Is Stevia Extract Processed? A Comprehensive Guide

The stevia used by most food companies is a chemically altered, bleached and reduced version that is likely to contain transgenic fillers. Every time you see “stevia,” stevia extract, or even “organic stevia” on a food's ingredient list, you may be consuming a lower-quality processed sweetener that's NOT real food. But what exactly is the process of stevia extract? Is it still considered natural? In this article, we'll explore the answers to these questions and more. First of all, it's important to note that stevia extract dissolves in alcohol. The solution is heated to evaporate the alcohol, and the steam is led to a tube or tower, called a distillation column, to cool slowly to a point where crystals begin to form.

Stevia leaf extract is generally marketed as natural despite its processing, as many foods are processed before they reach us. And then there are sweeteners that use stevia, such as SweetLeaf, which are made with other ingredients (in the case of SweetLeaf, silica and inulin). Even though these two ingredients are “of natural origin”, would they still be so natural if they were added to the sweetener?The FDA refers to the IDA established by JECFA for certain high-purity steviol glucosides purified from Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) leaves. Extensive research shows that stevia sweeteners do not raise blood glucose levels or otherwise affect blood glucose control in humans.

Instead, observational studies examine the association between exposure (such as reported intake of stevia-based sweetener) and an outcome (such as body weight or a health problem). Stevia-based sweeteners can add sweetness to a child's food and drinks without contributing to calorie consumption or the intake of added sugars. Walters said: I think stevia tastes weird (bitter, with a bad temporal profile and a strange licorice flavor). This means that a stevia extract with 50 percent Reb A also contains nearly 50 percent of other steviol glycosides (primarily stevioside). Since all steviol glycosides are metabolized to a common end product, steviol, JECFA has established a group ADI for stevia sweeteners of four milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day of steviol equivalents. Even so, he says that it is really a philosophical debate to decide if the processing of stevia still allows it to be Call it natural.

Whether stevia leaf extract is natural or not depends on how it is defined as natural, at least until the FDA begins to regulate this term. And one of the reasons it's so popular is that sweeteners that use stevia leaf extract are promoted as “natural” and contain no artificial sweeteners. Starting with food-grade steviol glucosides, the manufacturer may choose to package the stevia leaf extract in different forms for the different uses of the product. Food and beverage manufacturers can use stevia sweeteners as an ingredient in beverages (such as diet soft drinks, light or low-sugar juices, and flavored waters), canned fruits, condiments, dairy products (such as ice cream, flavored milk, and yogurt) and other foods (such as baked goods, cereals, chocolate, and other candies) and syrups.

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