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Stevia is the Natural, No Calorie Sugar Substitute You Are Going to Love

Updated on January 18, 2017
Stevia Plant
Stevia Plant | Source

Stevia and me

I’m not selling or marketing Stevia. I’m just a satisfied user who wonders why this natural, no-cal sugar substitute that doesn’t cause tooth decay, doesn’t raise blood pressure or glucose levels and has been safely used for hundreds of years in countries around the world, is only beginning to attract attention here in the USA.

I started using Stevia almost a decade ago after a friend recommended it to me. It doesn’t give me a headache and has no bitter after-taste. It’s great in drinks and on cereal== kust everywhere. .Stevia isn't artificial or chemical. It comes from the ground up leaves and stems of a South American plant. Since it is 300 times sweeter than sugar, a little goes a long way. A small amount sweetens even a humungous mug of coffee. I’m told it’s good for cooking and baking too, though I can’t personally attest to that, as I’m not much of a baker and these days, since I don't have a family to feed, I don't cook much either. But those who know tell me that baking with it is pretty much like baking with sugar except for the calories.

You would think that a product this good would be on grocery store shelves everywhere —but no. The big sugar interests and those busy developing aspartane chemical sweeteners, didn't want the competition. Thus for years the FDA decreed that Stevia could not be sold as a food additive. In 1994 under pressure, the FDA permitted it to be sold as a “food supplement” which meant you could buy powdered Stevia at the health food store and put it in your afternoon tea, but food manufacturers were forbidden to use it in processed foods or sweetened beverages. More recently, as big money has poured into the development of Stevia as an alternative to sugar, the landscape has changed. The FDA and the EU have now approved Stevia and these days supermarkets are beginning to carry Stevia products and it is possible to find teas and soft drinks sweetened with it, but you have to look hard.

The History of Stevia

The Stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) is an unassuming herbal shrub, native to Paraguay and northern Brazil, where it has been used for hundreds of years by the local Indians to sweeten their bitter herbal teas. Conquistadors came upon it in the 16th century. Local European settlers used it happily through the 18th and 19th centuries. There was at least one attempt, early-on, to exploit Stevia as a cash crop. This met with crushing resistance from entrenched sugar-growing and refining interests. Remember the infamous triangle trade of slaves, sugar, and rum you studied in school? It was a profitable, if immoral cycle involving powerful colonial plantation owners and New England and European merchants who had little interest in competition from an upstart Paraguayan shrub.

Stevia remained virtually unknown until the turn of the 20th century, when a Brazilian botanist, Dr. M.S. Bertoni, “discovered” it on a hiking trip in 1899. Bertoni was an early fan of Stevia, singing its praises and recommending it as a substitute for saccharin for diabetics.

In 1921 the American Trade Commissioner for Latin America brought Stevia to the attention of the United States Department of Agriculture as a “new sugar plant with great commercial possibilities.” Uh-oh. Red alert for the sugar lobby. The FDA banned Stevia, citing an absence of studies to show it was not harmful to human health.

The Japanese got interested in Stevia in the 1970’s and did extensive human and animal testing. No toxic effects were found. Today Stevia is used widely in Japan. During the same time period, in the USA, the FDA got behind Equal and more recently, Splenda as alternatives to sugar—both developed and manufactured by large, powerful American corporations with mass-marketing capability.

But, things are about to change. Agro business and the soft drink industry are on the move, looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of natural and organic products. Cargill and Coca-Cola, both major multi-nationals with lots of clout and money to spread around, have approached the FDA and are requesting that the ban on Stevia as a food additive be lifted. They are citing a number of new studies, including one done last year by the World Health Organization. I suspect that the FDA will soon relent and you’ll be hearing a lot more about Stevia. Amazing what a little power and money will do, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, if I’ve piqued your interest in Stevia, check out the links below. If you want to buy Stevia, you can probably find it at your local health food store or you can order it online. I use packets of Sweet Leaf Stevia Plus which are little green packets containing a gram of stevia mixed with fiber to cut the sweetness. Each packet is equal to two teaspoons of sugar. Delicious, convenient, and zero calories. Give it a try.

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    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      stevia is a good choice i have used it for sometime now.

