WHAT IT IS: Stevia is an extract from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which originated in the rainforests of Brazil and Paraguay. Stevia is used as an alternative to sugar. The flavor comes from glycosides—particularly stevioside, which is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia is highly sought after because it is calorie-free, carb-free, has a glycemic index (GI) of zero, and it is recognized as safe by the FDA.
Stevia can be found in a powdered white or leaf form, as well as a liquid extract or blended with other ingredients like monk fruit. Most sources are great for beverages, sauces, coffee, fruit, yogurt, and oatmeal. Stevia is considered heat stable up to 400 degrees, making it a good alternative for sugar in baking.
Stevia may reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but the data so far are not conclusive. Others have said it aids in weight loss and prevents tooth decay when substituted for table sugar.
Stevia is a sweetener used as an alternative to sugar, not a supplement. The WHO has approved an acceptable daily intake of four milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
Stevia may cause mild side effects like nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, and numbness. An allergic reaction is possible if there is sensitivity to the Asteraceae plant family.