The Ultimate Guide to Stevia Leaf: Origins and Health Benefits

The health impacts of sugar have been widely known now for decades. As scientists have uncovered the health hazards linked to a high sugar diet, it brought on a wave of new sweetening alternatives...

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin seemed like the ideal solution. But their artificial origins and links to health conditions left a lot to be desired...

Saccharin was discovered by scientists working with coal tar derivatives... and aspartame has recently been upgraded by the WHO as a possible carcinogenic.


Luckily there are some natural alternatives!

You may be familiar with the name stevia as a sugar-alternative, but what exactly is it? Is stevia safe? Where does it come from? Is it really the healthiest sugar-alternative?

Below we take a mini deep dive into the world of stevia to give you an overview of the sweet stuff. From its origin story, interwoven into the history and culture of an indigenous tribe in Brazil and Paraguay, to its benefits and how it's made.


What is stevia?

To start off simple and sweet, stevia is a plant (Stevia rebaudiana). It’s a 100% natural, plant-based sweetener.

It’s a member of the sunflower and daisy family (Asteraceae). And is also occasionally referred to by the name ‘candyleaf’!

Known for its sweet leaves, the name stevia has become synonymous with the branded sweeteners it creates, but ultimately, stevia is the name of the plant.


Where does stevia come from?

Stevia wasn’t discovered by scientists playing around with chemicals in a lab… (like aspartame!) its history is actually deeply rooted in indigenous culture.

Stevia plants are native to parts of South America. And it’s a plant that was first used by the Guarani people (indigenous peoples of parts of Paraguay and Brazil). Known locally as ‘ka’a he’e’, it has been used in recipes and medicines for centuries, including as a sweetener in herbal teas.

European botanists and chemists who travelled to South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s came across the plant, and discovered that its sweetness was caused by molecules now known as ‘steviol glycosides’.

An image with text that reads, "Stevia was first used by the Guarani people of paraguay and brazil. It’s known by the name ka’a he’e."


How is stevia made and processed?

Steviol glycosides are usually extracted by crushing the leaves and soaking them in water. Through a process of purification and evaporation, the solution is refined to isolate the steviol glycosides.

Stevia plants are now commercially grown and processed around the world to extract this natural sweetener.


What does stevia taste like?

Stevia is considered to be up 300 times sweeter than sugar, so it definitely hits the sweet spot! Narrowing down the taste even further, some people think it has a slightly bitter aftertaste, others liken it to a very mild peppermint flavour.

The temporal sweetness profile of stevia doesn’t register on our taste buds as quickly as sugar (no other sweetener can match it!). So it’s often paired with another sweetening ingredient…


Stevia and erythritol 

In Jamu Wild Water, we pair stevia with erythritol, another naturally-occurring sweetener (from algae!), which helps to balance out its flavour.


Stevia vs Sugar

So, why is stevia a sugar-alternative. How does it compare? And why is it better for you?

When comparing stevia vs sugar, it’s important to understand exactly why an alternative is necessary.

So what’s all the fuss about sugar?

We all know that too much sugar is bad for our bodies. Eating too much free sugar can lead to dental issues as bacteria in our mouth feeds on sugar and creates an acid that erodes our enamel. It can also cause weight gain and lead to serious conditions like cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.


So how does stevia affect the body?

Unlike sugar, stevia contains little to no calories, so it won’t cause excess weight gain. Plus, as it isn’t broken down by the bacteria in our mouth, it's a much healthier option for our teeth too.

Steviol glycosides pass through the mouth, stomach and small intestine, and are eventually broken down by bacteria in our large intestine. They are then processed by our liver and excreted in urine. No hanging around or being stored as fat!


Stevia and blood sugar levels…

As stevia contains only trace amounts of calories, it does not effect blood glucose or insulin levels. This makes stevia a great sweetening alternative for those with diabetes.

Stevia and keto

With little to no carbs or calories, stevia is also suitable for those following a keto diet!

A cut out image of a cluster of stevia leaves on a cream background with a pink circle with the text "zero calories".


Why we use Stevia in Jamu Wild Water

Here's a summary of the benefits of using stevia, and the reasons behind why you'll find it on the Jamu Wild Water nutritional label!


Stevia is 100% natural

Nature does it best. Stevia is plant-based and naturally occurring, unlike artificial, lab created sweeteners that may have carcinogenic tendencies. As a natural sweetener, stevia can also contain trace amounts of micronutrients too!

It’s better for your teeth!

Unlike sugar, stevia is much better for your dental health!

It has low to zero calories

Because stevia is so sweet, very small amounts are needed to sweeten our drinks. This is why stevia contributes almost zero calories to Jamu Wild Water! This makes stevia one of the healthiest, natural sugar alternatives.


Of course Jamu Wild Water wasn’t just created to be healthy… we also wanted our drinks to be nourishing too.

Find out more about the botanical ingredients used in Jamu, from gut-friendly prebiotic fibre from chicory roots that can aid digestion, to anti-oxidant rich echinacea flowers and elderberries!

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