In case you haven’t heard, there is one zero-calorie product that is taking the world by storm. Today, the World Health Organization and various health enthusiasts are advocating for change in terms of sugar intake. After all, obesity and diabetes, both on kids and adults, are on the rise.
Introducing stevia. This natural sweetener originated from Paraguay and has been used in Japan and other Asian nations. It has zero calories, zero fat and zero carbohydrates, thereby giving the public a healthier alternative to sugar. In fact, the global market of stevia has reached up to $500 million dollars since the FDA approval and is likely to reach up to $10 billion in the coming years.
Stevia as a sugar alternative
In December 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration cleared the use of stevia extract called rebaudioside A. Since then, stevia sweeteners have been adopted by big food and beverage companies such as PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Nestle and Unilever among many others.
These days, sugary drinks and other products sold in the market have been linked to obesity. This is why the ‘natural label’ associated with stevia has become its selling point, making it a holy grail of sweeteners.
And even if it is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar, it still has low glycemic index so it can be used not just by diabetics but also by people who wants to lose or maintain weight.
The demand and supply of stevia
There has been an increasing demand for stevia-based products these days. After all, people are constantly interested with where their food comes from or how it is made or which one has better-tasting but with low calorie and natural products.
Take the case of PureCircle, a Malaysian-based company that produces PureVia. PureCircle Limited buys stevia leaves from various farmers around the world and operates its own farms in Paraguay and Kenya. PureVia is being used in Tropicana products.
Aside from PureCircle, US-based Cargill is also one of the major stevia producers. They market the Ttuvia brand of Reb-A called rebianawhich is being used in Coca Cola’s Sprite Green, Odwalla drinks and yogurt mix from Breyer’s.
How natural is stevia sweetener?
Every time you hear the term “stevia” and “stevia-based sweeteners,” the first thing you’ll hear or read about it is that it is natural. It is, especially when you grow stevia plant in your backyard and you crushed or dried some of its leaves and add it on your tea or coffee. Apparently, you may not like its herbal, licorice flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
However, this sweetener comes in variety of forms. The truth is you can buy stevia in its liquid or powdered formand use it as a supplement. If you are not growing this plant in your backyard, you may notice that it has a refined flavor and looks like a snowy white powder. This is because stevia has to go through a process of refining, although this is different from how refined sugar is processed.
Is stevia safe?
Generally speaking, stevia is safe. After all, it is an all-natural product that has been used for centuries and at the same time, all of the benefits associated with this plant has been studied, tested and proven by human studies. Aside from this, stevia can be used in many ways – to sweeten your drinks, add flavor to your meals and even an alternative to sugar for baked goods. Even if it’s in a refined state, stevia is still safe and is very unlikely to cause liver failure, brain cancer or whatever conditions, whether serious or not.
Still, some say that stevia was only approved to by the Bush administration to favor soft drink companies that has been banned for years. Some even argue that the “natural” label was only used for advertisement purposes in order to sell a product. Whatever the reason may be, it is nice to know that aside from giving a healthier alternative for the people, switching to stevia also helps small, independent farmers for better sustainability which makes it a win-win situation.
So, are you ready to make a switch? Go on and see (or taste) the difference.