Stevia is an intensely sweet-tasting plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century.
The plant is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in Japan and China. It is used as a non-nutritive sweetener and herbal supplement.
A non-nutritive sweetener is one that contains little to no calories. Stevia is used as a healthful alternative to added sugar in many meals and beverages.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the marketing of stevia as a food additive in 1987. However, stevia regained its status as a sweet, sustainable dietary ingredient in 1995. The sweetener has since soared in popularity, with a 58 percent boost in new products that contain stevia.
This breakdown looks at the characteristics, uses, health benefits, and side effects of stevia, as well as considering its overall safety.
Fast facts on stevia
- Stevia is primarily grown in Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, and China.
- The natural sweetener tastes 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.
- Stevia can be classified as “zero-calorie,” because the calories per serving are so low.
- It has shown potential health benefits as a healthful sugar alternative for people with diabetes.
- Stevia and erythritol that have been approved for use in the United States (U.S.) and do not appear to pose any health risks when used in moderation.