Stevia, Truvia, and PureVia

October 18, 2011 7:00 am
Posted in: Nutrition
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Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, is a Seattle-based nutritionist who approaches nutrition from a whole-foods, plant-centric framework. He also takes a strong interest in food politics, nutrition policy, and deceptive food industry marketing tactics. He is the creator of the Small Bites blog and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Stevia Plants
In many ways, nutrition mirrors fashion.  There are recycled trends (before hitting it big in 2003, low-carb was all the rage in the ’70s), media hype (Master Cleanse, anyone?), and up-and-comers with potential to become movers and shakers (as recently evidenced by the massive interest in all things coconut). The world of sweeteners – both natural and artificial – is particularly buzzing with activity; today’s post focuses on one of their more controversial figures – Stevia.

Stevia is a perennial shrub with sweet-tasting leaves that has been consumed by native populations in Paraguay for centuries (the plant’s leaves are dried and ground up into a powder which is then added to beverages).  In that sense, true Stevia has a lot in common with honey or maple syrup – it is a minimally processed sweetener.

Stevia has been used commercially in Japan for decades, but was banned in the USA in 1991 following a complaint by an industry group that, to this day, remains anonymous (some suspect that the makers of aspartame were behind the complaint in an attempt to dominate the alternative sweetener market).  Four years later, as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DHSEA), Stevia was allowed to be sold in the United States as a supplement (rather than a food additive). It’s worth pointing out that between 1991 and 1995, manufacturers submitted various requests to overturn the ban, all of which the FDA struck down citing concerns over Stevia’s safety in some rat studies, which have since been called into question.  More recent studies have shown beneficial effects.

Fast forward to 2008.  By that time, aspartame had been around for a while and concerns about its safety and sketchy approval process had started to make the rounds.  Splenda (sucralose) had been out for a few years, but it too had been hit by some negative press. Case in point – the market was ready for another sweetener. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, inspired by Stevia, petitioned the FDA to approve rebaudioside-A (Reb-A), an isolated extract from the plant, as a “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)” food additive.  The FDA quickly granted approval.

And, so here we are.  Consumers can now choose between pure Stevia, products like Stevia in the Raw (corn-based carbohydrate dextrose + Reb-A), Coca-Cola/Cargill’s Truvia  (Reb-A + erythritol), and PepsiCo’s PureVia (Reb-A + erythritol + isomaltulose + cellulose powder + natural flavors).  Why the added elements in Stevia In The Raw, Truvia and PureVia?  Well, true Stevia – which, in powder form, looks a lot like catnip — does not taste or look like sugar, and we all know Americans want their sugar substitutes to resemble the real thing as much as possible (at least that’s what market research says).

It is important to point out that the only true natural sweetener is pure Stevia.  All other forms consist of a Stevia extract with added ingredients.

As a nutrition professional, one of my goals is to get people accustomed to lower levels of sugar in their daily life.  Although it has no impact on blood sugar levels, Stevia is 30 to 40 times sweeter than sugar, whereas Reb-A registers as approximately 300 times sweeter.  In that sense, simply replacing a high intake of sugar with an equal amount of Stevia misses the point. I would much rather people train their tastebuds to get used to less sweetness, so they can appreciate the depth of flavors in whole foods.  It takes our tastebuds three to four weeks to get used to lower levels of sweetness (and saltiness); certainly not an overnight change, but one worth making.

Additionally, it is one thing to add some true Stevia to coffee or tea, but processed foods sweetened with it (or its inspired trademarked products) are nevertheless processed foods that offer minimal nutrition.  I find it more beneficial to approach nutrition from a big picture standpoint (ie: a plant-centric, whole-food approach) rather than zoning in on specific sweeteners.

Addendum, October 22, 2011: Here’s Coca-Cola’s patent for manufacturing Reb-A, in a 40+ step chemical process. Hat tip to Bruce Bradley for finding this one!

62 Comments on "Stevia, Truvia, and PureVia"
  1. Comment left on:
    November 23, 2012 at 9:29 am
    lorene says:

    Stevia for Baking?
    I don’t sweeten my coffee or tea but am interested in substituting stevia in baking. I use, and really like, turbinado sugar of which I can always use less than called for because of its flavor and texture.
    Can anyone share success stories w/stevia and baking?
    Many thanx.

    • Comment left on:
      November 29, 2012 at 6:32 pm
      Julie says:

      Yes. I use pure stevia. I buy it in bulk (it’s very expensive however, if I am making a batch of cookies, it takes only 1/4-1/2 teaspoon to sweeten). I use this for my sweets only. If I bake for company, etc, I use unprocessed sweeteners such as sucanat, organic honey and coconut sugar. I have yet to try the turbinado. The stevia is very, very sweet and keep in mind, its sweetness is different than sugar. if you use too much, it can have a bit of a bitter aftertaste. It does not break down when baking and I have used it for pumpkin spice muffins, cookies and cakes. Remember, this is PURE stevia! Truvia and Purevia are not pure.