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      never heard of it, but then I wouldn't have. hehe. I rarely keep up with science. grand hub~

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      I have been wondering about Stevia, but have not been able to find it anywhere. I guess I will buy it online.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California

      Very informative HUB. I haven't heard of it before, but now think I will give it a try.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hi All, and thanks for reading this-- it amazes me that stevia has been around so long, is such a great product, and so few people in the US know about it--testament to the power of big business I guess.

    • profile image

      pgrundy 9 years ago

      I'm going to try this, I have the sweet tooth from hell and ever since menopause my belly has started to take on the appearance of lumpy pizza dough. Not like I'm going to be squeezing into any tube tops anytime soon, but they say it's bad for your health to have no waist. I love to bake, I'll see what happens and report back. Thanks for the great info.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hey pg-- Thanks for the comment--I identify with you bigtime--how about doing a baking with stevia hub? I'd give it a thumbs up for sureLOL

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I've been using Stevia since 1997 when a friend who was a serious diabetic was introduced to it. I use the drop kind because I find it's not diluted with anything to cut the sweetness therefore more economical than the pouched one. In coffee and tea you can't tell the difference from sugar. It does not do too well in homemade lemonade it somehow becomes bitter...

      Great Hub regards Zsuzsy

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 9 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      Ive been using it ever since I became diabetic. I get mine from Canada on EBay. I even managed to get a plant which flourished for a while. The leaves were nice to chew on when you needed something sweet. Sadly it died.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Zsuzsy and Sue--thanks for reading and weighing in.....and thanks Szuzdy for the lemonade tip. You give me an idea Sue-- I'm gonna try and find a plant--they look pretty and one link on the web said they were not too hard to grow,but don't like cold weather so maybe a house plant<see me chewing stevia leaves>

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 9 years ago from France

      Never heard of it... very interesting. Usually I just avoid sugar on tea, coffee and fruit juices, but I would like to try it on cooking and baking.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I use stevia..I like the NOW brand of powder, it is the best! Great hub!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for weighing in Princessa and Marye. Stevia rules!:-)

    • profile image

      Iðunn 9 years ago

      I really digg your work and you might have found a new friend, if you look. :p I have no idea why the search feature doesn't work there, but whatever3434. :D

    • ahmu profile image

      ahmu 8 years ago

      This sounds lie a great alternative. Thanks for sharing!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thank you ahmu for reading and commenting

    • MyGenie profile image

      MyGenie 8 years ago

      Being on a lowcarb diet after years of all things sugary substance and not being able to lower my BP I found Stevia on Blaine's cooking show on Fit TV. BP dropped to the point I was able to get away from those harmful BP RX. Thanks for sharing the news about Stevia, great for weight loss as well! Lost 16 lbs so far in 5 weeks time.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Didn't know the weight loss part--good luck with your diet and thanks for the comment.

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Just joined hubpages two weeks ago, still reading and learning from all you hubbers out there. Good post! Am interested in learning more and more about healthy nutrition -- which is what my posts are about -- so definitely going to the health food store to check out Stevia. Thanks again!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Well thank you, Desert Blondie, I look forward to reading your hubs. You'll find this place can be addictive--but fun:-)

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 8 years ago from Southern California

      Great Hub! Stevia is the only sweetener I ever use. I love it.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Me too--thanks for your comment:-)

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 8 years ago from london

      Robie, this is an amazingly useful and informative hub! A lot of people these days have a serious problems with their body weight (me included in the last year). Why we don't use this perfectly natural herb from the South America to sweeten our food and drinks? I am surely going to try Stevia, now. Thank you!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Good for you, solarshingles, I'm sure you'll find Stevia an excellent sugar alternative. I like it because it is a natural herb and not a man-made chemical.

    • sschilke profile image

      sschilke 8 years ago

      robie2,

      Very informative article. My wife got us on the stevia train a couple of years ago.

      Thanks,

      sschilke

    • profile image

      pablovon 8 years ago

      I really like stevia, I buy it online from Bolivia. I think it is better to buy directly from the producers. Also I feel like helping, at least a bit, to developing countries to break the market.

      Cheers

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for your coimment pablo. Great idea. If you want to leave a link to your online Bolivian source here feel free--and thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      pablovon 8 years ago

      Hi Robie, I've been buying from www.lakauta.com; so far no problems ;-)

      Cheers,

       

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Cheers yourself-- I'll go have a look:-)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

      I have never heard of this stuff. It sounds great and I will make an effort to try it. Thanks for the information. Great Hub.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for stopping by Christoph--Do give stevia a try. It's great stuff--much better than Splenda:-)

    • stevenschenck profile image

      stevenschenck 8 years ago from Sacramento California

      Thanks for the post - yet another thing I gotta try.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      You are gonna like it, I promise:-) Much better than splenda for cooking and baking too.

