NuStevia, manufactured by NuNaturals Inc., is a brand of stevia, a calorie-free sweetener. As of 2011, the USDA categorizes stevia as a safe substance. It can be used in place of table sugar in coffee, tea, baked goods or anywhere else that sugar is used, and can be purchased in various forms, including powdered extract and liquid concentrate.
Stevia is made from the leaves of a shrub native to Paraguay, where locals have used it for centuries in herbal teas. Today, many tropical countries cultivate stevia, including India, China, Brazil, Argentina and other parts of Asia and South America. Stevia has been sold in the United States since 1995 but didn’t gain widespread popularity until the latter portion of the first decade of the 21st century. With a sweetness level 200 to 300 times that of sugar, only a small amount is necessary to obtain the desired flavor enhancement. The precise sweetness level varies from brand to brand. NuNaturals posits that NuStevia contains a greater proportion of stevia extract than most of its competitors, making it one of the sweeter versions of stevia available.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Many people find that despite its extreme sweetness, stevia leaves a bitter aftertaste. NuNaturals claims that its product won’t produce this undesirable effect, because they’ve replaced stevia’s bitter compounds with other flavorings. In terms of potential health effects, stevia proponents point out that the substance has been used for decades in countries such as Japan without any reported large-scale side effects. Unlike sugar, stevia doesn’t promote dental cavities, and since it doesn’t contain calories, it can potentially aid in weight loss if used in place of sugar. A few studies suggest that stevia may lower blood pressure and blood glucose, but evidence remains inconclusive. Some people report a feeling of fullness, bloating or nausea after consuming stevia. As of 2011, pregnant women should avoid stevia, as data regarding potential effects on the developing fetus remains insufficient.
NuNaturals offers several varieties of stevia. The white, powdered form, referred to simply as White Stevia, is similar in appearance to confectioner’s sugar and available in single-serve packets, small bottles or larger bags. The Pure Extract powder is much more concentrated; it’s useful when concocting substantial quantities of beverages or baked goods. NuNaturals also sells stevia in several liquid forms in glass or plastic bottles, including Clear Stevia, Alcohol Free Stevia and Vanilla Stevia. Other NuStevia products include carbohydrate-free packets, single-serving dissolvable tablets and a fiber-rich powdered baking blend.
In addition to stevia, NuNaturals products contain other ingredients. NuStevia White Stevia contains maltodextrin, a tasteless starch derived from corn. The carbohydrate-free type substitutes erythritol, which is also corn-based, for the maltodextrin. The liquid varieties contain water, vegetable glycerin and grain alcohol, with the alcohol-free type lacking alcohol. As its name implies, the vanilla variety also includes vanilla bean extract. All of the NuStevia products contain natural flavors. These proprietary plant-based extracts do not include monosodium glutamate or any other manmade chemical compounds.