Gardening Aug 12, 2020
Stevia, also known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, is a bushy shrub that is part of the sunflower family.
The plant is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in Japan and India. It is used as a non-nutritive sweetener and herbal supplement.
Stevia contains eight glycosides. These are the sweet components isolated and purified from the leaves of stevia. These glycosides include:
- Rebaudiosides A, C, D, E, and F
- Dulcoside A
These are extracted through a process of harvesting the leaves.
Some of the common trade names for stevia sweeteners are:
As an alternative to sucrose, or table sugar, using stevia as a 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.
The sweet-tasting components in stevia sweeteners occur naturally. This characteristic may benefit people who prefer naturally-sourced foods and beverages. The low calorie count qualifies Stevia to be a healthful alternative for diabetes control or weight loss.
Here are some of the health benefits of stevia.
Research has shown that stevia sweeteners do not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet. They have also demonstrated no effect on blood glucose or insulin response. This allows people with diabetes to eat a wider variety of foods.
2) Weight control
There are many causes of overweight and obesity, such as physical inactivity and increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and added sugars.
Stevia contains no sugar and very few, if any, calories. It can be part of a well-balanced diet to help reduce energy intake without sacrificing taste.
3) Pancreatic cancer
Stevia contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol.
4) Blood pressure
Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels. They can also increase sodium excretion and urine output.
Stevia could potentially help lower blood pressure. The study suggested that the stevia plant might have cardio tonic actions. Cardio tonic actions normalize blood pressure and regulate the heartbeat.
5) Children’s diets
Foods and beverages containing stevia can play an important role in decreasing calories from unwanted sweeteners in the diets of children.
In the U.S. stevia sweeteners are primarily found in table sugar products and reduced calorie beverages as sugar substitutes.
Extracts from the stevia leaf have been available as dietary supplements in contain a mixture of both sweet and non-sweet components of the stevia leaf.
The sweet components in stevia sweeteners are naturally occurring. This may further benefit consumers who prefer foods and beverages they perceive as natural.
Worldwide, more than 5,000 food and beverage products currently use stevia as an ingredient. Stevia sweeteners are used as an ingredient in products throughout Asia and South America such as:
- ice cream
- pickled foods
- soft drinks
- chewing gum
- Prepared vegetables.
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