Nutritional Concepts

January 19, 2009

Alternative Sweetener Update:
The Age of Stevia

Dear Valued Client,

While I must crack a smile seeing all the hub-bub over stevia, I am not getting overly excited. There may be a hint of satisfaction knowing that something I have been an ardent proponent of for so long is now becoming widely accepted by the public. However, there is much to the stevia story that requires clarification. Bonnie

Navigating the Suddenly Crowded Stevia Market

For those of you may not know, stevia is a zero calorie, zero carbohydrate, zero glycemic load herbal sweetener that we have recommended for over a decade. In July 2008, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the World Health Organization determined that stevia is safe to be used as a sweetener in the daily diet up to 4mg per kg of body weight.

Until recently, stevia could only be sold as a dietary supplement in the US. It was surpressed by the makers of Equal and Splenda because they were afraid of it taking market share. Late last year, the FDA stated that stevia is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), allowing it to become a food additive. This only occurred because Cargill and Pepsi got involved and are rolling out stevia as a tabletop sweetener and adding it to myriad drinks and food.

Unfortunately, when Big Food gets involved, there is always a catch.

First, the stevia products you now see on the shelves are not pure stevia. Cargill's Truvia and Pepsi's PureVia contain a corn-based sweetener called erythritol. There is a furious debate as to whether it is "natural." We do not believe it is. Because erythritol is derived from corn, it is not well tolerated by many of our clients.

Second, where stevia is grown is important. Stevia was first discovered in the South American country of Paraguay (see enclosed brand ratings). Many of the true stevia brands get their stevia from Paraguay. However, Big Food is getting much of its stevia from China, where quality control is questionable.

Third, we urge our clients not to declare it "open season" on stevia-laden drinks and foods. While the many of these products have not yet published their ingredient labels, chances are they will contain empty calories and artificial ingredients. For instance, Sprite Green will contain some natural sugar in addition to Truvia.

For these reasons, we only feel comfortable recommending the brand in which we have full confidence: Sweet Leaf. They grow and harvest their raw stevia in Paraguay. They employ a process of extraction that uses only pure water to collect the finest, sweet parts of the plant. Others use chemicals, alcohols or even enzymes that can actually change the make-up of the naturally occurring substances. We have also seen Sweet Leaf's raw material quality control assays.

First Choice:
Sweet Leaf Stevia
Sweet Leaf Stevia Plus (with inulin, a good source of fiber and promotes healthy gut flora)

Second Choice(s):
KAL Organic Stevia
NOW Organic Stevia Extract
Sunwin OnlySweet
Stevita Simply-Stevia
Steviva Pure Stevia Powder
Sunrider Sunectar (liquid)
Trader Joes Pure Stevia (may contain lactose)

Do Not Recommend at This Time:
Truvia (stevia with erythritol)
PureVia (stevia with erythritol)
Stevia in the Raw (stevia with dextrose)


Stevia may be contraindicated for those with a severe ragweed allergy (same family of plant).

If you made us choose between Truvia/PureVia or Equal, Sweet & Low, Splenda, or other artificial sweetener, it's a no-brainer. Make the switch to stevia, even if not Sweet Leaf. It is a safer long-term choice. See our eNewsletter on artificial sweeteners.

Ideally, we hope that most of you do not need to use any sweeteners in your daily lives.

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January News You Can Use

Have a happy, healthy day,
Bonnie, Steve, and the staff