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How Sweet It Is

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The plant-derived, zero-calorie sweetener stevia has been gaining in popularity since a form of it was approved as a food ingredient by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December. Although it had long been sold as a dietary supplement, stevia became available in selected soft drinks as a result of FDA approval. This coincided with major advertising campaigns to promote the stand-alone versions of the brands approved for use in food, Truvia and PureVia, which are sold in single-serving packets. Other brands available in packets include SweetLeaf, OnlySweet, and Stevia Extract In The Raw. With so many options on the supermarket shelf, people with diabetes are now less likely to view stevia with the confusion we noted in a blog entry just last year (“Stevia: A Sweetener Shrouded in Mystery and Debate“). Still, many of us have not yet tried the sweetener, for reasons that may include habit, safety concerns, or simple lack of interest.

But there may be another reason why some people don’t buy stevia: They’re not sure how it will taste. A recent article on the women’s Web magazine doubleX attempts to fill this gap, as well as provide a general introduction to stevia. To judge the taste of stevia, the author assembled six friends who frequently used zero-calorie sweeteners, including two with diabetes. The panel tasted a variety of stevia-sweetened beverages — from brands like Tropicana, Vitamin Water, and SoBe — and also tried several brands of stevia-based sweeteners in tea or coffee.

Overall, the panel found stevia disappointing, especially in the bottled beverages. Their main complaint, however, was that the drinks were too sweet — something that could presumably be controlled when using the sweetener at home. But most of the panel also noticed an unpleasant aftertaste even when the sweetness wasn’t overpowering, and only one member said she would switch to using stevia over Splenda as her coffee sweetener.

What do you think about stevia — are you interested in using it? If you have tried it, are you satisfied with its taste? Do you have safety concerns about stevia or other zero-calorie sweeteners? What is your favorite sweetener? Leave a comment below!

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