Stevia is an intensely sweet-tasting plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century. The plant is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in Japan and China. It is used as a non-nutritive sweetener and herbal supplement.
A non-nutritive sweetener is one that contain little to no calories. Stevia is used as a healthful alternative to added sugar in many meals and beverages.
Stevia is primarily grown in Brazil, Paragauy, Japan and China.
The natural sweetener tastes 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar
Stevia can be classified as “ zero-calorie “, because the calories per serving are so low.
It has shown potential health benefits as a healthy sugar alternative for people with diabetes.
Stevia and erythitol that have been approved for use in the United States (U.S ) and donot appear to pose any health risks when used in moderation.
Stevia also known as Stevia rebaudiana is a bushy shrub that is part of the sunflower family. There are 150 species of Stevia, all native to North and South America.
China is the current leading exporter of stevia products. However, stevia is now produced in many countries . The plant can often be purchased at garden centers for home growing.
As stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, it typically requires about 20 percent of the land and far less water to provide the same amount of sweetness as other mainstream sweetneners.
Stevia contains 8 glycosides. These are the sweet components isolated and purified from the leaves of Stevia.
These glycosides include:
* rebaudiosides A, C, D, E & F
* dulcoside A
Stevioside and rebaudioside A ( reb A) are the most plentiful of these components. The term “ Stevia “ will be used to refer to Steviol glycosides and reb A throughout this article.
These are extracted through a process of harvesting the leaves, then drying, water extraction and purification . Crude stevia, the processed product before it is purified , often carries a bitter taste and foul smell until it is bleached.
It takes roughly 40 steps to process the final Stevia extract.
Stevia leaves contain stevioside in a range of concentration up to around 18 percent.
Possible health benefits of stevia
As an alternative to sucrose, or table sugar, stevia as sweetener carries the potential for considerable health benefits.
Stevia is considered “ no-calorie” on the Food Data Central (FDC). Stevia does not strictly contain zero calories, but it is significantly less calorific than sucrose and low enough to be classified as such.
The sweet -tasting components on stevia sweetener occurs naturally. This characteristics may benefit people who prefer naturally-sourced foods and beverages. The low calories count qualifies Stevia to be a healthful alternative for diabetes control or weight loss.
Research has shown Stevia sweeteners do not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet.
They have also demonstrated no effect on blood glucose or insulin response. Stevia thus alllows people with diabetes to eat a wider variety of foods and comply with a healthful meal plan.
Another review of five randomized controlled trial compared the effects of Stevia on metabolic outcomes with the effects of placebos. The study concluded that stevia showed minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin level, blood pressure and body weight.
In one of these studies according to the journal, subjects with type 2 diabetes reported that stevia triggered a significant reduction in blood glucose and glucagon response after meal.
Glucagon is a hormone that regulates glucose levels in the blood, and the mechanism that secretes glucagon is often faulty in people with diabetes.
Glucagon drops when blood glucose climbs. This regulates the glucose level.
Stevia is very low in Calories and is anywhere 40- 300 times sweeter than sugar. This means that people can eat foods like cakes , cookies, and candies made with stevia without worrying about gaining plenty of calories from sugar, so they won’t hurt their chances of successfully losing weight.
Regulates Blood Pressure
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Stevioside is a type of glycoside, but there are other glycosides or stevia that can actually relax the blood vessels, increase urination, and facilitate the elimination of Sodium from the body. This means that less stress is put on the cardiovascular system and there can be a drop in blood pressure, which protects heart health and prevents certain conditions such as atherosclerosis, heart attack and strokes.
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Stevia has also been found to be rich in antioxidant compounds which makes it an ideal dietary supplement for the prevention of various cancers including pancreatic cancer.
Quercetin, Kaempferol and other glycoside compounds in stevia are a form of antioxidants that help to eliminate free radicals in the body, thereby preventing mutating healthy cells into malignant ones.
5 ). Lower Cholesterol Levels
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Studies have also shown that consumption of stevia leads to significant reduction in bad ( LDL ) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and an increase in ( HDL) good cholesterol and is essential for good lipid profile.
6 ). Oral health
Steviol has been found to reduce bacterial formation in the mouth, making it a popular additive for toothpaste and mouthwashes. It also prevents cavities and gingivities, which sucrose certainly doesn’t do.
6 ) Stevia, unlike sugar, aids in increasing bone mineral density and treat osteoporosis.
How to Use Stevia
Stevia leaf, leaf powder or liquid form can be used directly as a sugar substitute in various forms:
*Beverages — Coffee and tea
* Diary products — Yoghurt and ice-cream
* Packed foods — pickles sauces, soft drinks and candies
* Baked products — bread, cakes and deserts.
It can also be used in cooking various dishes at home. However, it is important to check the amount before adding it as a substitute for sugar because it is many times sweeter than sugar.
Although, there are no major side effects of stevia, it is better to consume in moderation.
Some people may develop allergic reactions such as bloating, cramping as well as occasional dizziness or headaches after eating stevia. These cases are rare, and it remains a safe and beneficial sweetener and plant additive for people around the world.
Quick Facts about Differences between Stevia and Sugar
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Diets high in sugar have been linked to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to journals, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories a day form added sugar for women and 150 for men. Unfortunately, the typical American diet gets more than 355 calories of added sugar per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
On the other hand, Stevia has the potential of reducing this Caloric load.
Also, sugar or sucrose is extracted from sugar cane beets that have been mostly grown in tropical climates. The leaves of stevia plant contains substance called glycoside, that gives it its sweet flavor. Comparatively, Stevia is 30 times sweeter than sugar in its whole leaf form and almost 300 times sweeter once it has been refined.
One teaspoon of Sugar contains 15 calories in the form of carbohydrates and no other nutrient. This may sound modest, but sugar is very easy to overeat and its overconsumption has been linked to serious conditions including heart disease. On the other hand, stevia does not contain any calories and may have health- enhancing properties.
Stevia is also found to contain antioxidants, which are helpful for immune function and lowering inflammation.
Given that stevia is much sweeter than sugar, less is needed when using it as a sugar substitute . One teaspoon of stevia is needed when the recipe calls for a cup of sugar
Where can you get Stevia?
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The processed, refined and packaged Stevia can be bought off the shelves of every grocery stores, however, ensure you get medical approval before use as this article is mainly written based on series of researches from journal and personal experience with its consumption . Thus, this article takes no liability for any complaints arising from individual making claim to its directives arising herein.