Stevia is a plant. Truvia is a product. Stevia is grown. Truvia is manufactured. Stevia is a green plant. Truvia is in a green box. Stevia is a leaf. Truvia has a leaf on the box. Stevia is a sweet plant leaf. Truvia is an artificial sweetener. The word Stevia cannot be owned, patented or trademarked any more than the word lettuce can be owned, patented or trademarked. Truvia is owned, patented and trademarked. Enough said, but read on anyway.
The stevia plant is native to South and Central America but is also cultivated in other areas such as Asia. It has a long history of culinary and medicinal use by the indigenous people of Paraguay, with no known adverse effects. However, the Food and Drug Administration has only recently approved powdered and liquid stevia leaf extract for use as a sugar alternative in the U.S. As of 2010, the FDA doesn’t yet permit whole-leaf stevia or crude extracts to be used as additives in processed foods. Stevia’s advocates claim it has many health benefits. The leaves are reputed to be twice as sweet as table sugar. The sweet taste is attributed to a synergistic effect of various compounds classified as rebaudiosides and steviosides. Some people detect an aftertaste, or faint licorice-like bitterness to whole stevia, but not to purified rebiana, which is reputed to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. As a naturally grown plant, whole stevia leaves cannot be patented nor can its name be trademarked.
Using the highly refined extracts from the stevia leaf as a zero-calorie, 100 percent natural sweetener can help reduce your intake of sugar. Stevia is actually 300 times sweeter than regular sugar with a minimal aftertaste, yet it is suitable for sugar-sensitive people, such as diabetics. Stevia will not cause cavities and is heat-resistant enough for use in baking and cooking, according to the 2005 book, “Dr. Gillian McKeith’s Living Food for Health. Refined, simple sugars are a leading cause of obesity in the U.S., according to KidsHealth, and substituting other noncaloric sweeteners for table sugar can promote weight loss and maintenance.
Naturopath Mark Stengler says in his book, “The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies,” that stevia can help regulate blood-sugar levels and has long been used in South America as a hypoglycemic aid for diabetics. Stevia may also help in lowering high blood pressure but won’t lower normal blood pressure levels. This plant may also curb sugar, tobacco and alcohol cravings.
Stevia leaves contain various vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and A, rutin, zinc, magnesium and iron, according to Dr. Sanjeev Gupta in the book “Kick Your Sugar Habit.” The stevia leaf is also rich in antioxidants, which helps to safeguard the body from free-radical damage as a result of metabolic and environmental factors. A particular enzyme present in the leaf, called superoxide dismutast, may also help to inhibit cancer cell growth, although further research is needed.
Truvia is marketed by Cargill Inc. The ingredients listed on the label are erythritol, stevia leaf extract and natural flavors. Labeling law dictates that ingredients be listed in descending order according to weight. According to the Nutrition Facts label, one serving of Truvia is 3.5 grams, and a serving contains three grams of erythritol which leaves less than 0.5 grams of stevia once you account for the added natural flavors. Truvia is made with purified and isolated ingredients, so its formulations can be patented. The name Truvia is trademarked.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol — other well-known sugar alcohols are sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol. Tiny quantities of sugar alcohols are found naturally in various fruits. Their chemical formulas can be duplicated in the lab, and they are commonly used as alternative “natural” sweeteners in candy, gum and other products. Their benefit is that they are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract; therefore, their caloric contribution is less than sugar. The downside to their poor absorption, however, is the possible side effect of bloating and diarrhea, and some people have reported cramping and loose stool after consuming erythritol in which case, some people who may have a limit to how much they can consume or completely avoid this sugar alcohol.
NOTE: Not all Stevia is created equal. Do your research. Read the ingredients. Know the difference.