leaf and Stevia Extract in the Raw (not Stevia in the Raw), as two of the few brands of stevia that have not been chemically processed and combined with adulterated ingredients, including maltodextrin. "Truvia”, the brand of Stevia sweetener created and marketed by Cargill and Coca-Cola companies is an FDA approved brand that has caused some people to have allergic reactions.. Other brands, “Purevia”,“Sun Crystals” and “Zevia”, among other packet brands of Stevia, may contain additives or chemicals that can cause reactions like, skin rashes, swollen glands and flu-like symptoms, similar to those that severe allergies can cause. However, “Stevia extract in the raw” is an all-natural Stevia product; their website: http://www.steviaextractintheraw.com/. " Please continue the good work you do in this field and investigate the Truvia brand. The diligence in promoting items which are only of the most benefit to health is appreciated.

Lynn says …

I use stevia as much as possible. I am a cancer survivor and a mom and totally stay away from sugar and high fructose corn syrup . I use it to make Popsicles , sweeten strawberries , and heavy cream for dessert toppings, and of course in beverages, iced tea, lemonade. It is literally my lifesaver.

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