Stevia is an all-natural sugar substitute which has been used in South America for centuries. Very recently Stevia Extracts of high purity have been approved in the European Union, United States and Australia for foodstuff purposes.
There have been more than 200 scientific studies conducted, all of which have confirmed the safety of Steviolglycosides. In Japan it has been one of the leading food sweeteners since the 1970s with a market share of 25-40%. This plant has also long been used by native South Americans for a variety of uses.
Components of the Stevia Plant
The most important components of the plant are the glycosides, molecules that are 250 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. They also have the added benefit of being non-caloric. They are completely soluble in water what makes the extraction of these components from the leaves easy and natural. The two most important glycosides are Stevioside and Rebaudioside-A and are also heat-resistant up to 200°C. It is these two components that are critical to creating commercial Stevia products.
The dried leaves of the Stevia plant are 15 to 30 times sweeter than that of cane sugar. Steviol Glycosides are what makes the sweet taste on the Stevia plant leaves. The two components that comprise the sweetness of the plant each have their own unique properties.
Stevioside is more heat resistant than Reb A, but has a slightly bitter aftertaste. Rebaudioside A or Reb A is sweeter and doesn’t have an aftertaste. There are also other glycosides present in Stevia preparations such as Rebaudioside C (R-C), Dulcoside A, Rubusoside, Steviolbioside and Rebaudioside B (R-B).
Reb C also contributes to a bitter aftertaste and for this reason, Stevia should have over 90% Reb-A to reduce this taste. Reports also state that certain acids will reduce lingering taste of Stevioside. They include citric acid, acetic acid, lactase acid, malic acid and tartaric acid.
Stevia is unique from all other sweeteners and is definitely a tasty alternative to sugar. This all-natural sweetener enhances the sweetness of foods and beverages without the addition of calories, making it an amazing plant to have in our midst. While it has been readily available in many countries for years, the recent push towards organic products is inspiring consumers to seek wider availability of Stevia products.