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Jan 11, 2008 04:19 AM

Anyone use Stevia for sweeting foods?

I'd appreciate any feedback from those of you who use Stevia to sweeten your recipes and food. I've read on the internet that the white powdered kind is not ideal, and that the green crushed leaf or whole leaf kinds is "healthier" and better to use. Is this true?

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  1. i think the leaf is better...but i've got to say, I just dont really like the undertaste. I've gotten so that i avoid teas and stuff that are sweetened with almost reminds me of aspartame!

    A friend of mine grew some stevia in her garden, and chewing the leaf fresh off the plant was a nice little treat, i could see it doing nicely with some fresh mint in a big pitcher of iced tea on a hot summer day...

    1 Reply
    1. re: TSQ75

      I didn't like the aftertaste either, when I used stevia to make lemonade. I experimented a bit and discovered that if you add a little vanilla flavoring to the lemonade, this will completely mask the stevia aftertaste, and (I think) improve the lemonade.

    2. Be aware that stevia is banned in euope do to certain side effects.
      "The European Union has banned Stevia products based on studies that show that steviol, a component of Stevia has negative health effects on mice, including (but not limited to) sterility and loss of virility. In short, steviol is a mutagen. Human studies have been inconclusive, but this has not stopped the sale of Stevia in the United States."

      the above was from

      "Health concerns and limits on use
      A European health study found that stevioside depressed the virility of male mice . It has also been reported that steviol, one of the principal metabolites of stevioside, is a mutagen . Based on these findings, the European Commission banned stevia's use in food in the European Union pending further research. It is also banned in Singapore and Hong Kong . Additional animal tests have shown mixed results in terms of toxicology and adverse effects of stevia extract."

      the above was from

      I would be careful chewing the leaves!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Diana

        Healthwise, stevia can also be dangerous to people taking blood pressure medication. It naturally lowers blood pressure so, to someone already taking medication to lower BP, an excessive amount can lower BP to a dangerous level.

        Tastewise, I've had iced tea made with stevia. It tasted so odd to me that I didn't finish it, thinking it had somehow gone "off," if that's even possible with tea. Matter of taste, I suppose.

      2. The white powder is refined. That is why the green is preferred. It's been used in Latin American and Japan for quite some time.

        Lately there has been some concern about side effects. I think a lot of these concerns originated because of strong corn and sugar lobbyists. If you look at wikipedia (by no means a totally accurate source of information), it says:

        A 1985 study reporting that steviol may be a mutagen[4] has been criticized on procedural grounds that the data were mishandled in such a way that even distilled water would appear mutagenic.[5] More recent studies appear to establish the safety of steviol and its glycosides. In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a thorough evaluation of recent experimental studies of stevia extracts conducted on animals and humans, and concluded that "stevioside and rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo and that the genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro is not expressed in vivo."[6] The report also found no evidence of carcinogenic activity. The report also suggested the possibility of health benefits, in that "stevioside has shown some evidence of pharmacological effects in patients with hypertension or with type-2 diabetes"[6], but concluded that further study was required to determine proper dosage.

        My view is too much of anything can cause harm.

        As much as I like health and all, I don't like the taste of stevia. I'd rather have no sweetener or sweeten my products with agave, honey, maple syrup (depending on what I'm using it for) than to have stevia. However, I know a lot of people who love it and think it tastes great.

        31 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          I guess I'll have to buy the Stevia to see if I like the taste or not. As far as the side effects people have posted..hmmm....interesting. I usually don't put any kind of sweetener (including sugar) in my food, unless I'm baking something sweet (which isn't often), or sometimes in a cup of tea. I did just buy a bottle of (lite) agave syrup, which I liked...but, I just read somewhere that most agave sold is not pure & that corn syrup is being added, because it's cheaper. How true this is, I have no idea. LOL...seems that everything has side effects, or isn't pure.

          1. re: ctflowers

            I like and really recommend Sucanat - to me it tastes much better!

