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Compounds in stevia can do more than just sweeten.
In just a few years, stevia has gone from a relatively unheard of plant to one of today’s most popular zero-calorie sweeteners. It’s considerably sweeter than table sugar, and bitter off notes that are present in the natural sweetness can be reduced through breeding and extraction. A lot of manufacturers know stevia’s sweetness story by now, but experts in the stevia supply business are just beginning to unravel the other side of it: stevia’s nutritional benefits.
Aside from steviol glycosides, which make stevia sweet, other compounds are active in the plant and active in the raw material for which stevia is sold as a sweetener today. “They’re not all done away with in the extraction process, but they are lessened quite a bit,” says Michael May, PhD, vice president of business development for Wisdom Natural Brands, the parent company of stevia supplier SweetLeaf.
A variety of polyphenols are especially noticeable in stevia, and they could have antioxidant and even antibiotic uses-and if these kinds of benefits are what you want with stevia, it’s worth looking at different species of stevia. The Stevia rebaudiana used exclusively in today’s sweetening market does not take into consideration the potential uses of other stevia species that still grow today. Stevia suppliers are already investigating them, and we could have exciting updates in a few years.
While it may be a long time before brands turn to stevia for nutritional purposes specifically, Wisdom Natural Brands represents at least one stevia company with an active interest here. Just look at its stevia tea.
Nutritional Outlook magazine
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