A complete guide to what stevia is, where it comes from, and how to use it.
Written by: Hayley Hutson
March 3, 2021
In recent years, something called ‘stevia’ has taken the health food world by storm. It has popped up on the labels of popular products all over our favorite grocery stores as a natural alternative to sugar. But, what exactly is it? How do you use it? And is it actually healthy? In this comprehensive guide to stevia, we will cover all of the most commonly asked questions about the natural sweetener.
Before we get started, why are we talking about stevia at all? At RSVP Skinnies, we sought out to create healthier options for powdered drink mixers than what the market was currently offering. Through using stevia extract and dehydrated fruits, we were able to create delicious cocktails with stevia that contained zero calories and zero artificial sugars. Our drink mixers are entirely plant-based and have been featured on platforms like Healthy Living and Brit + Co.
Stevia extract has been the key to achieving the cocktail flavors we hoped for, while also providing a healthier alternative in the process. Our goal is to inform you about stevia and inspire you to seek out more products that utilize this natural sweetener.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a member of the sunflower family. It does not contain any calories or carbs and is low-glycemic, meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar levels the way other types of sugar do. Stevia extract has a somewhat distinct taste, so it works best with stronger flavors like coffee, chocolate, and fruits.
According to the International Journey of Biology, stevia extract can be up to 300 times stronger than household sugar. Because it’s so much more potent than household sugar, only a small amount is needed to replicate the levels of sweetness you’re used to. To replicate the sweetness of a teaspoon of cane sugar, you would only need about 1/64th of a teaspoon of stevia.
How do you ask consumers to dole out such a tiny amount of sweetener for themselves? This is where fillers come in. Basically, fillers fill out the empty space created by stevia to allow for a closer resemblance to household sugar. Erythritol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in melons and other plants, is the most common filler used in stevia extracts. It's also one of the ingredients used in Skinnies.
Where Does Stevia Come From?
While the Stevia rebaudiana plant was originally native to Brazil and Paraguay, it is now grown all over Central and South America. For centuries, stevia extract has been used both as a sweetener and for medicinal purposes. While Brazil remains a major producer of the Stevia rebaudiana plant today, Asian countries like Japan have overtaken them as the largest global producers.
How to Use Stevia
Many people who grow Stevia rebaudiana plants at home use the fresh leaves to mix into their drinks for added sweetness. However, you won’t find fresh stevia leaves at the supermarket. Stevia can be sold in a variety of forms: liquid, tablets, cubes, granulated, and individual packets. In our case, we use stevia to sweeten our cocktail mixers.
Some of the most popular uses for stevia include:
- Coffee and tea
- Iced beverages
- Baked goods like cookies, cakes, and brownies
- Ice cream
Benefits of Using Stevia
In addition to being zero calorie, zero carb, and low-glycemic, stevia is known to have a ton of significant health benefits. Here are some of the top health benefits of stevia:
Aids in weight loss. While common household sugars are loaded with calories, stevia extract contains almost none. This means that you can sweeten your food and beverages without adding additional calories, helping you to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
Regulates blood sugar levels. Stevia is commonly used as a sugar replacement by diabetics for its ability to regulate the blood sugar levels in the body. This allows people to enjoy sweetened foods without any concerns of diabetic complications.
Helps to prevent cancer. The abundance of antioxidants in stevia help to eliminate free radicals in the body, which prevents cancer and premature aging.
Regulates blood pressure. Stevia contains glycosides that help to relax the blood vessels, eliminate sodium from the body, and increase urination. This means that the cardiovascular system doesn’t have to work as hard, resulting in a drop in blood pressure. This, in turn, supports a healthy heart and helps to prevent heart conditions from forming.
Decreases cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that the consumption of stevia causes a significant reduction in bad LDL cholesterol levels, while simultaneously increasing good HDL cholesterol levels.
Supports oral health. Stevia is a popular additive in toothpastes and mouthwashes for its proven abilities to reduce the formation of bacteria in the mouth and prevent cavities.
Should I Use Stevia?
Absolutely! Stevia is a healthy and all-natural alternative to traditional table sugars like granulated sugar and cane sugar. Whether you’re looking to make the jump to more natural ingredients or are drawn to the idea of a zero calorie alternative to sugar, stevia is a fantastic option. There’s a reason we chose to use it in our RSVP Skinnies!