Stevia, Stevia rebaudiana or sweet leaf of Paraguay are some of the names given to the leaves of this plant native to Paraguay. In the early 1900s stevia was documented by Moises Bertoni, a Paraguayan botanist. It is a natural sweetener with no calories, no glycemic index and it is 250 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. It has been used as a sweetener for centuries and is used in foods in many countries such as, Brazil, Canada, China and Japan.
Some foods containing stevia include: Teas, candies, chewing gum, soft drinks and soy sauce. According to Health.msn.com, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed the import of stevia in 1995, allowing the sweetener to be used only as a dietary supplement. After years of further research, in December of 2008 the FDA added stevia to the list of food additives “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Stevia was then allowed to be added to flavored water, sports drinks as well as soft drinks and other foods and beverage products.
PepsiCo makes SoBe Life Water, a product sweetened with an extract from the stevia plant called rebaudioside-A, that is named PureVia. SoBe Lifewater is available in three flavors; Black and Blue Berry, Yummy Pomegrate and Fiji Apple Pear. Stevia is also used in Celestial Zingers To Go tea and other drinks products. The Hain Celestial Group had received a warning letter from the FDA, prior to the 2008 GRAS approval of stevia; regarding the use of stevia in their products. Hain Celestial Group was then free to use stevia in their products. The Coco Cola Company, Cargil and Coke and PepsiCo Inc are all competing on the market with their stevia products. Coke markets Sprite Green and Odwalla juice drinks that contain stevia.
Other Food Products
The Japanese have used stevia for over 30 years in colas, ice cream, soy sauce and pickling products. It is also used in chewing gum, rice wines, yogurts, soft drinks, fruit juices, candies and canned foods.
Benefits of Stevia
Stevia is beneficial for problems related to indigestion. It decreases feelings of hunger and the urges and cravings for sweets. Toothpaste that contains stevia helps to avoid plaque build up, gum disease and tooth decay. Stevia also helps with weight loss since it has no calories.