By Jane Barthelemy. Stevia is marketed as a healthy sweetener. But surprising new evidence indicates all stevia sold in grocery stores is highly processed with methyl alcohol or other toxic chemicals. Healthy Solution: Look for natural zero-sugar sweeteners. Is your stevia pure? Or is it mixed with other sweeteners and chemicals? Do you wonder how your stevia is refined? What does “natural” mean, if anything? You deserve to know what’s hidden in your stevia. It is essential for your health to learn how stevia is processed, and decide for yourself. This article strips away the marketing hype, with clear evidence that’s very surprising.
Yes, Stevia’s green leaves are naturally sweet. However those white powders and clear drops we find in groceries have very little to do with stevia leaves. They aren’t really stevia at all. They’re an extract that’s been super-refined using toxic chemicals, bleach, and marketed as “healthy”. When you look at the chemical refinement process, stevia is no more natural than Aspartame, Splenda, NutraSweet, Equal, Sweet N Low, etc. Everybody is looking for a non-addictive, healthy sweetener. But beware of any sugar-free sweetener that gives you the illusion of a “free ride”, because you may just be deepening your addiction.
Grow Your Own Stevia!
The best stevia is the kind you can grow yourself. When it’s alive you know it’s REAL! Stevia plants grow beautifully in a pot, a garden, a window box, or on your kitchen window sill. Just pull off a leaf when you need to sweeten something. This way you can be sure it’s organic, and the soil is healthy.
What is Stevia Really? How can I Know if it is Pure?
Stevia, or “stevia rebaudiana” is a plant that originates in Brazil with naturally sweet leaves. The leaves can be dried and powdered into a pure sweetener about 40 times sweeter than sugar. These raw, unprocessed stevia leaves have a strong aftertaste akin to licorice, and taste artificial. Pure unprocessed stevia leaves and green powder are not widely available due to their strong aftertaste. If you live in Santa Fe like I do, buy them bulk at the Coop on Alameda near the almond butter grinder. (Or you can order a pound here from Frontier on Amazon).
In grocery stores, we find an entire shelf of “stevia” in the form of processed liquid drops and white powders – all highly refined chemical extractions from the leaves, in the hopes of reducing the aftertaste. The resulting processed sweeteners are called myriad confusing names such as stevia, stevia extract, pure stevia, Rebaudioside A, Reb A, steviol glycosides, etc, and are anywhere from 2X to 350X sweeter than sugar, depending on the blend with other fillers. As a high-intensity sweetener, a little goes a long way, therefore it is often pre-measured in packets or mixed with other fillers such as GMO Maltodextrin, GMO corn Erythritol, inulin fiber, or even cane sugar. Processing is done with a variety of chemicals, such as, methanol, arsenic, ethanol, acetone, and others.
The resulting artificial sweetener called “Stevia” is toxic and unhealthy.
Don’t be fooled by the name, that seemingly innocent stevia we find in grocery stores is a chemical concoction just like Splenda and Aspartame. In fact, it’s highly probable that you’re buying a blend that’s 99.8% Erythritol, a fermented sweetener made from genetically modified corn, with a pinch of refined stevioside powder. Your “Stevia” can be processed, mixed with chemicals, blended in a hundred ways, and still legally be called simply “stevia”. Refined stevioside is sold under countless brand names such as Sun Crystals, SweetLeaf, Truvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw, Pyure, and NuStevia to name a few.
Commercial Stevia is bad news.
Stay away from it. That includes Stevioside and Rebaudioside and all the names. All “stevia” in grocery stores is processed with toxic chemicals. If you’re still going for the story that stevia is natural and comes from Peru, know that 85% of all stevia comes from China. Even the world’s top stevia marketer, international sugar giant Cargill, top food manufacturer in the world with over $102.7 billion in 2016 sales, manufacturer of Truvia and PureVia with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, has all of its stevia produced in China. It’s a small world when you control the sweeteners every body is addicted to.
If you truly want to be free of sugar addiction, then processed stevia and other artificial sweeteners won’t help you. It’s better to skip all forms of Stevia, Truvia, and the blends listed below. Check out my two preferred sugar-free sweeteners: Just Like Sugar Table Top, and PureLo LoHan by Swanson.