            1. re: jbyoga

              A very strong reason to recommend Sucanat is that you KNOW what you're getting which is not the situation with products like stevia and agave.
              Sucanat is a registered trademark and the company that produces it makes sure that they control the quality.
              As ctflowers found, agave syrups vary from maker to maker and you can't always tell what you're buying. The same with stevia. There are NO guidelines. It seems that consumers who are so careful about what they put in their bodies would want to know what's in these products.
              The only downside to Sucanat is the heavy molasses flavor which many people aren't used to and may find not to their liking.
              Here's an explanation of how Sucanat is made:

              1. re: MakingSense

                I've never heard of Sucanat. Thanks for the link, I'll have to check it out.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  Doesn't agave fall under the same labeling laws as other nutritive (i.e. caloric) sweeteners?

                  1. re: jlafler

                    It has to list ingredients in declining order of volume of content. It doesn't have to say percentages of fructose vs. glucose which vary. Just as Domino sugar doesn't list on its package that it is sucrose, although it does say "pure cane sugar." Store brand white sugar is usually beet sugar (sucrose) but isn't labeled as from beets.
                    Some agave syrup is labeled "pure" while others are labeled "lite," but there doesn't seem to be any clear idea what this means. As someone pointed out, some agave syrup has corn syrup added to cut costs. Some people might not notice this as not everyone is vigilant about reading labels.
                    What are you gaining by using agave?

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      I don't use it, so I guess I'm not gaining (or losing) anything. But it sounded like you were saying that it fell under the same regulations (or lack thereof) as herbs, supplements, vitamins, etc., rather than the same regulations (or lack thereof) of food substances.

                      1. re: jlafler

                        I don't know. I don't buy it so I don't have a label here to read.
                        Some of these products fall into grey areas. Stevia can only be marketed legally in the US currently as a "supplement," not as a "food additive," although it is legal as a food in some other countries. Coca-Cola and Cargill have joined forces to get regulatory approval of stevia as a food product in the US. Guess they want to use it in diet products.
                        Is that good or not? Maybe if it's regulated, at least it's standardized and production has some sort of quality control. With some of these things, it's almost like buying street drugs. You have no idea what you're getting.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          My understanding is that supplements are virtually unregulated. There are organizations that certify the contents of vitamins, but that's something the manufacturer has to pay for. Since agave has calories, I would think that it would fall under food labeling laws.

                          As I said, I don't use it, but I think one of the reasons people buy it is that (assuming it's pure agave) it's vegan, unlike honey, which is an animal product, and sugar, which is processed using charcoal.

                          I tried stevia a few times, but it has a pronounced flavor that reminds me of licorice, which is not one of my favorites and certainly not something I want to add to everything that needs sweetening.

                          1. re: jlafler

                            You're right about the lack of regulation of vitamins and supplements in the US as opposed to other countries. Buyer beware.
                            Charcoal is used only in the last stage of sugar refining - the one where the browner sugars, sometimes called demerara or turbinado, that still contain some molasses - are completely refined into pure sucrose. This process has used bone char, although refiners are supposedly moving to end the use of this byproduct and move to all non-animal-based products which should alleviate this concern for vegetarians.

                          2. re: MakingSense

                            One manufacturer of soft drinks has gotten around the "Stevia is a supplement, not a food additive" by marketing Zevia, which, while appearing much the same as a "carbonated soft drink", is actually a "flavored Stevia supplement."

                            I've tried the "root beer" and the "orange" Zevia drinks, and they are quite nice with no apparent aftertaste.

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          one of the benefits of using agave is its low glycemic index, which results in a gentler insulin response. it's a better and safer option than other sugars & refined sweeteners for diabetics and insulin-sensitive people. the inconsistencies in fructose & glucose content/ratio are a result of varying species, climate conditions, harvesting processes, and purification methods. that's why even reputable distributors aren't likely to list the percentages on the label.

