Stevia is a natural non-caloric sweetener that’s an increasingly popular alternative to artificial sweeteners and table sugar.
Stevia is an extract of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. Stevia produces a well-balanced sweet taste with no bitter or chemical aftertaste, unlike other non caloric sweeteners.
Thanks to the surge of emerging scientific evidence suggesting that excessive sugar consumption is bad for your health, many people are turning to stevia for sweetness in their foods and drinks.
Our research team has reviewed and ranked the ten best sources of stevia for adding sweetness but not sugar to your diet.
1. SweetLeaf Sweet Drops
SweetLeaf Sweet Drops is specifically made for sweetening tea and coffee. The stevia is already dissolved in water, which is great for iced tea and cold brew coffee, which can make it difficult to coax solid powder into dissolving.
SweetLeaf Sweet Drops also have a small amount of natural flavorings that give the solution a somewhat sweeter and more well-balanced flavor profile.
While you’re not going to bake with it, this is still undoubtedly the top choice for most other users.
2. Kiva Organic Stevia
If you want a high quality stevia extract that comes in a large volume but not in a bag, Kiva Organic Stevia is a good choice. These eight ounce tubs contain plenty of stevia to keep you well-stocked for weeks.
On top of that, the stevia leaves used to make this stevia extract are organically certified and grown in the United States, which is not very common among other stevia products. Kiva Organic Stevia is a great option for those who need a lot of stevia on hand.
3. NOW Better Stevia
NOW Better Stevia is an organic stevia extract that comes in a plastic tub that makes scooping out stevia powder easy.
It’s 100% pure, and thanks to its organic certification, you can be sure it’s free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. For occasional users, this four-ounce container is perfect.
4. CCnature Organic Stevia Powder
CCnature Organic Stevia Powder comes in bulk bags of up to 16 ounces each. If you are using stevia for baking and cooking, or if you just want to stock up, it’s a great option.
CCnature Organic Stevia Powder is 100% pure and organically certified, so its quality is top-notch.
5. Natural Mate Stevia
Natural Mate Stevia is a good bulk option if all you want is pure stevia. The one pound resealable bags are well-suited for baking and cooking, where you need a large amount of powdered stevia on-hand.
If you use stevia for sweetening drinks, you’ll probably want a smaller container unless your household goes through a lot on a regular basis.
6. Truvia Naturally Sweet
Truvia Naturally Sweet uses a mixture of stevia, erythritol, and natural flavors to create a balanced and smooth sweetener that avoids the chemical aftertaste that some people taste when using other non caloric sweeteners.
If you are looking for a pure and simple stevia sweetener, though, Truvia Naturally Sweet isn’t the best option.
7. Stevia Select Sweetener
Stevia Select Sweetener is an organic stevia extract that comes in a tiny one ounce container.
If you use stevia on a regular basis, you’ll probably want to opt for a larger container, but it’s a good option for occasional users, or people who need a travel-sized container for sweetening drinks without sugar while on the go.
8. Mommy Knows Best Pure Stevia
Mommy Knows Best Pure Stevia comes in a three ounce tub that’s well-suited for sweetening tea and coffee, but isn’t quite large enough for baking and cooking.
It’s got a sweet and well-balanced taste, but the only drawback for some people will be the lack of an organic certification.
9. Stevia in the Raw
Stevia in the Raw is popular and well-liked, but it is not the most pure stevia extract on the market.
It uses a combination of maltodextrin and stevia extract, which means the powder is somewhat less sweet and more blandly flavored than a pure stevia.
10. KAL Sure Stevia
For a long time KAL Sure Stevia was on top of the market with its sweet, 100% pure stevia extract. Now, however, they’ve mixed their stevia with maltodextrin, much to the chagrin of former KAL enthusiasts.
Add to that the fact that it is not organically certified like many of the other competitors, and KAL Sure Stevia winds up at the bottom of the rankings despite its historic popularity.
Stevia benefits and side effects
Stevia is a natural sweetener with no calories, documented health benefits, and a long history of medicinal use in South America, where the plant originates. It’s a popular alternative to artificial sweeteners among people who care about the health effects of ingredients like sugar alcohols. This is good news, because nearly a quarter of American adults and about half that many children used sugar substitutes regularly in 2012. (1)
The dark side of refined white sugar has been common knowledge for years. As more research conclusions roll in about the way sugar consumption contributes to poor health and the development of chronic disease, the popularity of alternative sweeteners continues to grow.
Stevia comes from a green plant with leaves containing two different compounds, steviocide and rebaudioside A, which are a hundred times as sweet as sugar.
