Stevia is a popular non-caloric sweetener for natural food enthusiasts, dieters and people with diabetes. But is stevia really that natural? Depends on which stevia you choose and what surprises it’s hiding!
Apparently, it takes more than just stevia to make a shelf-stable liquid stevia extract, and it’s not all pretty:
AVOID: Sodium Benzoate – While it is a natural substance, when combined with vitamin C, a chemical reaction creates benzene, a carcinogen. Lemon in your tea anyone? Not if you’re using this stevia!
- Erythritol is the least damaging sugar alcohol, and is known to not cause bloating and gas.
- Potassium sorbate preserves freshness.
- Malic acid adds tartness.It is sometimes used as a supplement to reduce pain for patients with fibromyalgia and to reduce absorption of heavy metals.
- Natural flavors are, well, who really knows what?
None of the above are harmful, but not necessarily desirable if you’re using stevia to eat more naturally.
Fooducate’s Stevia TIPS:
- Read the label – just because it says “stevia” doesn’t mean that’s the only thing in it. We’ve found inulin, silica, maltodextrin and tons of “natural flavors” in stevia.
- For a less processed liquid stevia, check the supplement section of your grocery store. Some are available only in a solution of alcohol.
- Get stevia dry. It takes preservatives and processing to make a shelf stable liquid – the powder forms of stevia are generally less processed and have fewer, if any, preservatives.
- Consider a stevia and sugar blend. It has more calories and uses sugar, but most blends have no preservatives, no added flavors, no sugar alcohols and no need for fillers like dextrose or agave inulin. Cane sugar is always non-GMO.
- Stevia can be great for carb watchers, with a GI of 0. However, additives like maltodextrin (GI 150) or dextrose (100) can make its glycemic index worse than sugar!
Bottom line: Stevia labeled stevia is rarely just stevia; read the label before you buy and make sure you know what you’re buying.