You've heard about stevia. It's the word - and, increasingly, the stuff - on everyone's lips. A natural plant extract with zero kilojoules and 200 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia is popping up in foodstuffs from gum to granola.
And while there's a lot of talk, stevia isn't a new kid on the block – here's a look at its 200 years of history.
- Although stevia is extremely sweet – it's 200 times more intense than sugar – the plant extract doesn't cause tooth decay, nor does it contain any kilojoules.
- While it may be the flavour of the month, stevia is already an ingredient in thousands of products all over the world: teas, soft drinks, juices, nectars, yogurt, soy milk, granola and snack bars, baked goods, cereals, salad dressings, chewing gum, canned fruit, jam and confectionery are all sweetened with stevia. In fact, from 2009 to 2012, the rate of new products sweetened with stevia globally grew by a massive 58 per cent.
- Stevia is recognised by leading regulatory bodies as safe to enjoy. Not only have the Guaraní peoples been eating it for centuries, stevia has also been subjected to rigorous scientific testing by respected research bodies throughout the world. Numerous countries and major regulatory agencies – including the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, and the United States Food and Drug Administration – have determined highly purified stevia to be safe for human consumption.
- Stevia is a totally non-genetically modified sustainable crop. Since it requires less water, energy and land than farming other kinds of sweetener crops, stevia doesn't compromise farmers' staple food crops such as cassava, beans or maize. Instead, it provides local primary producers with additional income and supports their traditional farming practices.