Stevia is derived from a plant of the chrysanthemum family and is native to North Eastern Paraguay. For hundreds of years, the Stevia plant leaves have been dried and used to sweeten maté, tea and medicines in many parts of the world, especially South America. For those with a particularly sweet tooth, the dried leaves can be chewed on for an extra sweet snack.
In order to sourcein the sweet flavour from the Stevia plant for manufacturing purposes, it is necessary to extract the glycosides and purify them. By doing so, Stevia can be used as a sweetener in foods, drinks or simply as a table top sweetener. Most commonly, Stevia is used in non-alcoholic drinks, yoghurts, ice cream and jams.
Japan was the first country to commercially use Stevia as an ingredient in the 1970s. However, it is now used as a sweetener throughout the Western world.
Staggeringly, Stevia is approximately 200-300 times sweeter than sucrose, or more commonly known as ‘table sugar’. The strength of Stevia means only a small quantity is required as a sweetening ingredient. Replacing a percentage of the sugar content of a food with Stevia means there are less calories.
With current health concerns and the risk of obesity increasing, Stevia is a fantastic alternative to table sugar as it aids weight management. Previous studies on patients with diabetes have proven that Stevia has no impact upon blood sugar levels.