    • Comment left on:
      July 18, 2014 at 8:29 am
      Kim says:

      When I use stevia, I always use Pyure Brands Organic Stevia. I use the organic packets in my coffees, however they have a bakeable blend as well that weighs out cup for cup just like sugar. The bakeable blend does contain maltodextrin, however I was informed that it the amount is very small, and the processing turns a small amount into a large amount through aeration.This is a great product, and I highly recommend it.

  2. Comment left on:
    December 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm
    lorene says:

    I appreciate the feedback. Guess I’ll have to tweak the ingredients to make up for less dry (sugar). Thanx, again.

  3. Comment left on:
    February 21, 2013 at 6:27 am
    Laman says:

    I have been fighting cancer for 2.5 yrs and was looking for an alternative. All my Drs save if I have to cheat and must sweat, then use Stevia.
    I’m not surprised the corrupt FDA banned it. They’ve banded 2 substances/supplements that was killing my cancer cells. I hate the FDA!!! They seem to be controlled by the drug companies.
    So my comment to leave you with is thanks for the Stevia.
    LA (Tx)

    • Comment left on:
      March 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm
      Mark A. /Ward says:

      Dear Laman,
      I couldn’t agree more about your opinion on the FDA. Go to Netflix and watch “FOOD INC”..It will really drive the point home about the corrupt FDA.
      Also check out the penny stock symbol: STEV a Companty named STEVIA that works with PureVia and others.But be careful if you invest (it’s a penny stock that started a nice move up Friday, Feb28,2014).
      Take care,Mark

    • Comment left on:
      March 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm
      Susan Martinez says:

      Response to Laman: Look up the Halleluia Acres Diet at hacres.com
      I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago. I put my trust in the Lord and stood on His word that He was my healer. I also got on the recovery diet described on hacres and did not need surgery or chemo. After reading the founders testimony you will see that it was a God sent program.

  4. Comment left on:
    March 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm
    Adam Kessler says:

    Got Cancer Stevia is a great way to go I use it and eat plenty of Brocoli as it kills cancer cells and leaves the good cells alone due to the phyto chemical it contains called sulforaphane. It is also debatably the most powerful super food on the planet. Too much Sugar feeds cancer and causes it so does fat and Dairy. Bottom line, limit the above and refined foods for everyone. Another great way to help prevent Cancer is with a powerful omega 3 supplement Triple strength, Puritans pride is one company that sells it.

    • Comment left on:
      March 1, 2014 at 3:13 pm
      Mark A. /Ward says:

      Dear Adam,
      I love an educated person who does thier homework! Yes Brocoli! Also did you know processed sugar is responsible for most Americans having CANDIDA? It’s true. Processed sugar is killing us.
      Take care, Mark

  5. Comment left on:
    March 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm
    eddie g says:

    I have been using Truvia as a sugar replacement for quite a while, and i was watching Dr OZ one day and saw a report on erythritol and its effect on the urinary bladder, than it causes the bladder to spasm and work overtime. His report suggests against using sweetners with erythritol. I want to replace Truvia with a sweetner that just has Stevia, is there a product on the market that just has Stevia, and not dextrose, maltodextrins, cellulose and other fillers?

    • Comment left on:
      June 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm
      joolz says:

      Instead of going to the sweetener and sugar aisle in your market go to the drug section where the supplements are. you won’t find the dried and ground green leaves but you will find pure stevia leaf extract without the sugar alcohol additives or cellulose bulk. They seem expensive but a tiny sprinkle (less than a dash of salt) is enough to lightly sweeten a big glass of iced tea. Even Walmart has real stevia if you go to the supplements section. The brand they sell is NOW and the powdered product’s name is Better Stevia. It has only one ingredient certified organic(Stevia rebaudiana) (leaf). I think it was 11 bucks for an ounce. I have IBS-C and diverticulitis and have not had any problems with GI upset using this, the KAL brand (at Sprouts), or a similar product through our local herbs & apothecary shop (Two Hawks emporium) However if you are looking for even less processing of the raw product I have been told that the pure stevia liquid extracts (also in supplement section) are even less refined. I prefer the powder because I cart it around in my purse.

  6. Comment left on:
    March 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm
    Madelaine Kaiser says:

    I have discovered a great product: Trader Joe’s Organic 100% Pure Stevia Extract. It is a powder with a tiny spoon (comes in a small one oz. jar like a spice jar). NO OTHER ingredients and it has no bitter aftertaste. It is a little more expensive but is worth it.

