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Get Ready to Welcome Stevia

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Have you heard of Stevia? If not, you are about to start seeing it on grocery store shelves and very likely in soft drinks very soon.

Stevia is a natural , very powerful sweetener that is calorie-free. The plant has been used in Latin America and Asia for many years. In the US, it has been available, but it was labeled as a "dietary supplement" instead of a sweetener. But that is all going to change. The FDA is currently reviewing research submitted to them to try to see if they will approve stevia to be in food products. A decision is expected to come soon from the agency.

Stevia is already 40-50% of the sweetener market in Japan where it is in some well-known brands like Diet Coke and Wrigley's gum. Both Coke and Pepsi are partnering with different stevia producers so that they are ready once the FDA's decision comes across. Some market analysts predict that once stevia is approved as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) to be used in food it will grow to at least 20% of the calorie free sweetener market.

Safety
The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that stevia is not harmful and has approved it for use in food. Stevia is a plant, and the sweet taste needs to be extracted from teh plant. Some companies use methanol or ethanol and some use "freshwater brewing" extraction. People looking for a safe and calorie free alternative for sugar or artificial sweeteners may just be in luck!

You will see some new brands of Stevia with the names PureVia, Truvia, and SweetLeaf on grocery store shelves now. They are allowed to be sold as "dietary supplements" currently but not in food. Expect to see it in foods and beverages as soon as the FDA rules it as GRAS.

Photo courtesy of www.mediapost.com
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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