Just How Natural Is Your Stevia Sweetener?

Shoppers appreciate having choices, but having many different brands of one product can complicate choice. This is true with the non-caloric herbal sweetener called stevia.

All stevia products provide sweetness with no calories and without elevating glucose levels. Their differences lie primarily in the use of one or two stevia compounds, and the process used to ready them for market.

A Sweet Pair

There is a pair of compounds - stevioside and rebaudioside - responsible for the sweet taste of stevia. Rebaudioside is the sweeter of the two. Stevioside has a bit of a bitter aftertaste—though some people say it just has more tang.

Making sweeteners from the “whole” stevia leaf that includes both stevioside and rebaudioside has desirable health benefits. Studies show, for instance, the herb stevia supports healthy blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. However, there are minimally, and highly processed stevia sweeteners that only contain the sweeter compound rebaudioside.

Stevia Types

For consumers, these processing differences mean the stevia products we shop for fall into three general categories:

  1. The least processed products, or green leaf stevia, are made from dried stevia leaves that have been ground into powder. This powder has long been used as a health remedy and sweetener in South America and Japan. Green leaf (or whole leaf) stevia contains both stevioside and rebaudioside, and is 30 to 40 times sweeter than table sugar.
  2. Certain stevia brands contain only rebaudioside that has been extracted from the stevia leaf. Although these stevia extracts are minimally processed, they are missing the health benefits (and bitterness) of the stevioside found in whole leaf products. Extracts are about 200 time sweeter than table sugar.
  3. Some sweeteners labeled as stevia are not natural stevia at all, though they contain rebaudioside or a chemical equivalent. These altered stevia sweeteners are moderately to heavily processed. For instance, according the Coca-Cola Company’s U.S. patent, Truvia - which contains ribaudioside - undergoes a 42 step manufacturing process involving the use of chemical solvents such as acetonitrile. Some of these processed stevia products also contain sugar or other corn derived sweeteners, as well. Altered stevia is about 400 times sweeter than table sugar.

Choices

These three types of stevia will likely appeal to three broad categories of stevia users.

Consumers who want stevia’s health benefits and are unconcerned about steviosides’s aftertaste, will naturally want to purchase whole, or green leaf stevia. Those who want to avoid stevioside’s bitter reputation but still want a more natural, less processed product will gravitate to stevia extracts.

People who desire a no-calorie, low-glycemic sweetener, and are unconcerned with how the product is manufactured, will reach for one of the many altered stevia products available. However, read the label carefully since some of these items may contain added sugars.

Source: Dr Axe
Photo credit: Tzuhsun Hsu

Get a Free Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who may contact you with updates and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy.

More Articles

Limiting our intake of highly processed foods, and eating more whole and lightly processed fare can boost our nutrient and fiber intake, lower...

Chamomile tea has long been prized for its calming properties, but few people realize it’s also beneficial for glucose regulation. Traditionally,...

Today, the healing benefits of essential oils are more than the claims of ancient tradition and alternative medicine. They are increasingly the...

The different sugar content of fruits can be confusing when you are trying to manage your...

There is nothing close to a one-size-fits-all exercise program for those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The best general advice is to...

More Articles

Chamomile tea has long been prized for its calming properties, but few people realize it’s also beneficial for glucose regulation. Traditionally,...

There is nothing close to a one-size-fits-all exercise program for those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The best general advice is to...

”Metabolic memory” (less commonly known as ”hyperglycemic memory” or “legacy effect”) refers to the lingering effects of a long period of either...

Limiting our intake of highly processed foods, and eating more whole and lightly processed fare can boost our nutrient and fiber intake, lower...

With such a marked increase in the number of new diabetes cases, more people are wondering if type 1 diabetes...

The American Diabetes Association estimates that more than 7 million people in the United States have diabetes but don’t know it yet. These people...

Do not let pictures of yoga experts with their bodies twisted into bizarre, compact shapes fool you. Even people with stiff muscles, creaky joints...

While some celebrities aren't quick to talk about living with diabetes, others are quite transparent and inspiring - acting as advocates for the...

People with diabetes are about twice as likely to experience heart disease as those without the condition, making cardiovascular health a critical...

All diabetics know that maintaining proper blood sugar levels is the lifeline...

Pilates is an exercise method proven to improve flexibility, strength, coordination, muscular stamina, balance, and posture. Many Pilates...

It can be difficult enough to get on stage and make a roomful of strangers laugh, but for comedians suffering from type 1 or type 2 diabetes,...

Most people with insulin-dependent diabetes use syringes and lancets every day. However, many of them do not know how to dispose of these...

Explaining diabetes to children can seem like a daunting task, but in reality, it is no more difficult than discussing anything else important....

Diabetes is a complex disease, affecting virtually every part of the body. The damage it does, to nerve endings, blood vessels, organs, and the...