(Most people don’t want too much information. However if YOU are one of those folks that desire the whole truth, read on. To learn how Stevia leaves are processed into a toxic sweetener, it required a bit of digging. As usual, the devil is in the details. To learn the whole Stevia story, continue reading…)
How is Stevia Processed?
Processed stevia is made with a dangerous chemical refining process hidden from the public and deceptively marketed as “natural”. Manufacturers run into the problem that stevia leaves are extraordinarily resilient. The stevia cell walls are so tough that they resist the usual methods of boiling or centrifuging. Producers aim to to extract the active sweet compound, stevioside, and remove the funny aftertaste. In order to concentrate stevia to 300X concentration, toxic chemicals and artificial chemical enzymes are used, such as methanol, kerosene, alcohol, chlorine, ash, acids, titanium dioxide, arsenic, preservatives, chemical stabilizers, and emulsifiers.
The world’s largest producers of stevia hold patents for undisclosed, proprietary extraction methods. These patents belong to industry giants such as Coca Cola, PureCircle in Malaysia and USA, Cargill – maker of Truvia and PureVia, JustBio – A Canadian Biotech firm, McNeil Nuritionals LLC- maker of Splenda, and Chengdu Waggott Pharmaceutical Company in Sichuan China. That’s quite a line-up! Here are 5 common stevia extraction methods I located in public patent records. They all indicate the use of toxic chemicals, which are difficult or impossible to remove.
- One of the more popular methods of producing stevia extract was developed by D. Payzant, U.S. Pat. No. 5,962,678. In summary, sweet stevia glycosides are extracted using methanol, a toxic, colorless, volatile flammable liquid alcohol. This method has been used for decades. The major drawback is that a toxic solvent like methanol is difficult to remove. Trace amounts are harmful to health and not ideal for human consumption.
- Another common production method comes from Uenishi Hideaki, Japan Patent 54030199. To extract the sweetness and discard a bitter aftertaste, this method also requires the use of various toxic solvents. The removal of solvents requires energy and time, which are not considered cost-effective.
- A third production method developed by R. H. Dobberstein, U.S. Pat. No. 4,361,697, uses several toxic solvents including methanol in a complex multi-step process. The major drawback is still the presence of toxic solvents, and their complete removal is not possible and not considered commercially viable.
- Sato Toru, Japan Patent JP57005663 uses a new and improved process to extract sweetness from stevia hydrated in water containing alcohol, with the addition of calcium, iron, or aluminum. These compounds are then removed, passed through an acid-ication exchange resin using toxic solvents such as ethanol, acetone, etc. The major drawbacks here are the removal of water from aqueous extract, and removal of toxic solvents, which is not economical.
- US. Pat. No. 4,599,403 by Sampath Kumar uses an improved method that is said to be less dependent on toxic chemicals. The major drawbacks are that the aqueous extract is treated first with an acid and then with base and then treated with toxic solvents like n-butanol, which lower the final yield and must ultimately be removed. Again, removal of solvents is not commercially viable, therefore most stevioside products generally contain these toxins.
What’s Really in Your Stevia Bottle?
Well, you can start with the knowledge that there’s almost NO pure stevia out there, except for that rare green powder with a funny aftertaste. (I don’t mind the aftertaste, but many people don’t care for it.) If you want to know what’s really in your stevia, you can try reading the label. However that’s a problem since labels don’t have to disclose all ingredients. Your next hint is serving size. A low serving size of one gram or less is a good indication that the manufacturer is taking full advantage of the legal loophole, and omitting certain chemicals or ingredients. Here’s the loophole: By law, any item under 0.5 grams per serving is not required to be disclosed. So there’s no way you can know for sure what’s really in there. If your Stevia is any of the popular products below, I’ve done some of your homework for you, by reading the labels. However what’s undisclosed we’ll never know.
Popular Stevia Products and their Surprising Ingredients!
1. Better Stevia liquid This is a NOW Foods blend of refined Stevioside with Vegetable Glycerin, a non-glycemic fermented sweetener. 1 tsp liquid = 1 cup sugar sweetness. See Stevia Glycerite.
2. Better Stevia packets NOW Foods makes this product of powdered refined stevioside blended with Non-GMO Rice Maltodextrin.
3. Generic Stevioside Drops See Stevioside Liquid Extract. Generic refined stevioside drops are sold in every grocery chain under their private label, such as Trader Joe’s, Kroger’s, Safeway, Albertson’s, and many other store labels.
