Stevia is one of the most popular “natural” sweeteners, and it enjoys a reputation as a healthier sugar replacement.
However, just how good an option is it?
Moreover, is it safe?
This article takes a look at the research on stevia as a sweetener, from the health benefits to the risks and potential side effects.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a sweetener extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
The leaves of this plant contain sweet-tasting active compounds known as steviol glycosides. In fact, these compounds are anywhere between 150 and 300 times sweeter than sugar (1).
The most significant among these glycosides is a compound called rebaudioside A, and many sweeteners use pure extracts of this compound. The second glycoside is called stevioside.
Extracting these steviol glycosides from the plant’s leaves produces a concentrated, intensely sweet taste.