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What is Stevia? Stevia is of the Composite family, related to lettuce, marigold and chicory. It was "Officially" discovered in the late 19th century by Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni. He was given samples of the plant and he reported that "one small piece of the leaf will keep the mouth sweet for an hour". He named the plant Stevia Rebuadiani Bertoni in honor of a Paraguayan chemist name Rebaudi. Bertoni found that the Guarani Indians had been using the leaves of the plant to sweeten bitter teas and as a sweet treat.

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Is Stevia Safe? Stevia has been used since pre-Colombian times with no reports of ill side affects. Stevia has also withstood years of research that has proven Stevia to be safe for human and animal consumption.

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I have heard that stevia has side effects?

* Toxic? – No. Stevia has been used in Japan since 1970 and there have been no reports of toxicity or other side effects. 
* Mutagenic? – No. The Japanese Food and Drug Safety Center has found stevia not to be mutagenic. Only one study has shown stevia to be potentially a mutagenic and this study has been criticized for errors in procedure. Scientist in Great Britain said that according to the study’s formula, distilled water is mutagenic.
* A contraceptive? Two studies showed stevia to have a contraceptive effect. The first study was done in Uruguay over 30 years ago and since then no one has been able to reproduce the results. The second study was done by a graduate student in Rio de Janeiro and the results and methods have been questionable. Multiple other studies have shown that stevia has no contraceptive effect. 
* Is Stevia Safe? Absolutely. Stevia has been used around the world with NO reports of stevia overdose or toxicity to humans in the past forty years. 

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What are the benefits of Using Stevia? Studies have shown the following benefits from using Stevia in one's diet. These benefits have not been approved or confirmed by the FDA.

* Sugarless with no calories 
* Will not effect blood sugar levels like sugar does. 
* 100% Natural 
* 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar
* Heat stable to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit) 
* Non-fermentable 
* Flavor enhancer 
* Plaque retardant Anti-caries (prevents cavities) 
* Recommended for diabetics 
* Non-toxic Extensively tested in animals and Extensively used by humans with no adverse effects.

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Where is Stevia Grown? Originally stevia grew wild in the highland region of Northern Paraguay and Southern Brazil. It was later cultivated for use as a sweetener until the introduction of sugar cane by the Spanish and Portuguese. Today Stevia is grown around the world from China, Japan and other Asian countries to South America, Europe, India, the Ukraine and even North America.

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What are the types or forms of Stevia?

Types of Stevia:

- Stevia Leaves

* Fresh Leaves – Most pure form. 8 – 12% sweet glycosides : 5-8% Steviosides and 1-2% Rebaudioside A. 
* Dried Leaves – Dried form of the fresh leaves. Used in brewing herbal teas and for making liquid extracts. 
* Tea Cut Leaves – Cut into small pieces and sifted to remove twigs and other unwanted matter. 
* Ground Leaves (Powder) - The dried leaves ground into a fine powder. Usually about 10 – 15 times sweeter than sugar. Used in teas and cooking but does not dissolve. 

- Liquid Extracts

* Dark – A concentrated syrup derived from the dried leaves. Usually in a water and alcohol base. Sweetness varies between manufacturers. This form will offer the greater amount of benefits from the stevia plant. 
* Clear – A solution of powdered steviosides dissolved in water, alcohol or glycerin. 

- Powdered Extracts (STEVIOSIDES)

* 40 – 50% Sweet Glycosides – The processed form of the leaves to concentrate on the sweet glycosides by removing unwanted plant matter. An off white powder. Commonly referred to as "Stevioside". 
* 80 – 95% Sweet Glycosides - The processed form of the leaves to concentrate on the sweet glycosides by removing unwanted plant matter. An off white powder. This powder is 200 – 300 times sweeter than sugar. Quality of the powder depends on purity of the glycosides (i.e. 80 – 95% pure) and the ratio of Rebaudioside A over Stevioside. The higher the ratio, the better the product. Commonly referred to as "Stevioside". 

