Stevia Sweetener and Flavored Stevia Packets

This morning for breakfast I had mixed raw nuts and raisins, fruit (banana and grapes), plain unsweetened yogurt, and unsweetened soy milk, all mixed together. On top of this earthy fibrous blend, I sprinkled some ground flax meal and a packet of STEVIA EXTRACT.

Ever heard of Stevia?

Although it is remarkably sweet (300 times sweeter than sugar as a pure extract, according to some estimates), manufacturers of Stevia still seem hesitant to market Stevia as a sweetener, even though the FDA (finally) has approved it as one, and it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

I can tell you firsthand, "Stevia sugar" is very sweet. The Stevia plant is a South American herb and the Stevia leaf extract contains high amounts of glycosides, principally "stevioside," that are 150 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. In dietary terms this suggests the ability to get the same sweetness as sugar with a lot fewer calories, a fact that has not been lost on soft drink manufacturers (REFERENCE).

The brand of Stevia packets I have (Stevia Balance by NOW FOODS) has as its primary ingredient inulin, a soluble fiber that is not particularly sweet by itself (but it is a low glycemic index prebiotic fiber believed to promote gut health). Because Stevia extract is the second ingredient, I can only assume the inulin is used as a filler, to give volume to the amount of Stevia needed to make it a practical sweetener.

Since Stevia extract can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, it takes considerably less of the extract to make things sweet (think 1/300th of a teaspoon). People are fairly conventional when it comes to eating habits and they want a sweetener that looks and behaves like sugar. By using inulin as a filler, Stevia sweetener has the characteristics of sugar (more like confectioner's sugar or saccharin than table sugar crystals) with comparable sweetness to sugar.

It's a great sweetener - low in calories and easy to use. My only critique is that it has a slight lingering after taste when used in high quantities, which isn't bad at all, sort of a faint anise flavor.

In addition to its low glycemic index, useful for diabetics and people with sugar intolerance, there is some research to suggest it supports healthy blood pressure as well.

All I know is that it tastes darn good on my grainy whole food breakfast cereal.


1. Questions & Answers about Stevia (Stevia Marketing Site)

2. Stevia on Wikipedia

3. An Evidence-Based Systematic Review Of Stevia By The Natural Standard Research Collaboration

4. FDA Clears Use of [Stevia] Herb As Sweetener (Wall Street Journal)

5. The Zero-Calorie Sweetener Stevia Arrives (U.S. News and World Report)

6. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension

Now's French Vanilla Stevia Extract 100PktsNOW FOOD's French Vanilla FLAVORED Stevia Extract

If plain Stevia isn't sweet enough for you, now there's VANILLA FLAVORED STEVIA. Use it in coffee or cookie dough.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug administration. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.