What exactly is stevia?
Stevia, also called Stevia rebaudiana, is a plant that is a member of the chrysanthemum family, a subgroup of the Asteraceae family (ragweed family). There’s a big difference between the stevia you buy at the grocery store and the stevia you may grow at home.
Stevia products found on grocery store shelves, such as Truvia and Stevia in the Raw, don’t contain whole stevia leaf. They’re made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A).
In fact, many stevia products have very little stevia in them at all. Reb-A is about 200 times sweeter than table sugar.
Sweeteners made with Reb-A are considered “novel sweeteners” because they’re blended with different sweeteners, such as erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and dextrose (glucose).
For example, Truvia is a blend of Reb-A and erythritol, and Stevia in The Raw is a blend of Reb-A and dextrose (packets) or maltodextrin (Bakers Bag).
Some stevia brands also contain natural flavors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source doesn’t object to the term “natural flavors” if the related ingredients have no added colors, artificial flavors, or synthetics.
Still, ingredients that fall under the “natural flavor” umbrella may be highly processed. Many argue that this means there’s nothing natural about them.
You can grow stevia plants at home and use the leaves to sweeten foods and beverages. Reb-A sweeteners are available in liquid, powder, and granulated forms. For purposes of this article, “stevia” refers to Reb-A products.