Is Stevia a safe alternative to common sugar?

Refined sugar is extremely harmful (read more). Are you looking for healthy natural alternatives to sugar? There are many low-calorie sweeteners in the market, but most of them are artificial. However, there are some natural sweeteners available that taste just as good. One of these is Stevia, which is an all-natural, zero calorie sweetener with a number of additional health benefits.

What is Stevia?

Stevia is a green, leafy plant of South American origin. It has been used in South and Central America, Japan, and many other parts of the world as a sugar alternative and in the treatment of several health conditions for centuries. Almost all the parts of the plant taste sweet, though, the sweet glycosides are concentrated in its leaves. Originally these leaves were eaten fresh or dried, but finally chemists isolated the glycosides called stevioside and rebaudioside from its leaves, that give stevia its sweet taste. These steviol glycosides are now used in herbal supplements, foods and beverages, and as sweetening powders and syrups

Besides, being hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar, stevia extracts are heat stable, pH stable and not fermentable, thus, giving them a longer shelf life.

The stevia plant has huge health benefits aside from its sweetening property. It is believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-glycemic, and anti-hypertensive properties.

Helps fight diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is currently one of the biggest health problems in the world. Stevia does not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet, and does not affect blood glucose or insulin response, which allows people with diabetes to consume a wider variety of foods. Steviol glycosides are not metabolized by the body and are excreted in the urine without getting accumulated in the body. Furthermore, stevia contains chlorogenic acid, that lessens the enzymatic conversion of glycogen to glucose in addition to declining absorption of glucose in the gut. These actions help to reduce the blood sugar levels.

Controls weight

The causes of overweight and obesity include factors such as physical inactivity, prolonged sitting, and increased consumption of foods that are high in fat and added sugar. Stevia, a zero calorie and all-natural sweetener, can help reduce your intake of sugar without sacrificing taste. The anti-glycemic activity of stevia helps to control blood glucose levels which is one of the primary reasons of weight gain. Moreover, stevia may inhibit the craving for sweet, oily, or fatty foods.

Lowers blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for many severe disorders such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Stevia may have cardiotonic actions that regularize blood pressure and regulate heartbeat. Certain glycosides in stevia have been found to dilate blood vessels, raise sodium excretion, and urine output. Stevioside, one of the glycosides, taken in large doses, can lower blood pressure when it is unusually high.

Improves oral health

Being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, stevia does not favour the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth which is attributed to be a causative agent of dental caries and tooth cavities. The antibacterial properties present in stevia may assist with gingivitis, cavities, tooth decay and mouth sores. It may also reduce the development of plaque and enhance overall oral health.

Reduces risk of pancreatic cancer

Stevia plant has numerous sterols and antioxidant compounds such as kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin, and isosteviol etc. Studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of Pancreatic cancer by 23%.

Nutrients

Stevia leaves contain phytonutrients, volatile oils, trace elements, and numerous vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, rutin, zinc, magnesium, and iron, which give stevia its nutritional and medicinal properties. It is also rich in antioxidants, that help protect the body from free-radical damage as a result of metabolic and environmental factors.

According to the WHO, it is safe to consume up to 4 mg per kg of body weight per day, of steviol glycosides. However, don’t get carried away by the excitement of a zero calorie, 100% natural sweetener. Keep in mind, anything in moderation, including real cane sugar, is an acceptable part of a balanced diet.

Stevia, the king of sweeteners. Enjoy the sweet taste and gain significant health benefits!