The Ultimate Guide to Stevia

9 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Stevia 

We all know excess sugar isn't great for us, but how many of us can really resist a sweet, delicious treat from time to time? We’re going to go ahead and say, very very few. Even if you aren't a true sugar junkie, reducing sugar from your diet can be difficult, especially if you don't have an equally delicious and possibly more health-conscious alternative. 


As the world becomes more and more health-conscious, we've seen a boom in the diversity and availability of alternative sweeteners. From chemical-based sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose to the popular plant-based sweetener stevia, sugar substitutes are widely used to replace sugar in both food and drink products. 


Sugar isn't necessarily the enemy; after all, it's an ingredient naturally present in foods like fruit and milk. But these are naturally occurring sugars and they are not the problem. Sugar becomes a potential problem when used in a refined state or are “added sugars” that are put into processed foods in sickening amounts that consequently pose a threat to our overall health. Added sugar is arguably the most controversial of all sugars and it is associated with many serious diseases, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer[1].  Additionally, sugar has zero notable health benefits, so unless you can burn off the sugar you intake with exercise, it ends up being stored as fat. 


*Sugar substitutes enter the chat* 


Sugar substitutes are food additives used to sweeten foods and drinks while reducing the impact of excessive sugar intake on the body. Most all sugar substitutes will be either low-calorie or zero-calorie, such as stevia. 


What is Stevia?


Stevia is derived from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant (read: plant-based!) and has been used for over 200 years to sweeten foods. The leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant have also historically been used to make tea. Although the stevia plant is native to South America, it is now grown worldwide, including North America[2]


Stevia’s Sweetness 


Like sugar, stevia is plant-based and all-natural. However, stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you use a lot less to get the same benefit. 


How does stevia get its sweetness?


The form of stevia popularly used in foods (like low-calorie beverages) is obtained by drying the stevia plant leaves and grounding them into either a powdered or liquid form. Only portions of the stevia leaf are sweet because they contain compounds called steviol glycosides, which are the parts of the plant leaves removed, purified, and used as sweetening agents. 


How does stevia compare to sugar?


Great question, glad you asked. Here are some of the main differences between sugar and stevia:


  • Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener, which means it doesn't contain enough calories per serving to be considered caloric. As such, stevia is a zero-calorie ingredient. Sugar has about 16 calories per teaspoon (4 calories per gram), and all of those calories are carbohydrates.

  • Stevia doesn't accumulate in the body. When stevia is ingested, it travels straight to the colon, broken down into steviol glucuronide. Eventually, this steviol glucuronide ends up in the kidneys, where it is excreted as urine. Thus, stevia is never stored in your body. In contrast, as we mentioned earlier, unless you can burn off the sugar you intake with exercise, it will end up stored as fat[3]


Given what we know about how our bodies process stevia compared to how they process sugar, stevia is a good alternative for sweetening our foods and drinks. 


What Does Stevia Taste Like?


How stevia tastes is specific to the individual, their genetics, and how their taste buds perceive flavor[2]. Most people find it exceptionally sweet with a slight aftertaste. Stevia interacts with the taste buds on your tongue that sense sweet and bitter, and our tongues have more bitter taste buds than sweet; therefore, for some, stevia may come off as slightly bitter. 


Additionally, stevia will have a metallic taste for a tiny portion of the population or even an anise (aka licorice) flavor. Pro tip: if you are a part of this group, using a stevia blend will be a better option than using pure stevia. More on this below. 


Is There Really an Aftertaste?


Given up non-nutritive sweeteners because you can't stand the aftertaste? Stevia might be an option for you because although stevia has an aftertaste, most manufacturers mitigate it by not relying solely on stevia to sweeten their products. 


The use of both stevia with other sweeteners (like fruit) produces a natural blend that not only sweetens a product but eliminates the aftertaste a user may experience from a product sweetened exclusively with stevia. Additionally, it assists in eliminating the metallic or licorice taste some consumers experience. We know this first hand because OLIPOP combines Stevia with real fruit juice to create that perfectly balanced sweetness in each of our delicious flavors!


Stevia’s Many Forms


Stevia is available in numerous forms; sometimes in pure stevia form, but often as a blend with other sweetening ingredients.For instance, several popular name-brand forms of stevia are a blend of stevia and a sugar alcohol, like erythritol. 