- Other Forms (STEVIA BLENDS)

* Due to the great strength of the Powdered Extracts, it is common to add a filler to "tone" down the strength so that the Stevioside is easier to use and more palatable. These fillers are usually some form of non-sweet food additive that has little to no nutritive value such as lactose or maltodextrin. 

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Does Stevia have the same qualities as sugar in cooking recipes? No! The molecular structures of sucrose and Stevioside are completely different. Sucrose (Sugar) when heated will caramelize making such delights as cookies, fudge and ... caramel, a possibility. Stevia will not. Some sweets, like caramel, is not possible, yet, but other sweets like cookies and fudge are possible if you can figure out how.

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Will Stevia break down at high temperatures like saccrines or aspartame? No! The fact that stevia is heat stable is one of the real great properties of Stevia. Stevioside is heat stable to about 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit). So it can be used in almost any recipe.

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Will Stevia act as a "fuel" for yeast in baking as sugar does? No! Stevia is non-fermentable and therefore will not act as a food source for yeast. (This is why stevia is great for anyone suffering from Candida!) Breads will still rise when baked but just not as big.

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Why is Stevia just coming onto the market? Stevia has been around for a long time, even in the United States. Early studies on stevia go back to the 1950's but the United States is a nation chin deep in bureaucracy, dirty-politics and corruption. In the 1950's the sugar industry fought to prevent the use of Stevia in the United States. Today, the manufacturers of Nutrasweet (aspartame) have practically bought the FDA to prevent it's approval as a food additive and therefore a sugar substitute. If you don't believe me, contact 60 Minutes of CBS. In the Spring of 1997 they aired a report on how Nutrasweet "bought" influence with the FDA to force the approval of a sweetener that is now blamed for the illnesses and deaths of thousands of Americans.

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Why does Stevia cost so much? There are many reasons actually. 1) Stevia is a plant that has to be cultivated before it can be used as a sweetener. This requires large investments of capital to buy plants, farms, equipment, etc. to grow and harvest the plants. There is also the expense of the equipment to process the leaves into the pure stevioside. 2) When compared to sugar and the artificial sweeteners, yes, it is expensive. Stevia is not widely cultivated like sugar is. Sugar is also a very expensive product to grow and process but with hundreds of countries growing and processing sugar, economics becomes a major factor in price. As for the chemical sweeteners, face facts, its nothing but a blend of cheap chemicals. That is why it is so profitable. 3) There are also some people in this business (stevia business) that either have inefficient and expensive suppliers or they are actually (yes I know this is hard to believe) overpricing for the sake of money. They sell low quality stevia and/or they sell stevia using tricky and even confusing marketing practices.

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How come diet soft drinks are not sweetened with Stevia? The answer is simple: Money! The diet soft drink market is HUGH, worth billions of dollars and the manufacturer of Nutrasweet is not about to share that market. So the armies of lobbyist were called in to make sure the FDA did not allow the use of Stevia as a food ingredient thereby protecting their market. Nutrasweet has a patent on aspartame and that patent guarantees big profits where Stevia is a natural plant that can be grown by anyone and everyone.

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Does Stevia have any effect on hypoglycemia? According to the report Effect of the Stevioside and of the aqueous extract of Stevia Rebaudiana (BERT) Bertoni on the glycemia of normal and diabetic rats By: Professor Carlos Eduardo Pinheiro, Presented to the II Brazilian Convention on Stevia rebaudiana (Bert) Bertoni - September 1982, they found that the use of Stevia did not produce any significant glycemic effects in normal or diabetic rats. In other words, stevia does not add sugar to the blood stream as sugar or even fruit can do. This allows the body to regulate the blood's sugar levels naturally. Of course if you drink tea with stevia with a twinkie, all bets are off but if you are careful with your diet, stevia is a wonderful way to satisfy your cravings for sweets without sugar.

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