Stevia is a plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century. Stevia sweeteners are produced from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) plant, a herbal shrub found in South America.
It is native to Paraguay and Brazil, but it is now cultivated in Japan and China as well. It's commonly manufactured into non-nutritive sweeteners and herbal medicines. A non-nutritive sweetener is one that has little to no calories. In many dishes and beverages, stevia is a healthier substitute for added sugar. Stevia has fewer calories than sugar and, as a result, may assist in weight loss. It's a great sugar substitute for people on low-calorie or low-carb diets since it's calorie-free and carb-free. Unlike other zero-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, or saccharin, stevia isn't man made.
Stevia is a natural no-calorie sweetener that's often promoted as a safe and healthy sugar substitute for adding sweetness to meals without the negative health implications associated with refined sugar. It's also connected with a slew of significant health advantages, including weight loss, blood sugar levels, and the prevention of cavities.
Stevia does not have an exact number of zero calories, but it is considerably less calorific than sugar and low enough to be classified as such. The sweet components in stevia sweeteners are extracted from plants and are naturally occurring. This quality may be beneficial to individuals who prefer foods and beverages that are organically produced.
Where Does Stevia Come From?
A compound of the stevia plant is used to make the sugar substitute. Stevia rebaudiana, a native species from Brazil and Paraguay, has been utilized for hundreds of years to sweeten meals and treat burns and stomach pain. The sweetness of stevia comes from naturally occurring glycosides, which are extracted from the stevia leaves using a method that first boils the plant to obtain a crude extract.
Stevia sweeteners can be used in beverages (such as light or low-sugar juices, sodas, and flavored waters), condiments, dairy products, and other foods and syrups by food and beverage producers. Because stevia sweeteners are heat-stable, they can also be used in baked products.
Stevia sweeteners, like other no-calorie sweeteners, are extremely tasty. Stevia sweeteners have a potency ranging from 200 to 350 times that of sugar, which means only tiny amounts are required to compensate for the sweetness supplied by traditional sugar.
Stevia is known as a widespread product with the potential to be used in a broad range of applications. Its integration into common products has actually been found to be quite positive, with multiple health benefits being studied. Here are just a few of the potential health benefits associated with stevia.
Helpful To Those With Diabetes
According to scientific evidence, stevia sweeteners do not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet. They also haven't been linked to a decrease in blood sugar or insulin response. This allows diabetics to eat a wider range of foods and adhere to a healthy meal plan.
Assists In Weight Management
Stevia is a healthy alternative for diabetes management or weight reduction because of its low calorie content. Stevia can easily substitute sugar and is thus an effective way to reduce and manage weight. There are a variety of factors that contribute to overweight and obesity, including inactivity and an increase in calories from high-fat, high-sugar meals. Stevia contains no sugar and very few, if any, calories. It can be consumed as part of a healthy diet to help people reduce intake without sacrificing flavor.
Potential To Regulate Blood Pressure
Stevia extract contains a number of glycosides that have been found to dilate blood vessels. They can also boost sodium excretion and output in urine.
In a 2003 research, stevia was found to have the potential to help lower blood pressure. The stevia plant was postulated to have cardiotonic effects in the study. This refers to the potential to normalize blood pressure and regulate the heartbeat.
While some of these findings have been promising, it is important to note that further research is needed to confirm this specific benefit (1).
In 2010, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a literature review to determine whether there was any cause for concern about allergic reactions linked with stevia.
The experts found that steviol glycosides are not reactive and are not transformed into reactive compounds, therefore it is improbable that steviol glycosides alone cause allergic responses when consumed in food (2).
Even the most purified stevia extracts are extremely unlikely to induce an allergic response. Since 2008, there have been no reports of allergic reactions to stevia (3).
Why Choose Stevia?
Stevia sweeteners are natural, calorie-free sweeteners that can be used to replace table sugar. Stevia offers several benefits compared to other artificial and natural sweeteners. It is available in multiple forms (powdered extract, liquid or crystallized) for added portability. There are no known side effects of consuming stevia sweeteners.
It can be used in soups, teas, cooking and baking to enhance flavor without adding calories or carbohydrates. Stevia also has a low glycemic index value, which means it does not typically raise blood sugar levels after consumption. It is considered safe for use by diabetics and is more suitable than other natural sweeteners because it does not cause an increase in blood glucose levels.
In addition, stevia is a gluten-free and vegan product. Stevia is a low-impact crop that requires less land and fewer resources than sugarcane or corn to produce. Stevia extract is minimally refined when compared to refined sugarcane, and is thus considered a more sustainable option.
Stevia has no known side effects and appears to be a safe substitute for sugar. It is a great option for those who want a healthy alternative to table sugar (4). Stevia benefits include a low glycemic index value that does not contribute to increased blood glucose levels after consumption, being naturally calorie-free and allergy-friendly, and having a low impact on the environment.
For these reasons, stevia can be a safe and suitable substitute for sugar and is definitely something to look into if searching for upgrades from refined sugars (5).