These forms of stevia can be delivered as crystallized granules, liquids, and powders and can change the taste of stevia and the amount needed to sweeten a food or beverage. The chemical structure of different forms of stevia also dictates how well it will dissolve in a food or drink, which can determine which type is eventually used in a particular product. 


OLIPOP features a very premium mild version of stevia, blended with natural sugars from fruits and cassava syrup, to deliver a delightful beverage that blends harmoniously with the natural flavors in our sparkling tonic. 


Why Use Stevia Instead of Regular Sugar?


Stevia is an exceptional alternative for sweetening your foods and beverages with sugar because it's zero-calorie and less refined. 


The Rise of Processed Sugars 


One of the most detrimental factors affecting our health today is the amount of highly processed and refined sugars in our diets. Examples of refined sugars include:


  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Cane sugar (sucrose)
  • Malt syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Glucose syrup

With high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) development, manufacturers found a cheap way to sweeten foods and refine flavors. HFCS is easy to manufacture and inexpensive to produce, making it very popular for most American foods and beverages[3]


The problem with HFCS (and other heavily refined sugars) is how your body processes them. For instance, HFCS presents your body with an unnatural amount of fructose.  Fructose must be broken down and stored somewhere on the body before it can be used as fuel[4].


Even worse, in the United States, we each consume close to 40 pounds of fructose each year[4]. It's no wonder we've been battling an obesity epidemic for decades[5]


Stevia does not affect blood sugar, nor is it ever stored as fat on the body. 


Health-Conscious Sweeteners 


Thankfully, there has been a rise of better, safer sweeteners for use in popular products that provide alternative options to HFCS and other refined sugars. Among the most popular are stevia, monk fruit, and even natural fruit juices. 


OLIPOP uses stevia instead of sugar or HFCS. The typical can of root beer contains 39 grams of sugar, has 39 carbohydrates (no fiber), and packs a whopping 153 empty calories.


OLIPOP's Classic Root Beer, in contrast, contains 2 grams of sugar per can, 3 net carbohydrates (thanks to the 9 grams of healthy fiber), and just 35 calories. It is a much better option when you need a refreshing beverage with a little extra health boost!. 


The Takeaway


Stevia is an excellent choice if you're looking to cut down on calories, eliminate HFCS from your diet, and enjoy the sweet tastes you love. Stevia is safe, calorie-free, and available in numerous health-conscious products.


As we become more and more informed about how the ingredients in our foods and beverages affect us, it's only natural to become health advocates. By researching and studying the health benefits of OLIPOP, we can make informed decisions and switch to holistic, natural products. It all starts with as small of a step as switching from traditional soda to OLIPOP!

Sources
  1. Kayla McDonell, “9 Natural Substitutes for Sugar,” Healthline Media, June 4, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-sugar-substitutes#1.-Stevia.
  2. “Stevia Taste Science,” PureCircle Stevia Institute, n.d., https://www.purecirclesteviainstitute.com/healthy-lifestyle/great-taste/stevia-taste-science.
  3. Stephen D. Anton et al., “Effects of Stevia, Aspartame, and Sucrose on Food Intake, Satiety, and Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Levels,” Appetite 55, no. 1 (August 2010): 37–43, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.009.
  4. Ernst J. Schaefer, Joi A. Gleason, and Michael L. Dansinger, “Dietary Fructose and Glucose Differentially Affect Lipid and Glucose Homeostasis,” The Journal of Nutrition 139, no. 6 (April 29, 2009): 1257S-1262S, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.098186.
  5. Nia S. Mitchell et al., “Obesity: Overview of an Epidemic,” Psychiatric Clinics of North America 34, no. 4 (December 2011): 717–32, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2011.08.005.
Cheat Sheet
  • Stevia is derived from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant (read: plant-based!) and has been used for over 200 years to sweeten foods.
  • Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener, meaning it doesn’t contain enough calories per serving to be considered caloric, and doesn’t accumulate in the body. Instead, it is excreted through urine.
  • Stevia is an exceptional alternative for sweetening your foods and beverages with sugar because it's zero-calorie and less refined.
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