When you order your iced tea at a restaurant, you might be familiar with the packets of Sweet’N Low, Equal, or Splenda. But have you heard of Stevia? Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is native to both Brazil and Paraguay, and is a member of the sunflower family. Despite being discovered by the Europeans in the early 1800s, local populations in South America have always used stevia as a sweetener. It took a long time for Western nations to access Stevia, because the main ingredient, Rebaudioside, is extremely expensive. This condensed extract is vital because it is considered safe by every governing body, whereas the entire stevia leaf was not put on the FDA’s Safe List due to low blood pressure concerns.
Stevia is extremely powerful. It is 200x sweeter than sugar! In the $14 billion market industry of sweeteners, Stevia’s global net worth is a whopping $336 million! Moreover, besides contributing greatly to the global sweetener economy, Stevia contributes greatly to pro-environmental efforts. In 2008, the FDA placed Stevia on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) List. Stevia is sustainable, and is grown by farmers on small farms in tropical landscapes. The ingredients that are harvested, both Rebaudioside A and Rebaudioside M, are much sweeter and less bitter than the traditional products used in other sweeteners, like Truvia. However, Stevia produces very small quantities of Rebaudioside A and Rebaudioside M, which makes its value skyrocket even higher. Stevia has no calories, which makes it a great alternative to the many calories in sugar. If you were to replace sugar with Stevia in your daily eating routine (without eating more food), you would consume less calories, and Stevia would ultimately yield weight loss! Before you start flooding your kitchen with Stevia and throw out all of your sugar, it’s important to note that the FDA says Stevia can be harmful at “poison dose levels.” Just don’t eat Stevia at poison dose levels and you can go enjoy this incredible, sustainable sweetener!
Thank you Largeintestein for this fascinating information about stevia. While most people here are expressing concerns about the health effects of stevia, as a baker, I am more concerned with how stevia affects the process of baking. In many recipes sugar is beaten with butter to create a fluffy, pale mixture that is used to leaven many baked goods. However, as you write in your article, stevia is much sweeter than sugar and thusly requires much less volume when used in baking. An article I found estimates that for every cup of sugar in a recipe you can substitute with about 1/2 a teaspoon of stevia powder. This drastic change in volume is an issue for true substitution as it will undoubtable mess with the chemistry of any recipe you may cook up. The fluffy mixture created with sugar and butter that is so essential for many baked goods would be impossible to create by substituting in stevia. To read more about using stevia in cooking, take a look at this article: https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/replace-stevia-sugar-baking-cakes-3385.html.
Great blog post! As a sugar lover, I usually use multiple packets of regular sugar to make my tea as sweet as possible. It’s very interesting that a packet of Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has many health benefits. This site shows that Stevia can be effective for many conditions, though more research is needed to see how it is effective.
The poison dose levels are also very inconclusive since there are many factors to take into consideration, like the users health, age, and other conditions.
Largeintestein this is so cool! I think it is great that there are healthier and more organic alternatives to Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. Of course, most position things seem to come with a twist – in this case the exorbitant price of the Stevia. This truly sounds like a super ingredient considering in can also aid in weight loss! https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet Artificial sweeteners are extremely dangerous and have been linked to intestinal inflammation and even cancer. It is nice to know that there is a better alternative, however the market with undoubtably cause Stevia to have a high price for the foreseeable future.
Fine work here Largeintestein. Here’s an article debating a different sweetner–Monk Fruit– to stevia. Monk fruit is different as it has no calories and no carbs, but has an odd taste that some may not enjoy; however, it is definitely on the FDA safe list. Stevia is only regarded as safe when highly purified so look out for Monk Fruit extract as it may be on the rise!!
Find more info here:
It is interesting to hear all the positive factors of Stevia since my father regularly tells me how amazing this product is as a sweetener. In our world, the majority of products that are produced usually have negative environmental impacts so hearing that Stevia has good environmental ethical standards in its farming is very nice and reassuring to hear. On the other hand, I think it is important to see the negative effects of this sweetener. This article by a blogger called Empowered Sustenance speaks to how Stevia has been a “bump” on her road to eating clean. She elaborates on her experiences and introduces how Stevia overworks the adrenals, Stevia can contain other harmful ingredients and doesn’t support glycogen synthesis.
This article is very interesting! I didn’t know that Setiva is so expensive or that Setiva is 200x sweeter than sugar. While reading your article, I wondered why anyone would still use regular sugar since Setiva seems like an overall better alternative. I found this article that outlines some of the side effects or negative effects of Setiva. Some of the side effects include possibly kidney damage, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, allergic reactions, or gastrointestinal issues. So while Setiva sounds like it is beneficial, I think that regular sugar is a safer option. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319837#possible-health-risks-and-side-effects-of-stevia-use
Largeintestein, there are clearly several benefits to using the stevia leaf as a sweetener. However, doing further research, I noticed that the stevia leaf is not GRAS (recognized as safe), nor approved by the FDA. I wonder why this is so!
I found this study (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0058871) which talks about how Stevia can potentially reduce cyst growth the kidneys, preventing polycystic kidney disease! Stevia definitely seems to be a better alternative to other sweeteners. Hopefully we keep making sweet discoveries!
While I think this article is super cool and helpful, I think it’s also important to give some more perspective to some of the negative effects of stevia. In this article, https://www.livestrong.com/article/457115-what-are-the-dangers-of-stevia-sweetener/ it describes unhealthy aspects such as FDA concerns. It’s interesting to think about what is actually “healthy” and should that be defined as just promoting weight loss or promoting overall body/mental health.