When Stevia Isn’t Stevia

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!

Other Ingredients:

  1. Erythritol is the least damaging sugar alcohol, and is known to not cause bloating and gas. 
  2. Potassium sorbate preserves freshness. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. For a less processed liquid stevia, check the supplement section of your grocery store. Some are available only in a solution of alcohol.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  • The Candid RD

    Interesting about the erythritol. I used to use Truvia but it has erythritol in it so I stopped, because it did cause me to be bloated. But maybe that was more placebo??

    • Krista

      I have heard that eurythritol can cause diarrhea, even though it is less likely than other sugar alcohols. But I am no expert, so that is just what I’ve heard.

      • yulaffin

        I use erythritol in my baking and have never had any gastro problems with it. It’s great for low carbers and diabetics (which I am).

        • http://www.green-talk.com/ Anna @GreenTalk

          I think xylitol and eurythritol is very similar. You have to watch how much you use. I drank 2 cups of a tea which had alot of xylitol and had diarrhea.

          • yulaffin

            I live with dogs so I don’t even keep xylitol in the house – poison to the pooches. As I said, I personally have never had any problems with erythritol.

  • Lauren

    great post, are you familiar with nunaturals brand? Like their stevia. Haven’t used sugar/stevia blend as usually go with straight sugar/maple/honey OR stevia.

  • Krista

    This makes me wonder about bottled beverages with stevia as the sweetener. My husband drinks those sometimes, like the vitamin waters sweetened with stevia, and those are usually loaded with added vitamin c.

  • angelsfriend

    I looked and my Stevia liquid contains Purified water, Stevia Extract and Grapefruitseed extract… and my powdered Stevia is labeled 100% Pure Stevia Extract with no other ingredients.

  • angelsfriend

    BTW, is there something wrong with inulin? I thought is was a natural fiber in plants… just wondering.
    Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants.[1] They belong to a class of dietary fibers known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Most plants that synthesize and store inulin do not store other forms of carbohydrate such as starch.

    • Karen

      I have fructose malabsorption and follow the low-FODMAP diet to keep my symptoms at bay. Inulin/fructan is not allowed on this diet and I read labels carefully in an effort to avoid it.

  • Cristina Rey Romo

    I have a liquid one that only has stevia extract and water, the powder form usually has maltodextrin and bleaches to make the powder white, I NEVER buy powder.

    • MilaXX

      what brand is that?

  • Deanna R.

    SweetLeaf stevia is all natural w/ no maltodextrin, chemicals or any other junk. I’ve used it for many years. Did you stevia helps w/ flatulence? ;-)

  • http://www.andreawrites.ca/ Andrea T

    Ew. Ever since I was a child I’ve thought that sodium benzoate tasted like poison and I can clearly detect the taste of potassium sorbate so I avoid those two ingredients. It taught me to ask questions in restaurants such as “Is the fruit salad fresh or preserved?” When I found out that these ingredients are bad for ADD, I theorized that my distaste for them served as a warning.

    It’s a reminder that even with “natural” products, one should read the ingredients.

  • Rip_Ford

    I used to buy Sun Crystals which, as the name suggests, was a powder with a very short ingredient list consisting of just pure cane sugar and stevia. Naturally it’s been discontinued.

  • http://www.facebook.com/janet.lancaster2 Janet Lancaster

    What is the issue with silica? What form is it found in foods? I think that makes a difference. I believe it’s a dessicant that keeps moisture at bay.

  • http://www.green-talk.com/ Anna @GreenTalk

    It amazes me what the powdered form looks like. The plant is green and if you dry it, it is green. (I grow it.) How does it become white?

  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I find Truvia to be a COMPLETE joke because the Stevia is MIXED WITH DEXTROSE, aka: SUGAR! Ridiculous!

  • Guest

    Does anyone have a brand that seems to “pass” this test? On the mobile app, Fooducate gives everything a “C”.

    • Kelly

      You could make your own in a day-stevia leaves, vodka, glass jar. Shelf stable for years or heat it to get rid of the alcohol – keep in refrigerater for a couple months. Then you know exactly whats in it

  • Lex

    I use KAL brand pure stevia, and the only ingredient listed is stevia rubaudiana leaf