The Origin of Stevia
Stevia is a herb native to Paraguay, and now widely cultivated for its sweet leaves. Stevia leaves have been used as a traditional sweetener for centuries by the South American natives, added to herbal teas and other beverages. Today stevia leaves especially their sweet tasting extract are commercially used in many reduced-calorie and sugar-free foods and drinks. Many people use it to control weight and maintain better overall health.
The sweet tasting extract present in stevia leaves are 9 glycoside compounds called Steviol Glycosides, of which stevioside and rebaudioside A are the 2 main compounds.
These compounds taste 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, so that a very small amount is sufficient to achieve the desired sweetness.
Through industrial extraction process, Steviol glycosides can be isolated and purified from stevia leaves, and now used as sweetener adding to a variety of foods and beverages..
Stevia Around the World
Stevia is still cultivated today in Latin America, but the production market is now led by China. China is the largest Stevia grower and also the largest producer of steviol glycosides in the world.
As a high sweetness and non-caloric natural sweetener, steviol glycosides have been used in a wide array of food, beverage, condiments, salted food, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, brewing, and personal care products. It especially suits people suffering from diabetics, obesity, hypertension and tooth decay. It is an alternative to sugar for people pursuing natural and healthy diet.
Nowadays, a large range of sweeteners available on the market can provide the sweet taste without the calories associated with sugar. Among this large group of compounds are intense sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharin, sucralose, and steviol glycosides which taste several hundred times sweeter than sugar. As only very small amounts are required to induce the sweet taste, their calorie contribution is often negligible compared with sugar. Unlike the other intense sweeteners, steviol glycosides offer the additional appeal that they are entirely of plant origin, just like sugar.