  7. Comment left on:
    March 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm
    eddie g says:

    I was on th GNC store website and i found an item made by Wholesome Foods. It has Organic Agave Inulin, Organic Stevia Extract (Stevia rebaudiana), Silica
    No dextrose no maltodextrin no erythritol. So i will give it a shot. the link for the nutrition label is as follows:

    http://gnc.imageg.net/graphics/product_images/pGNC1-10500918_gnclabel_pdf.pdf

  8. .
    April 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    [...] like adding a bit of sweetener to my oats so they’ll be a bit sweeter. Stevia is a great option as it’s zero calories and all natural. Another great option is to cook just [...]

  9. Comment left on:
    June 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm
    Kris M says:

    My family LOVES Nu Naturals Pure Stevia powder. Best tasting one I’ve tried, and no bitter aftertaste. Just ordered the pure drops, hoping these work just as well (more convenient to throw in a pocket or handbag). The powder has no other ingredients and is super-concentrated.

  10. Comment left on:
    July 22, 2013 at 1:21 am
    Shannon says:

    I don’t use Stevia or sugar. I’ve gotten accustomed to black coffee or unsweetened cappuccino and I sweeten when baking with dried dates or applesauce. You can use pure maple syrup in your coffee as well. I try to only have sugar that comes from fruit or food in its most natural state and in the end, feel better for it. Getting off sugar is totally doable. Give it a try. I think Stevia looks heavily processed and unappealing, anyway :)

  11. Comment left on:
    September 20, 2013 at 9:52 am
    Marilyn says:

    I am trying to find a very natural way to satisfy my husband’s cravings for sugar. He has Lupus and Parkinson’s Disease, is 330 pounds and MUST lose weight. He has sleep apnea and the extra weight is KILLING HIM. He is on steroid therapy, which also makes him eat like crazy. He is home alone all day, as I work, and eats day and night. I want to make things that he will go to that TASTE sweet to him, but are not super caloric for him. It’s a tough job! Any advice?

    • Comment left on:
      September 21, 2013 at 11:59 am
      cm says:

      Have your husband tested for Lyme Disease, candida overgrowth and genetic defect – MTHFR. His metabolic system may be the real problem. Go to a Lyme Literate doctor for chronic lyme disease (there are not many of them). Good Luck!

    • Comment left on:
      September 23, 2013 at 7:23 am
      Andrew says:

      I’d also throw in a suggestion of getting his Thyroid function tested if you haven’t already.

      But to answer your question — my suggestion is twofold:

      First, stock up on tons of foods he’ll like, including fresh fruit that’s at the height of the season. Spend some time preparing it (washing, peeling, cutting), so that it’s in a container in the fridge, ready to grab at a moment’s notice.

      Second, start getting the other stuff out of the house. If it’s not readily accessible, it won’t be an easy option!

      Of course, if you do a huge purge, he’ll probably rebel. So you’ll need to be smart (and perhaps a little stealthy) about it. It also takes at least a month for someone’s palate to adjust. Change takes time.

      Hope that helps!

    • Comment left on:
      October 5, 2013 at 9:35 pm
      Rachel says:

      This may be more then just a food issue. Part of the issue may be if he’s home all day by himself & dealing with serious health issues – he’s probably depressed & using sugar for his drug to numb out the feelings. And sugar is so addicting! About 15 years ago I was in a bad situation & my diet was crap. I tried different things but what finally got me on a healthy diet & the weight literally falling off – was a very good therapist & journaling – to deal with my issues and not literally stuff them down. Having activities to channel his attention might be of help & you might look into OA too. I hope the two of you can find a solution!

  12. Comment left on:
    October 14, 2013 at 10:02 am
    Tanya says:

    I have been using Stevia for about 4 years now. I used to get from Bolivia with the small teeny weeny spoon but could no longer get it. Then I found a palatable and similar one at M.O.Ms or My Organic Market. It is Asian based I believe from Japan (I have to look again.) I use mainly for tea or coffee but for baked goods like the other writer from a year ago wrote I use unprocessed sugar for baking and usually 1/2 of what the recipe calls for. Most foods I find are way, way, way too sweet to me now and I cannot tolerate them anymore.

  13. Comment left on:
    October 29, 2013 at 11:08 am
    Marci says:

    While getting used to using less sugar and sweeteners, especially for iced tea, because I love it, I have been using Organic Red Seedless Grapes. I pour a tall glass of unsweetened tea and eat a couple of grapes at the same time. It taste good and I am glad I am not using any sweeteners.

  14. Comment left on:
    October 31, 2013 at 1:18 am
    jamie T says:

    http://www.liptontea.com/product/detail/521225/refresh-iced-sweet-tea-k-cup

    Lipton brand has come out with a K-cup version of their tea that contains sugar and Reb A [stevia]. Not Asparatame.

  15. Comment left on:
    January 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I prefer a 100% Pure Stevia Extract with no other ingredients. Reb-A must be over 97%. Then it has no bitter aftertaste. It is a little more expensive but is worth it.

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