Unknown in France, stevia has been consumed for centuries by Guarani Indians. Its sweetening power, 300 times higher than that of sugar, comes from one of its active ingredients: rebaudioside A.
Like all sweeteners, the interest of stevia is to sweeten food as beverages, without adding sugars or calories. It sounds perfect. But we read and hear all about the benefits or misdeeds of sweeteners.
So how are we doing? What does stevia really contain? Does it present risks to our health? What are WHO's recommendations? And in what food products is this sweetener found? Find the answers to all your questions in our file!
A sweetener of natural origin
Stevia is a plant native to Paraguay, but it is now mainly grown in South America and China.
It belongs to the botanical family Compositae (also called Asteraceae), as well as daisy, dandelion, chrysanthemum or chicory. Its size is around 60 to 80 centimeters at maturity, and is usually found in the wild in groups of 2 to 3 plants.
One hectare of fields could produce about 250 kg of stevia extract which will then be used by the food industry as a natural sweetener. Thus, it is estimated that a stevia plant provides enough extract to sweeten 30 cups of coffee.
The properties of stevia
Stevia can therefore provide a sweetener compatible with diets for diabetics and hypoglycemic diets. Indeed, the three glucoses present in rebaudioside A, are not assimilated by the body, so stevia does not provide any calories.