The Truth About Stevia: Separating Fact from Fiction

As a nutritionist and expert in the field of health and wellness, I have been asked countless times about the safety and benefits of stevia. This naturally occurring calorie-free sweetener has been used for centuries as a natural sugar substitute and flavoring ingredient. However, with the rise of artificial sweeteners, many people have questioned whether stevia is also artificially manufactured. In this article, I will provide you with all the information you need to know about stevia and its production process. First and foremost, it is important to understand that while stevia is a natural sweetener, the extracts and derivatives used in commercial products are indeed industrially produced.

These products are marketed under different trade names such as Truvia, PureVia, and SweetLeaf. However, this does not mean that stevia is an artificial sweetener. In fact, it is classified as a "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) ingredient by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).One of the main concerns about stevia is its bitter aftertaste, which is mainly attributed to a compound called stevioside found in the stevia plant. This has limited its acceptability as a sugar substitute for some people.

However, studies have shown that foods and beverages made with stevia sweeteners are often recommended to people with diabetes as an alternative to sugar-sweetened products. This is because it can help satisfy their desire for sweetness while controlling their intake of carbohydrates. It is worth noting that stevia has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples in South America, who called it ka'a he'ê or "sweet herb". However, it was not until recently that it gained popularity in other countries such as Paraguay, Brazil, Korea, Japan, China, and much of South America. While Paraguayans have been using stevia as a food sweetener for centuries, other countries have a shorter but still long-standing record of its use. Now, let's address the question at hand: is stevia artificially manufactured? The answer is no.

While some companies may argue that it should be classified similarly to artificial sweeteners, the truth is that stevia is a natural sweetener. It is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and then purified to produce steviol glycosides, which are the compounds responsible for its sweetness. But what about its safety? As mentioned earlier, stevia is classified as GRAS by the FDA. This means that it has been deemed safe for consumption in food products and beverages. In fact, studies have shown that subjects who consumed water sweetened with stevia experienced a lower feeling of hunger before eating compared to those who consumed plain water.

This suggests that stevia may even have potential health benefits. So why was stevia not allowed to be used as a sweetener until recently? In the past, it was only allowed to be imported and sold as a dietary supplement, not as a sweetener. However, in 2008, the FDA approved its use as a food additive and since then, it has gained popularity as a sugar substitute in various products such as diet soft drinks, light juices, flavored waters, canned fruits, dairy products, baked goods, and more. In conclusion, while some may argue that stevia is artificially manufactured due to its industrial production process, it is important to understand that it is still a natural sweetener. Its safety has been recognized by the FDA and it has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples. So next time you see a product with stevia listed as an ingredient, you can rest assured that it is a safe and natural alternative to sugar.

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