Stevia is a herbal sweetener that has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of Paraguay not only for sweetening. The green leaves of the stevia plant have a very high sweetness and many vital substances, they are therefore referred to by the Guarani Indians as ka’a he’ẽ, sweet herb and also used as a medicinal herb.
The origin of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant lies in South America, especially in Paraguay and Brazil. There it has been used for centuries as a sweet plant to sweeten drinks, food and even mate and tea.
Today Stevia is cultivated all over the world where the climatic conditions are favorable. In Asia, the main growing areas today are China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. But also in Latin America in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay where Stevia extracts have been used in products for a long time.
In the leaves of the stevia plant, the sweetening components, the steviol glycosides are formed. The particularly sweet ingredients the rebaudioside A, rebaudioside D and rebaudioside M occur only in very small amounts in the leaves and are characterized by a good taste.
These have an up to 450-times sweeter compared to sugar (sucrose) and are characterized by a low physiological calorific value.
Sugar-free, reduced-calorie products are these days expected by many consumers, as they attach more and more importance to a health-oriented, sugar-reduced diet.