    • franciaonline profile image

      franciaonline 8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for writing about the larger picture around Stevia. Indeed, why should a very good product for healthy living be banned. Of course the answer is between the lines of your hub.I'll look for Stevia here in Manila.

    • franciaonline profile image

      franciaonline 8 years ago from Philippines

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Oh yes-- It is always all about the bottom line isn't it? Thanks for reading and commenting franciaonline:-)

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Stevia is what should be used as a sweetener I say! It is possible and easy enough to grow it and I know seeds are available from some online nurseries.

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 7 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Stevia is good stuff. But it's fighting an uphill battle to gain acceptance because it costs more than the commercially available alternatives and doesn't have a BRAND campaign behind it.

      There are many natural quality products that don't get the marketing push ... because we live in a society based not on the common good but on profit.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      The American tea company Zhitea uses stevia leaf in a few of their organic teas. It was the first time I came to know about stevia and I love it.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for the tip, Jewels. I love Stevia too. Wrote this hub almost two years ago and since then I see more and more brands of Stevia available both in supermarkets and health food stores, so maybe Stevis is finally going mainstream. Hope so:-)

    • profile image

      Chitty 7 years ago

      I first heard of Stevia about a year ago and finally bought some to use in Christmas cookies as a healthy alternative to sugar. I just made a batch of ginger cookies that are usually to die for. Unfortunately, this batch made with Stevia tastes absolutely disgusting. I will never use it again, as 2 dozen cookies are going into the garbage and I don't like waste. I'd rather chew on a carrot stick than eat another cookie made with Stevia. YUCK!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      OH dear chitty-- sorry to hear about that. I think there are several sites that give advice on using Stevia instead of sugar. I'm not much of a baker myself and I really like it for fruit, cereal, tea etc.

    • profile image

      hawkster 7 years ago

      you can buy sweet leaf stevia and sweet leaf stevia plus at you local HEB

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      yes you can and that is a good point:-) Thanks

    • profile image

      shabba 5 years ago

      i live in the u.k,somebody told me about stevia.i would ike 2 try it if i can find some here seems to b quite xpensive though.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      It is a bit more expensive than sugar-- try health food stores and natural markets-- or buy it online. I am sure Amazon uk. has it.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment and I hope you find a Stevia outlet in the UK

    • dare2baware profile image

      dare2baware 5 years ago from UK

      I actually have stevia with and on everything. Years back I brought it back from Brazil from my Shamanic travels before it was allowed in the country, which I didn't know. It was banned for some time here as it is 'healthy'.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      HI dare2 and thanks for sharing that. I've been using Stevia for years too. Used to be hard to find it but it seems to be going mainstream now. First the sugar lobby and then the aspartame folks tried to keep it out of the marketplace-- didn't like the competition dontchaknow :-)

    • dare2baware profile image

      dare2baware 5 years ago from UK

      Agreed robie2. I'm glad we can gt it in the UK now ;-)

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      We will put some Stevia pricing on here tonight for anyone interested in this great product. FDA perhaps caved to the Sugar Lobby on this one. 'Nuf said?

    • profile image

      Big Sugar 5 years ago

      http://healthfoodtalk.com/news/sugar-strikes-back .... "Big Sugar" is getting BOLDER.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      If we ever get "Big Sugar" combined with the "Medicines Manufacturers" ALL natural substances with healing or beneficial health factors will be "off the table" and our money will go to where their mouths are! That will include not only Stevia, but also vitamins and minerals!

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Good point, Perspycacious. So many natural substances have healing properties including vitamins and minerals. Thanks for bringing that up and for taking the time to read and comment.

    • profile image

      Alan 3 years ago

      Stevia is also indigenous to Bolivia and is extensively available here but Bolivian producers can't get into the export market - they are effectively shut out by the big commercial interests who want to keep the market to themselves and not let in the small developing countries businesses get a foothold.

    • robie2 profile image
      Author

      Roberta Kyle 3 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Thanks for sharing that, Alan...... I see it is the same old story and I hope Bolivia does manage to get into the export market as interest in Stevia has definitely grown since I wrote this hub several years ago.

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