A bushy shrub belonging to the sunflower family, stevia is also known as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. All 150 of the stevia species are indigenous to North and South America.
At the moment, China is the main exporter of stevia products. However, stevia is currently made in numerous nations. Garden centers frequently sell the plant for home growth.
In comparison to ordinary sugar, stevia is 200–300 times sweeter. To supply the same amount of sweetness as other common sweeteners, it often needs 20% less land and a lot less water.
There are eight glycosides in stevia. These are the sweet substances that have been extracted and refined from stevia leaves. These glycosides consist of Reliable Sources:
- A, C, D, E, and F of the Rebaudiosides
- substance A
The most common of these ingredients are stevioside and rebaudioside A (reb A).
Throughout this text, we will refer to both steviol glycosides and reb-A as “stevia”.
These are extracted by collecting the leaves, drying them, extracting the water, and purifying it. Prior to being bleached or decolored, crude stevia, the processed product, frequently has an unpleasant taste and odor. The final stevia extract is produced after about 40 processes.
Stevioside can be found in stevia leaves in amounts up to about 18%.
Quick stevia facts
- Brazil, Paraguay, Japan, and China are the main growing countries for stevia.
- Compared to ordinary sugar, the natural sweetener tastes 200–300 times sweeter.
- Because there are so few calories in each serving, stevia can be categorized as “zero-calorie.”
- It has demonstrated potential health advantages as a healthy sugar substitute for diabetics.
- When used in moderation, the ingredients erythritol and stevia, which have been authorized for use in the United States (U.S.), don’t seem to cause any health hazards.
Stevia sweeteners are marketed under several trade names, including:
- Stevia can
- Stevia Extract Straight Up
Potential health advantages
Using stevia as a sweetener has the potential to have significant health advantages over sucrose or table sugar.
On the FoodData Central (FDC)Trusted Source, stevia is listed as “no-calorie.” Although stevia may not precisely have no calories, it has a calorie content that is lower than sucrose and low enough to be considered zero.
Stevia sweeteners naturally include sweet-tasting ingredients. People who enjoy foods and beverages with natural sources may profit from this trait. Stevia is a healthy substitute for managing diabetes or losing weight due to its low-calorie content.
Here are a few potential stevia health advantages.
Stevia sweeteners don’t add calories or carbohydrates to the diet, according to research. Additionally, they haven’t shown any impact on insulin responsiveness or blood sugar levels. This enables diabetics to follow a healthy diet plan and consume a larger variety of foods.
Another evaluation evaluated the impact of stevia and placebos on metabolic outcomes in five randomized controlled studies. Read more about stevia had little to no impact on body weight, blood pressure, insulin levels, and blood glucose.
In one of these investigations, participants with type 2 diabetes reported that stevia caused appreciable drops in post-meal blood glucose and glucagon levels. A hormone called glucagon controls blood glucose levels, and persons with diabetes frequently have problems with the mechanism that releases glucagon.
When blood sugar levels rise, glucagon levels fall. The glucose level is controlled by this.
2) Controlling weight
Overweight and obesity have a variety of reasons, including physical inactivity and a rise in the consumption of foods that are rich in calories, fat, and added sugars.
It has been determined that an average of 16% of the calories consumed in the American diet come from added sugars. Weight gain and worse blood glucose management have both been connected to this trusted Source.
Stevia has very few, if any, calories and no sugar. It can assist in lowering energy intake without compromising taste by being a component of a well-balanced diet.
3) Breast cancer
Kaempferol is one of the several sterols and antioxidant substances found in stevia.
According to studies, kaempferol can cut the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%.
It has been discovered that certain glycosides in stevia extract can widen blood arteries. They may also enhance urine production and salt excretion.
Stevia may help decrease blood pressure, according to a 2003 study. According to the study, the stevia plant may have cardiotonic properties. Normal blood pressure and heartbeat are achieved through cardiotonic activities.
Stevia does not appear to affect blood pressure, according to more recent studies. This benefit of stevia has to be further investigated.
5) Diets for kids
Stevia-containing foods and drinks can help children’s diets by reducing the calories from undesirable sweeteners.
Thousands of items, from salad dressings to snack bars, are now available on the market that includes stevia that is derived naturally. This accessibility enables kids to enjoy sweet foods and beverages while adjusting to a lower-sugar diet without consuming extra calories.
Obesity and cardiovascular disease are associated with eating too many calories and sweets.
In order to ascertain whether there was any reason for worry regarding the potential for allergic reactions to stevia, the European Food Safety Committee (EFSA) evaluated the available research in 2010.
“Steviol glycosides are not reactive and are not converted to reactive chemicals, therefore, it is unlikely that the steviol glycosides under study could produce by themselves allergic reactions when taken in meals,” the reviewers wrote in their conclusion.
It is quite improbable that stevia extract, even in its most pure form, will result in an allergic reaction. Since 2008, there have been no reports of adverse reactions to stevia.
Stevia side effects
According to safety studies, stevia extract has no negative side effects.
Whole leaf stevia is less generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration than refined steviol glycosides, which can be added to foods. The stevia plant, on the other hand, can be cultivated at home, and there are numerous uses for the leaves.
Stevia was first believed to be harmful to kidney health. Since then, a study on rats reveals that stevia leaves in supplement form may alternatively have properties that safeguard the kidneys and lessen the effects of diabetes.
Additionally, according to recent studies, it is safe to drink the recommended dosage of sugar substitute—or less—while expecting.
Sugar alcohol is also present in some stevia products. Although one form of sugar alcohol, erythritol, poses less risk of symptoms than others, people who are sensitive to it may develop bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
Stevia won’t have any negative effects as long as it is ingested in moderation and is well purified.
The usage of stevia
In the United States, stevia sweeteners are typically used as sugar alternatives in table sugar products and low-calorie beverages.
Since the middle of the 1990s, nutritional supplements made from stevia leaf extracts have been sold in the United States, and many of them combine its sweet and non-sweet elements.
Stevia sweeteners contain naturally-occurring sweet ingredients. Customers that favor meals and beverages that they consider as natural may profit even more from this.
Currently, stevia is a component in more than 5,000 food and beverage products throughout the world. Products all around Asia and South America, employ stevia sweeteners as an ingredient.
- Ice Cream
- Preserving foods
- Soft beverages
- Chewing gum
- Cooked veggies
What dangers exist?
In 1991, the FDA declined to approve stevia as a food additive or as a sweetener. However, the FDA designated the stevia extracts as GRAS in 2008, following the development and patenting of the purification method by Coca-Cola.
The general public, including kids, can safely consume high-purity stevia extract at the recommended quantities, according to multiple international regulatory authorities. A 4 milligrams per kilogram Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been set by governing bodies (kg).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the FDA are some of these organizations.
Acute toxicity research on stevioside revealed that it is not harmful. Numerous laboratory animals were employed in these experiments. There have been no significant warnings, contraindications, or negative responses reported.
Stevia sweeteners are safe for use by people with diabetes since they meet the purity standards for steviol glycosides set by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
High-purity stevia extracts are used in the majority of stevia research studies. Some older studies substituted low-purity stevia extracts with high-purity extracts, which distorted the availability of reliable data.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the FDA, is in charge of overseeing the stevia plant (USDA). The FDA has not given the stevia plant a GRAS designation, however, this does not imply that it is intrinsically harmful.
In fact, as it has been for millennia in other nations, the plant may be acquired from a variety of gardening sources in the US, grown at home, and consumed in a variety of ways.
Before they can be verified, the purported health advantages of stevia need more research. Be assured, though, that stevia is safe to eat and makes a great substitute for sugar when you need an extra sweetening boost.