If you have a green thumb, you can grow stevia right in your own garden. During the summer months, you can usually find stevia in your local home and garden store. It will grow just like any other herb or flowering plant. However, stevia is a finicky plant and requires a lot of sunshine and water for the best yield. It also tends to grow better from seedlings verses the actual seeds.
Push a shopping cart down the aisle of your local grocery store and you may discover that many foods and beverages stocked on the shelves use some sort of sweetening ingredient for flavor, which can at times add excess calories. And since we all love some sweetness in our various food and beverage choices, it is important to find ways in the supermarket to reduce those sweetener calories. Fortunately, from baked goods and confections to water, yogurt and everything in between, stevia is an ideal ingredient that adds that sweet taste to the foods and beverages you love, and all with zero calories.
In addition to the supermarket decisions, it is equally important to consider the foods and beverages you prepare at home. The good news is that stevia works well right in your own kitchen. Along with your favorite packaged foods and beverages in the market, you will also find stevia as a tabletop sweetener in the supermarket aisle where all the other caloric and non-caloric sweeteners are shelved. Stir stevia into a glass of iced tea or mug of coffee, whip it into dessert sauces, or learn to bake with it. Whatever the application – whether ready-made or made yourself – stevia adds that sweetness you want but without calories.
Food labeling helps consumers make informed choices when purchasing food and beverage products to consume. Around the world, food policies have been put in place to ensure you have the ingredient information and the nutrients provided per serving at your fingertips on the package itself. Depending on what country you are in, you can usually find this information in an ingredient statement which lists the individual ingredients, or on a nutrition label which lists each nutrient and the amount offered per serving.
On various global nutrition labels, the calories and key nutrients in a serving of food or beverage will be listed. Importantly, you will not see stevia listed since it is zero calories and is not listed as a carbohydrate, fiber or added sugar for instance. However, you will see the benefits it provides through the reduction in overall calories per serving, and/or in the reduction of grams of “added sugars” if that is listed on the nutrition label. The exact list of nutrients included and how they are spelled out on labels does vary country by country and in many countries, changes are underway to the nutrition labeling framework too.
In the ingredient statement, which will also be found on most packaged foods and beverages unless there is only one ingredient, you will see stevia called out. Ingredients are always listed in descending order by weight, from most to least. Due to different regulations in each country, ingredients sometimes go by different names. For this reason, you may see stevia listed in the ingredient statement in these ways:
- Stevia extract
- Stevia leaf extract
- Steviol glycosides
- Rebaudioside A (Reb A)
This list will continue to grow as different types of stevia leaf extract are approved.