                          as for the corn syrup issue, i've never seen agave that contained it, and i'm a hyper-vigilant label-reader. then again, i'm not looking for bargains when i buy these ingredients - i'd rather pay a premium for quality.

                          look, it's like anything else...instead of writing off an entire product category as bad, recognize that this is commerce, people. regardless of the industry, there are always going to be some unscrupulous vendors who care more about their bottom line than they do about their customers' best interests. it just means that we unfortunately may have to work a little harder to seek out the good stuff.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            It isn't necessarily a bad product but there can be, as you say, unscrupulous vendors, and certainly, consumers who don't pay attention. There have been "Avoid the Evil Sugar" campaigns as long as there has been processed sugar and people have sought out alternatives, touting some new miracle way to get the Sweet Fix they want.
                            Diabetics are usually very careful because they have to manage their disease, but others jump on bandwagons often with little education or even reading labels.
                            There are people like you who are careful, read labels, know what they're buying, and are willing to pay for quality, and then there are others who pay bargain prices for junk with the right trendy name, thinking that these products are regulated and safe. All they hear - or want to hear - is that agave is a miracle substitute for the Evil Sugar.

                            Truly the best approach is to lower the consumption of foods with added sugars - whether you're a diabetic or not. Get off the Merry-Go-Round.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Definitely agree with you about eating less foods with added sugars. Americans have such a huge sweet tooth. In addition to the copious amounts of soda and desserts, there's so much sugar (mostly in the form of HFCS in processed foods).

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                Even here on CH where we have so many people truly interested in healthy food, look at the amount of sweet dishes! Honey-mustard sauces for chicken and pork. Raspberry vinaigrettes. Trail mixes with candy in them. Granola bars that are cookies in disguise. The "fruit" in yogurt has more calories than the yogurt because it's sugar. Fruit sauces for entrees. Brown sugar in brines for turkeys that are basted with maple syrup. BBQ sauces with brown sugar. No one cooks ham without glazing it with sugar and fruit. Sugar in marinara. Adding sugar to bacon. Some of the longest threads are for buttercreams and cream cheese frostings, brownies and cupcakes. And let's not forget the sugar in alcohol...
                                Substituting one sugar for another is a form of denial. We have a sweet tooth. Trying to blame it on HFCS doesn't let us off the hook. We are hooked.

                    2. re: jbyoga

                      It should be noted that Stevia is sugar-free, while Sucanat is essentially sugar in a raw form. They are not interchangeable if you are seeking a sugar-substitute.

                    3. re: ctflowers

                      What is lite agave syrup? I've never heard of it. Is it agave nectar with water added to it? I think if you read the labels carefully, you should be able to find agave syrup that doesn't have corn syrup. And agave tends to be on the expensive side -- so if you see a brand that's too cheap, I would be a bit suspicious.

                      You can definitely make yourself sick reading everything out there about nutrition. I believe everything in moderation (unless you've got degenerative illness or some serious health issue).

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        agave is good for diabetics, but it DOES have calories, something dieters worry about.

                        1. re: Diana

                          The (lite) agave that I have only has 15 calories (and 4 grams of sugar) per teaspoon.

                          1. re: ctflowers

                            That's the same number of calories (15) in a teaspoon of Domino sugar.
                            Does it matter exactly what you're consuming? That the carbohydrates from the agave plant are converted to sugars just like the carbs in corn are converted to sugars in corn syrup? Except that agave syrup production isn' t regulated. Each time you buy it, it could have a different proportion of fructose to glucose, and maybe something (who knows what?) to make it "lite".

                            1. re: ctflowers

                              15 calories in a teaspoon of a food product often used several times a day is actually a lot.

                              How many teaspoons a day do you use?

                              1. re: Diana

                                That's also a "level" measuring teaspoonful. Not a "scooped" teaspoonful, like many people would use from a sugar bowl to add to coffee or tea, using the spoons from their flatware.
                                With syrups and honey, the temptation is not to use a spoon. Just pour it in from a squeeze container without measuring at all.

