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Sweeteners from Stevia: the wood for the trees and which Stevia to buy?

Buying sweeteners from stevia

When people first start buying sweeteners from Stevia, they often can't see the wood for the trees. Here in this blog is some more information about buying sweeteners from stevia.

Sweetener from Stevia: the three categories

If you've only just switched from regular sugar to 100% sugar-free, a whole new, but mostly confusing world can open up to you quite a bit. If you really want to keep it 100% natural (100% natural, pure, fresh and organic), this confusion only gets worse. With billions of manufacturers and supermarket chains all wanting us to choose their product correctly, finding correct information these days is even more difficult than climbing Mount Everest. The abundance of information is as high as Mount Everest, and as an uninformed consumer, find out what is and isn't good.

Especially when it comes to sweetener from Stevia, a sweetener of 100% natural origin, today it has become really hard to figure out which jar/pouch is really with 100% sweetener from Stevia and which is not.

As with many other hypes and trends, sweetener from Stevia did not escape a complete proliferation after it was officially authorized in Europe in 2011.

Result: crowded shelves at supermarket, organic stores and also health stores.

One jar of Stevia sweetener is not the other. Not only does this confuse consumers, it also discredits the good name of sweetener from Stevia because very much products are at most enriched with a dash of steviol glycosides (the extract from the leaves of the stevia plant).

The rest, meaning most of it, is mostly padded with "alias" sugars like maltodextrin and isomalt. This can cause quite a few mis-purchases among consumers.  Fortunately, thanks in part to vigilant organizations like Foodwatch, more and more is becoming clear about the differences. Because I get a lot of questions about the differences every day, I came up with three categories to distinguish the differences between pure and fake sweeteners from Stevia and hopefully make it easier to make the right choice.

Category 1: purest sweetener from Stevia

Most pure sweetener from Stevia that we can find is of course the plant itself. In the Netherlands the plant is still quite poorly available, but the seeds to grow your own are reasonably available. Sometimes bio stores sell the plants and also in some garden centers they are for sale. But in the EU, you can only use the leave to sweeten your cup of tea. It is still forbidden in food or to consume as food and hereby categorised under the term NOVEL FOOD.

Sweetener from Stevia cannot be sold organically under the green BIO label, however contradictory this may sound because it is a sweetener derived from a natural plant.

This is also one of the reasons why organic stores do not sell the plant as a food. The rules regarding the designation of sweetener from Stevia as organic are currently being tightened so that a label may probably be used soon. Cultivation must then have taken place under strict rules. You can plant the seeds yourself. Following the plant itself are the green, dried stevia leaves.

This means that the leaves have not undergone any processes beyond drying and crushing. The color has also remained green. The disadvantage of these green stevia leaves, however, is that it is actually virtually unsuitable for baking. These leaves are mainly used to make tea. It takes a lot of patience (also with the plant by the way) to find the right dosage. The green stevia leaves are also not so sweet just using one leaf. This makes it difficult to use just the right amount. If you use just a little too much, a baking dish or other desired sweetening is almost immediately spoiled because of the taste.

Besides that, 100% steviol glycosides are also available: Steviala STAR powder. However, this one is so strong in sweetness that it is enormously difficult to dose for consumption.  However, you can try to dose this sweetener from stevia in a really small amount and enjoy!

Category 2: most pure sweetener from Stevia

Following the green stevia are the purest varieties. These consist of 98% steviol glycosides. Or the mixtures with erythritol is also a good alternative.

The pure powder drom Stevia varieties are white in color and have not undergone any additional processing than highly necessary. The processes that have been manufactured have remained most natural and are necessary to obtain a sugar that is fit for consumption. Many wonder why sweetener from Stevia sugar is white in color. In the purest form of processing, the steviol glycosides extracted from the leaves are extracted from the dried leaves using hot water. In large steel tanks, these are again mixed with hot water and cleaned several times. The crude extract (steviol) is then filtered and thickened. After this process, we are left with a white powdery substance: the sweetener from Stevia that we are most familiar with. So there are different processing and therefore different structures in sweetener from Stevia: from granulated form mixed with Erythritol to sugar substitute in powdered form.

These types are most suitable for consumption. They do not indirectly/very immediately give a very bitter (after) taste. It is most suitable for baking. It is heat stable up to about 200 degrees and does not give any caramelization when heated. Sweetener from Stevia with a percentage of steviol glycosides of 98% is highly feasible to consume. Anything with a percentage below 95% pretty much falls into the following category: the junk.

Category 3: the junk

Well, there is no other word for it: Many of the "Stevia products' we can buy in the supermarket and discount stores and tokos and marketsmay be categorised under junk. These varieties are mostly really cheap to even ridiculously cheap. If you consider that steviol glycosides are still one of the most expensive raw materials today, you might also understand that there is more junk in such a jar than sweetener from Stevia. Two most common bulk agents and sweeters are maltodextrin and isomalt. Most of the jars consist of those. It is very often only 2 to 3% steviol glycosides at most. It is always worthwhile to read the labels, but as a good rule: the cheaper the ...... If you come across a jar of sweetener from Stevia that costs less than 1.59€, it is almost impossible that it contains a lot of sweetener from Stevia, provided the manufacturer likes to spend a lot of money on it. The production alone costs a lot of money and has to be done as cheaply as possible with the cheapest possible additives.

Even jars with an average price of around 3/4 euro are almost always filled with additives.

This causes a lot of confusion. Especially if it is also made quite clear on jars and bags that the product contains sweetener from Stevia through beautiful illustrations and claims.

An "acceptable" type of sweetener from Stevia starts at a price of 6 to 10 euro. But even with the more expensive varieties, the maxim remains: read the labels.

In any case, what we would recommend you not to do is buy sweetener from Stevia in the supermarket.

There, the most inexpensive variants are offered which therefore consist mainly of maltodextrin (aka carbs).

You can make the best choices in health stores and organic stores, get good information there. Well-trained staff can tell you a lot about them.

Always read labels carefully, especially when purchasing sweetener from stevia products in the supermarket.