May 29 2012

Review: Stevia (Sweetener)

The low-carb sweetener stevia was approved for use in the EU in the end of 2011. Being a natural product and having a very low effect on blood sugar, it has raised quite a buzz in the low-carb community. In this review I write about two different stevia products that I tested right about when it was legalized in the European Union and thus in Finland.

What is Stevia?

Stevia with a capital ‘S’ is a genus of herbs and bushes that live in the subtropical and tropical parts of Americas. Stevia with a lower-case ‘s’ is one species of the genus that is known from its sweet leaves that are 30-45 times sweeter than sugar and can be eaten as such or put into tea or food. The steviol glycoside extract from the leaves is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and can have a bitter aftertaste.

The plant has been used in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten teas, medicine and as a treat for hundreds of years. Stevia extract has been used as a sweetener in Japan since 1971 where it is used in food and soft drinks.

The sweetness of the plant comes from two compounds: stevioside and rebaudioside A, the latter being less bitter. Steviol, a mix of the two, was reported as mutagenic by one scientific study in 1985. Additionally, the adoption was delayed by an “anonymous” industry complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after it was labeled as “unsafe food additive”. There have been numerous studies in almost 30 years since and a vast majority of them show no mutagenic properties for the compounds and millions of Japanese have been using stevia for over 30 years with no reported harmful effects.1

The Product

Stevia is sold as tablets or powder, just like the popular Hermesetas. The tablets are best suitable for beverages, e.g. tea or coffee where one tablet is roughly equivalent of one piece of sugar.
I managed to buy Stevia powder from a nature store before it was legalized in the European Union. It was sold as a face mask and the label stated: “According to the European Union legislation, it is prohibited to sell Stevia products as a food additive.”

You really have to be careful with the dosage when handling the powder because it is too easy to put excessive amount of super sweet Stevia powder in the food. Just the tip of a tea spoon is enough to sweeten a bowl of porridge. Start with very little quantities and add to it if you feel like it. If you overdo it, the food becomes very bitter and not at all sweet as you would think.

I have used Stevia also in hot chocolate and in tea. The taste has a subtle nuance of bitterness but I would say that you can easily get used to it after a while.

Nutrition Facts (Canderel Green) Amount/100 g
Energy 317 kcal
Protein 0.08 g
Carbohydrates 77.81 g
Sugars N/A
Fat 0 g
Fiber N/A

The thing that shocked me is the amount of carbs: 77.81 g in 100 g! Wasn’t this suppose to have negligible effect on blood sugar? The amount is explained if you take a look at the ingredients: the first and biggest component is lactose that is the sugar in milk, and Stevia extracts come second. So Canderel has not used only Stevia in this product but the low-carb quality is achieved by the small mass of one tablet: 0.085 g that has 0.7 g of carbs. Also the powder is so sweet that a very small amount is enough.

The Verdict

I think Stevia products are worth the try. The natural aspect is definitely appealing to most that try to avoid artificial sweeteners. They are “bitter-sweet” but you can get used to the taste quite fast.

3 Responses to “Review: Stevia (Sweetener)”

  • jecky Says:

    Dear Boss,

    We are a professional stevia manufacturer in china. We recommend our stevia for you.

    Product: Stevia Powder
    Specification: SG90, RA30
    Quantity: 500KG
    Price: USD39.9/KG, FOB Shanghai
    Delivery: By sea.

    Other specification available like: SG90 RA30, SG90 RA50, SG90 RA60, SG95 RA60, SG95RA80, RA97% , RA98% And customerized specification also available.

    Certificate Available: Organic certificate, Kosher , Halal, ISO certificate are available.

    Any comments by return will be highly appreciated.
    Best regards
    Qufu Haigen Stevia Products Co.,Ltd
    China . Shandong . Qufu

  • Angela Wei Says:

    Dear Purchase Manager,

    Hope you have a nice day!

    We are specialized in marketing plant-derived extracts and health food industries.
    Our stevia products ranges from stevia pure powder, stevia tablet, stevia sachet, stevia liquid.

    Our stevia powder include:

    More information about us please visit our website.
    Free samples will be sent for your evaluation, if necessary!

    I’m looking forward to your kind reply!
    Best regards,
    Angela Wei
    FITPACE Biotech Co.,Ltd

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