3. Generic Stevioside Powder See Stevioside Powder, refined. Refined stevioside powders are sold in grocery chains under their private label, such as Trader Joe’s, Kroger’s, Safeway, Albertson’s, and many other store labels.
4. Generic Stevioside, IndustrialSee Stevioside Powder, refined. This is a generic powder made of refined stevioside, that is sold on the industrial level as a food additive for the food industry. It is used in a wide variety of food products, such as Good Earth Teas, Celestial Seasonings Tea, Energy Drinks, Sodas, Chocolates, Ice Creams, and Energy Bars. It often contains toxic chemicals, however the amounts are usually under the 0.5 grams per serving, therefore disclosure is not required.
5. Green Leaf Stevia This is a proprietary blend by Swanson made of refined Stevioside powder and high-glycemic non-GMO rice Maltodextrin.
6. Green Stevia Powder This is the pure stuff, and the only healthy stevia. Pure dried stevia leaf is available in a fine green powder that is 30 – 40 times sweeter than sugar. It is raw, and has a peculiar aftertaste. I buy it here.
7… NuNaturals MoreFiber Stevia Baking Blend This is a sugar substitute blend of high glycemic GMO Corn Maltodextrin with refined stevioside. Prepare for a spike in your blood sugar.
8 NuStevia This sugar substitute blends high glycemic GMO Corn Maltodextrin with refined stevioside. Another blood-sugar spike here.
9 PureVia™ Made by Cargill, this sweetener blends genetically modified corn Erythritol with refined Stevioside or Rebaudioside. The Stevia is extracted by proprietary methods we can’t know. There’s nothing natural here.
10. Pyure Organic Stevia A sweetener made from refined stevioside sold in sachets or liquid. It contains agave inulin, refined Stevioside extract, and other unknown ingredients.
11. Rebiana Rebiana is a zero-calorie sweetener produced by proprietary methods by extracting sweetness from the stevia leaf with chemicals and heat, and refining into a high intensity powder that is 200 – 300 times as sweet as sugar. See Stevioside.
12. Rebaudioside Refined Rebaudioside is made from the stevia leaf, where its sweetness is isolated and concentrated using heat and chemicals into a powder about 300X sweeter than table sugar, with somewhat reduced aftertaste. It can be purchased as a white powder or liquid drops. China is the world’s primary producer of rebaudioside. Nothing natural here.
13. Slimstevia A Chinese sweetener similar to Truvia made from genetically modified corn Erythritol with refined Stevioside and/or Rebaudioside. Not natural.
14. Slimtevia This high-intensity sweetener is 3 times sweeter than sugar. It is said to contain high-sugar Fructose, Inulin fiber, FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharides), stevia, and Magnesium Carbonate. This won’t help anyone end the sugar habit.
15. Stevia by Xymogen A sweeter blend of high-glycemic Maltodextrin and refined Stevioside Extract (Rebiana). Prepare for a blood sugar jolt.
16. Stevia dried leaf This is the pure stuff. Unrefined, dried leaves of the South American plant Stevia Rebaudiana are 30–45 times as sweet as table sugar. You can keep this as a potted plant, in bulk dried leaves, or as a green powder. This is a 100% safe sweetener, truly natural (and Paleo). However many people find it has a strong aftertaste. Find it as leaf particles or green powder in food coops and online.
17. Stevia in the raw™ This is a high-glycemic combination of GMO corn Maltodextrin or Dextrose plus refined stevioside. It’s an attractive name, but neither natural nor healthy. Prepare for blood sugar blues.
18. Stevia FOS Blend This is a brand of refined stevioside powder blended with Inulin Fructo-oligosaccharides. It is a zero-calorie, zero carb, sweetener.
19. Stevia Glycerate Proprietary liquid drops produced by NOW Foods, made from refined stevioside and non-glycemic Vegetable Glycerin, a fermented liquid sweetener from oils. 1 tsp Stevia Glycerate = 1 cup sugar sweetness.
20. Steviacane™ This is a blend of refined stevioside with high-glycemic cane sugar by Imperial Sugar Company. Expect a blood sugar jolt here.
21. SteviaClear Drops This is refined stevioside powder in a liquid alcohol solution. The drops are 250 – 300 times as sweet as sugar. Nothing natural here. I suggest first having it tested for methanol and other toxins.