It’s possible to grow stevia yourself, and the leaves will contain approximately 10% steviocide. You could dry these, crush them, and mix them with an herbal tea product, for example. It might be tricky to get the right amount to suit your sweet tooth, but it would be effective.
The products you’ll find on the market are usually powders or liquids refined from the compounds occurring naturally in stevia leaves. These are obviously designed for convenient use, and have established a loyal following over the past few years. Stevia may be the only existing calorie-free sweetener that actually has benefits.
Stevia contains compounds that can help reduce blood pressure. One study focused on blood pressure measurements for 174 Chinese patients who were taking a stevia-derived supplement. A double-blind, randomized trial with placebo controls was conducted over a 2-year period, and participants took 500 milligrams of stevioside three times daily. (2) Over the course of the trial, researchers measured the blood pressure of both the patients in the stevia group and the patients in the placebo group.
Researchers believe the stevioside may act like a class of drugs for lowering blood pressure called calcium channel blockers, which affect cell membrane function. (3)
Average drops for systolic measurements clocked in at 10 points (from 150 mmHg to 140 mmHg), while diastolic readings went down 6 points (from 95 mmHg to 89 mmHg). With the length of the study, these results may indicate good possibilities for using steviocide as a natural remedy for the condition.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a reliable marker for increased risk of developing heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. (4)
The group taking stevioside in this study reported improved quality of life, and also lowered their risk of developing left ventricular hypertrophy, which is an enlargement of the heart that can result from hypertension.
Compounds in stevia may also help with cholesterol levels. A different study in animals was conducted using the same compounds from stevia. This study found that stevia decreased the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad cholesterol”) in the blood; if it affects humans in a similar manner, stevia could open another avenue for dropping heart disease risk factors. (5)
The sweet compounds from stevia plants also performed well in studies with patients being treated for type 2 diabetes. In this clinical trial, the control group took a gram of maize starch (placebo) with meals, while the other group took a gram of stevioside. Blood sugar levels dropped by 18% in the stevioside group compared to the group that took the maize starch placebo. (6)
Other animal studies suggest stevia may have anti-inflammatory properties; there may also be benefits in protecting against cancer and modulating the immune system. (9)
Since the results from animal studies aren’t always a good predictor for how humans will react in the same circumstances, further research will bring more information to light.
When stevia’s effects on test subjects’ blood sugar after eating a meal was compared with table sugar (sucrose) and aspartame, results noted lower blood sugar levels and insulin readings with stevia. (10)
Two recent comprehensive reviews of stevia studies indicate no ill health effects have surfaced. (11, 12) While animal studies using massive amounts of stevia led researchers to believe fertility could be affected, the circumstances aren’t likely to be duplicated in human experience. (13, 14, 15)
As noted above, in terms of health side effects, stevia is not known to cause any adverse health effects. Some people do find that stevia has a bitter aftertaste that they do not care for, though some stevia products use natural flavors or a combination of stevia and erythritol to balance out the aftertaste.
As more stevia products are developed, taste has become less of an issue, but the most common way manufacturers address the problem won’t suit everyone.
Stevia extract is often combined with other substances, including maltodextrin, which is a highly processed starch derived from potatoes, corn or rice. In this application, its non-clumping qualities are valued, since it can be difficult to achieve even distribution of those tiny, super-charged granules of dried stevia. (16)
Another additive used in stevia sweeteners is inulin. This is an innocuous plant fiber that helps in the dissolving process and may be preferable to maltodextrin.
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are also used as an additive to stevia sweetener products. This insoluble plant fiber is known for its positive impact on friendly digestive bacteria, and may add more benefits to your choice. (17)
Stevia is sometimes combined with other sweeteners, which can also mute the bitterness. One popular brand contains stevia and xylitol, a sweetener with about half the calories of sucrose (sugar).
Since stevia doesn’t have the bulk of sucrose, substituting in recipes can be challenging, but there are now products containing stevia made especially for baking. This adjustment makes it more likely the end-product will be reasonably comparable to the original recipe calling for sugar.
If you have concerns about how stevia products are processed, research the brand you enjoy. Water extraction, along with crystallization and purification, is the most common processing method for making the leap from a green leaf to a white powder. (18)
Liquid stevia is technically a tincture made from plant leaves, so it may be more acceptable to some; it’s often suspended and preserved in alcohol, but water-based tinctures are also available. (19)
Read labels for products containing stevia so you’ll know exactly what you’re buying.
Stevia is an all-natural sugar substitute that has no documented side effects. It’s great news for people with a sweet tooth who are trying to cut down on their sugar consumption. In addition, the stevia plant contains compounds that have been associated with a number of health benefits, like lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. If you’re looking for an alternative to white sugar, stevia is one of the best bets you’ll find in today’s health food marketplace.