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Food Factoid: Stevia

Stevia, the all-natural sweetener and sugar-substitute, is derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana shrub native to Parquay and Brazil.[1] Although Stevia has a long history of use in countries throughout Central and South America, the sweetener is a relative new-comer to the U.S. It was only in December of 2008 that the first rebaudioside-A (reb-A) extract was granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status. By February 2010, sales of reb-A extract had reached $25.5 million and it had gained 6.1% of the overall sugar substitute market, according to Cargill.[2] As an herbal powder, stevia is sweeter than sugar by 10-15 times; refined extracts are sweeter by up to 300 times. Stevia may be substituted for sugar in processed foods, and can now be found in beverages, yogurts, cereals and various baked goods, including some cookies and cakes. Considering that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar (355 calories) each day and stevia provides sweetness with virtually no calories and can be used in baked goods, maybe it’s time to pass that fruitcake!


[2] Toops, Diane. “Have food processors found the holy grail of sweeteners?” (February 2010) Food Processing. (71) 2:18-21.

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