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I have recently heard about stevia. Is it safe to use?

stevia, artificial sweetener, sugar substitute Stevia is a sweetener that is growing in popularity.  Like many people, you may have questions about stevia.  What is stevia?  Is it safe to use? Read on to find answers to these questions. 

What is stevia? 

Stevia comes from the leaves of the stevia plant.  Stevia is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories. Stevia has a slightly bitter taste so it is often combined with sugar or other sweeteners like sugar alcohols and fructose in food. 

How is stevia sold? 

Stevia is sold as a liquid or powder tabletop sweetener in many grocery stores, speciality food stores and pharmacies. Stevia is also added to certain foods and drinks like snacks, yogurt, cereals and drinks. 

Is stevia safe? 

There are two types of stevia: Purified stevia extract and unrefined stevia extracts, leaves and powders.

Purified stevia extract  

Purified stevia extract (or stevia glycoside) is approved and regulated by Health Canada as a food additive (sweetener). This type of stevia is considered safe for children over 2 and adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, within the Acceptable Daily Intake guidelines.  This limit is set to 4mg/kg body weight per day. The amount of stevia that a person may consume in a day is typically well below what is considered safe.

Unrefined stevia extracts, leaves and powders 

These products are not regulated by Health Canada because they are considered food ingredients, not additives.  However, Health Canada has approved the use of stevia extracts, leaves and powders in some Natural Health Products (NHPs) as a medicinal and non-medicinal ingredient. Natural Health Products (NHPs) that contain stevia extracts, leaves or powders as a medicinal ingredient in amounts higher than the Acceptable Daily Intake may be unsafe for some people. Always talk to your doctor, dietitian or healthcare provider about any NHPs that you are taking or thinking about taking.

Bottom line 

Stevia is one of many sweeteners approved in Canada. If you use stevia or consume food and drinks that contain stevia, enjoy them in moderation along with other healthy foods.  Before using Natural Health Products, speak to your health care professional. If you have any questions about sweeteners, call EatRight Ontario to speak with a Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-5102 or send an email.

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Facts on artificial sweeteners

Last Update – October 18, 2017

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