                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  aahhh, and now we come to one of the most important factors...portion control.

                                  a foreign concept to the majority of americans.

                                2. re: Diana

                                  I don't use the agave (lite) syrup every day...I just used it in a recipe for homemade granola/oat type bars. I am not a sweet eater (usually). I usually only get sugar from whole fruits, like oranges or apples. I just wanted something to use when making a recipe that didn't contain much sugar.

                                  1. re: ctflowers

                                    i use it in my granola as well, and actually in all my baked goods. the consistency and flavor are perfect for it.

                                    i still wanted to clarify something with you...does the label on your agave say "lite" as in reduced calorie, or "light" as in lighter color? as far as i know, there is no such thing as lower-calorie agave on the market...

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      The agave that I have says "light". It has 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon, and 15 calories. Since the bottle states that it's okay for diabetics, I assumed that it had fewer grams of sugar than "regular" (if there is such thing) agave.

                                      1. re: ctflowers

                                        nope, sorry. "light" refers to the color. same total number of calories & grams of sugar as the granulated stuff. the reason it's safe for diabetics has to do with the glycemic index.

                                        1. re: ctflowers

                                          i read that one thing about agave is that its much more potent, and thus you end up using less of it. and its vegan.

                                          much like tamari. Much higher sodium content in and of itself, and thus you end up using less of it, and less sodium. its highly touted for low sodium diets for this reason

                              2. re: Miss Needle

                                The (lite) agave syrup that I bought states that it's pure was expensive, about $6.50 for a very small bottle.

                                1. re: ctflowers

                                  i just purchased a bottle of blue agave syrup at trader joe's 11.5 oz, only ingredient is agave syrup, for about $6. it's a new product for them. i think the taste is good...a little caramelly on the finish.

                                  1. re: ctflowers

                                    for clarification, does it say "lite" or "light" on the label? there's a huge difference between the 2 terms.

                                    agave is sold in light and dark varieties based on the color and intensity of flavor.

                            2. the white powder is more processed/refined than the green, and some of the white powders are actually bleached. many of them also contain bulking agents or fillers.

                              i use stevia to sweeten my tea, and occasionally use it in cooking when i don't need the volume or caramelization from a sugar product [when i do, i use either agave or raw sugar]. the flavor varies depending on brand, form [liquid vs. powder], amount of processing, source of raw material, and species of plant. stevia does have a distinct taste...and an aftertaste many people really dislike. i've tried pretty much every single product on the market, and for years, swore by one particular brand. it was absolutely the only one that had zero aftertaste or bitterness, just pure, clean, sweetness. but over the summer i noticed that the flavor and consistency had changed drastically, and it was basically now as crappy as every other product on the market. when i contacted the manufacturer, they informed me that they had to switch raw materials suppliers, and could no longer get the original product i had become so accustomed to using. i've since cut back on my stevia use, because i just can't find one i like.

                              1. The whole leaf powder is in its natural, unprocessed state. It is just the leaves of the Stevia plant ground into powder, therefore it retains the natural green color.

                                The stevioside has gone through an extraction process to isolate the sweet glycosides of the leaves thereby making it a much sweeter product. This extraction process removes the naturally occuring chlorophyll and leaves the naturally white glycosides behind. No bleach or other chemical whiteners are used.

                                In addition to having a zero glycemic index, zero glycemic load and no calories, stevioside may reduce high blood sugar and lower blood pressure.

                                i use sweet leaf stevia brand only. i found that the others had an awful aftertaste.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ninafresa

                                  actually, there are some stevia products out there that have been bleached or chemically processed. it's easy to tell...dissolve some in a clear glass of water - if the water remains completely clear, it's been bleached; if it gets slightly cloudy, the product is pure.

                                  1. re: ninafresa

                                    Ninafresa, where do you get the sweet leaf stevia brand?

                                    1. re: ctflowers

                                      whole foods carries it, as do most natural foods stores. it's a very popular & widely available brand.