22. Stevioside Liquid Extract These stevioside drops are made from stevia leaves that are refined using methanol and then dissolved in a liquid alcohol solution. There are many sources for stevioside drops, and countless private labels. Most refined Stevioside drops are mixed with other ingredients. The pure stevioside drops are 250 – 300 times as sweet as sugar.
23. Stevioside Powder, refined Refined Stevioside and Rebaudioside are made from the stevia leaf. Its sweetness is isolated and concentrated using heat and chemicals into a powder c. 300 times sweeter than sugar, with reduced aftertaste. China is the world’s primary producer of stevioside. Refined Stevioside and Rebaudioside are often sold in proprietary blends with cane sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other chemicals and rebranded under the generic name of ”Stevia”.
24. Stevita Spoonables A blend of Erythritol and refined Stevioside. Don’t know if it is GMO or NON-GMO corn Erythritol.
25. Steviva Blend A blend of high quality Non-GMO Erythritol with refined Stevioside powder. Steviva Blend is twice as sweet as sugar. There’s nothing natural here.
26. Sun Crystals® A blend of cane sugar mixed with refined stevioside. Prepare for sugar shock.
27. Sweet Serum A low-carb, low-glycemic liquid sweetener that contains organic raw agave inulin, Yacon root and Stevioside. Sweet Serum has a concentrated sweet honey taste. 1 teaspoon Sweet Serum is equal in sweetness to about 5 teaspoons sugar. Nothing natural here.
28. Sweet Simplicity® A Sugar Substitute made from genetically modified corn Erythritol, Fructose sugars and Natural Flavors by Whole Earth Sweetener Company, the makers of PureVia. Prepare for insulin shock.
29. Sweet’nVit stevia A high intensity sweetener developed by the European firm Vitiva containing refined Stevioside, genetically modified Corn Erythritol and Maltitol, a fermented sweetener.
30. SweetLeaf Stevia Shaker A blend of refined stevioside powder and inulin. Nothing natural here.
31. Truvia™ A toxic blend of GMO corn Erythritol, refined Rebaudioside, and other ingredients by food giant Cargill.
32. ZSweet® A sweetener that can be used cup for cup like sugar, made from Non-GMO Erythritol and highly refined Stevioside or Rebaudioside.
Stevia was once a simple plant used by the Guarani Indians in South America for healing. But our world-wide craving for sweetness, along with modern food processing methods have changed all that. Now stevia is refined with toxic chemicals in private proprietary procedures deeply linked to the largest international corporations and the sugar industry. Most of our stevia is produced in China, and then marketed as our most beloved natural sweetener. If you still believe your stevia to be healthy, check out the links below for a journey of deception and international intrigue that will make your hair stand up on end.
Patent – Manufacturing method of pure natural high-purity stevioside – CN 102199177 (Translated from Chinese) http://www.google.com/patents/CN102199177A?cl=en
Patent – High-purity rebaudioside A and method of extracting same https://www.google.com/patents/US7923541
Patent – Process For Extraction And Debitterizing Sweet Compounds From Stevia Plants http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2016/0015066.html
Patent – Process for production of steviosides from stevia rebaudiana bertoni – US 20060142555 A1 http://www.google.com.ar/patents/US20060142555
Method for extracting active ingredient of natural product (stevia) and uses thereof CN 101138686 (Translated from Chinese) A http://www.google.com/patents/CN101138686A?cl=en
The Aspartame / NutraSweet Fiasco http://www.stevia.net/aspartame.htm
How the Feds Set Frankenstein Free on the Farm, by Dr. Al Sears, M.D. http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_geneticfood140.htm
Is Stevia Paleo? https://www.primalorganicmiami.com/is-stevia-paleo/
Cargill to Settle Deceptive Marketing Lawsuit alleging Truvia, Stevia Based Sweetener is Not Natural. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Cargill-to-settle-deceptive-marketing-lawsuit-alleging-Truvia-stevia-based-sweetener-is-not-natural
Don’t confuse consumers with stevia messages, by Russ Bianchi
A Tale of Two Sweeteners – Stevia and Aspartame
Stevia Leaf – Too Good To Be Legal?
Stevia – A Natural Choice, by Dr. Betty Martini