Stevia has emerged as one of refined sugar’s most popular arch-nemesis. But it is not all gusto! But is Stevia vegan? Well, it sure is.
But wait, there is much more to it! The world of stevia sweeteners (a boon for diabetics) is vast and diverse. And not stevia are equal. So, let us delve deep into the world of stevia!
Also, know that stevia sweetener comes from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana. These are predominantly found in Brazil and Paraguay. To begin with, you must understand that although stevia is extracted from a plant, the process and additives used by the brand make all the difference.
So, next time you see “natural” stevia mentioned on your food label, ensure that it is natural and not processed. Anyway, first things first, let us go on and understand more about stevia here.
Understanding the World of Stevia
As opposed to what many manufacturers and products might claim, most stevia available in the market at this point is not all that “natural”, as some claim. But, of course, its processing doesn’t use any animal products, so it is completely vegan.
But, as strict vegans, many of us also care about the environmental impact of a certain product or a certain practice in the industry. And that is why it is worth looking at how stevia is being processed currently.
So, what is stevia, to begin with? Many consider stevia sweetener as a magical substitute for sugar that is much sweeter than sugar but boasts much fewer calories. Didn’t we say “magical”? And stevia comes in many forms.
Let us learn more about the forms of stevia in this section here:
Forms of Stevia
So, stevia is available in three popular forms: leaf, liquid, and powder. Of course, every form differs in how the stevia plant is processed. Let us learn more here:
- Stevia Leaves
Pluck a leaf from the stevia plant, and you have some sweet stuff to chew on. This, of course, is the purest form of stevia consumption, and it doesn’t get more vegan than this.
However, it is not that practical. Firstly, it is extremely sweet. And secondly, how would you sweeten your food and beverages with it? This calls for some sort of processing of these leaves.
- Dried Stevia Leaves
Now, this form of stevia is the most natural (and again vegan) form of stevia that we can use to sweeten our foods and beverages. As the name suggests, the leaves have been dried and crushed to become soluble.
However, this is much more potent and sweeter than the fresh leaf. And yes, stevia has its licorice-like taste punctuated with a hint of spices (like ginger and nutmeg) singing in the background.
- Stevia Extract Powders (or Blends)
These processed powders are gaining traction and becoming popular “natural” sugar alternatives for health-conscious people. This powder is white and is extracted by processing stevia extract.
Various brands play around with the recipe and add additives while making these powders. That being said, the ingredients used are still all vegan and can support a plant-based diet.
- Stevia Concentrates
A stevia concentrate is a pure and unrefined extract from the stevia leaf. Mostly, this is extracted by creating a concentrate with whole stevia leaves and water.
This is again 100% plant-based and vegan. And this time, it is also natural and unrefined for a healthy lifestyle.
We can conclude this section by saying that no matter how questionable the additives in a particular form of stevia might look, all forms of stevia are 100% vegan for sure!
Additives in Stevia Powders
So we have concluded that not all stevia is equal, and potentially stevia powders are not the healthiest as well, let us understand why that is the case. We establish that by mentioning the kind of additives that manufactured stevia popularly contains.
When extracting stevia, steviol glycosides are extracted from the plant and then treated further to get rid of the natural bitterness of the plant. Often, the stevia blend powders contain very little stevia, which is further altered by methyl alcohol.
These are the common fillers or additives in stevia blends and powders by popular brands:
While these are vegan, they are certainly not the safest for human consumption and sustenance.
Vegan Stevia FAQs
There are so many weird additives in popular stevia sweeteners that you might be interested in knowing more about stevia. So, here are some FAQs answered for your perusal as well:
- What Popular Brands Are Selling Stevia?
Here is a quick list of the bestselling stevia products in the market right now:
- NuNaturals NuStevia White Stevia Powder
- NOW Foods BetterStevia Liquid
- SweetLeaf Natural Stevia Sweetener
- SweetLeaf Sweet Drops
And there are many more. But of course, you must also understand that natural stevia is not white, and anything else is processed!
- Can Stevia Blends Potentially Affect Our Health?
Additives can, of course, harm our health, but even raw stevia’s effects on our body are not well-researched yet. So, consuming raw stevia can also potentially cause kidney failure, increased blood pressure, and affect the reproductive system.
- What Are Some Benefits of Stevia?
Yes, we must not always just concentrate on the potential issues with a product. Stevia, in general, is safe and also boasts quite a few health benefits like:
- Great for a no-calorie diet
- 100% vegan
- Boon for people with diabetes
And we can just go and on….
Sure, stevia is vegan, but it might not be the healthiest alternative to sugar, as some might assume.
Most vegan stevia available in the market today contains additives to enhance flavor and quantity. While these additives are vegan, they are not for the health-conscious.
If you’re willing to buy stevia, ensure that you buy it in its unrefined and pure form.