What is Stevia?
Stevia is an extremely sweet-tasting plant used since ages in making tea and sweetened beverages. Stevia, also known as Stevia rebaudiana became quite popular in the 16th century as a natural sweetener.
The plant originally had its roots in Paraguay and Brazil. Now East-Asian countries such as China and Japan also have started its procurement.
How is Stevia Made?
Making stevia sweeteners includes two stages –
- First is stevia glycosides from the stevia plant’s leaves.
- The second step includes cleansing the extract to remove some of the crude extract’s bitter elements.
Where Can I Use Stevia?
Other than beverages, Stevia is also used in foods like soft drinks, juices, dairy products, canned fruits and syrups.
As they are pretty stable at very high temperatures, stevia sweeteners can be used in baked goods.
However, food with stevia sweeteners may be somewhat different in appearance, texture and taste than the same food made with sugar, as sugar also contributes towards the structure and texture of foods.
Difference Between Stevia and Sugar
First of all, let us get it cleared that both stevia and sugar are plant products. Stevia sweeteners are made from the leaves of stevia. In contrast, sugar comes from processed Saccharum officinarum, which is commonly known as Sugarcane.
The primary difference between Stevia and sugar is that Stevia contains very low carbs as compared to sugar. The products made from the Stevia plant can have calories as low as zero.
Even though Stevia is 100-200 times sweeter than table sugar, it has a bitter after-taste. Most of the websites and Stevia selling companies might not want you to know this fact.
Stevia – Dosage and Side Effects
Dosage – How Much Stevia is Okay To Consume?
The apt dose of stevia depends on several factors such as the person’s age, health conditions and daily routine. Never forget that natural products are not always safe and intake amounts are quite implicative. Always consult your pharmacist or physician before making it a part of your daily diet.
Regulatory agencies like the FDA and the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), state that the suitable daily intake of steviol glycosides is between 1.6 mg to 1.8 mg per pound of body weight (4 mg per kg). Kids and healthy adults can certainly consume this much amount of stevia.
Even though there is no clear evidence that stevia consumption can have negative impacts during pregnancy, pregnant ladies should consume stevia products in limited amount and very carefully.
Side Effects of Stevia
Before speaking of the benefits, let us run through its side effects first. Stevia is considered a diuretic, which means that it surges the body’s speed to discard water and electrolytes from the body.
This process could cause some damage to the liver as it does a lot more work than usual.
People with low blood sugar levels can be greatly affected due to the excessive use of stevia. As the stevia used in our day-to-day life contains a minimal amount of carbs, it could lead to severe hypoglycemia.
Other than this, heavy stevia consumption can lead to health issues such as low blood pressure, bloating, nausea and peculiar muscle pains. Some people have also reported feelings of dizziness and numbness.
Benefits – Why Switch To Stevia?
Some early studies suggest that taking 1000 mg of stevia daily might reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. There have also been researches to counter these results, but neither do have a clear conclusion.
People with cholesterol worries too can replace their regular sugar with stevia. As stevia helps manage lowered total cholesterol, LDL is also known as bad cholesterol and triglycerides with no harmful side effects. It also increases HDL, better known as good cholesterol.
People who are planning to lose their weight must positively start, including stevia in their diet.
Stevia also aids in reducing bacterial formation in the mouth, making it an obvious additive for toothpaste manufacturers.
Without a doubt, stevia can help in reducing blood sugar levels. Still, it can also help in curing many other health-related problems.
If all these benefits are not enough for you to shift to stevia from sugar, then read the next statement aloud – Stevia contents are powerful enough to prevent various cancers, especially pancreatic cancer.
Is Stevia a Viable Sugar Substitute?
First and foremost, you need to understand how stevia sweeteners work. Stevia extracts are often sweeter than sugar. Even a small amount of stevia gives the same sweet taste as that of our normal sugar.
Stevia is sweeter than sugar and has fewer calories too!
One of stevia’s major drawbacks is that most of the minerals and vitamins that come with the stevia extract are washed off during the purification process. There’s no denying that this lessens the overall nutrient quality of the food.
If you wonder if stevia is a good sugar substitute, you must know that it depends on your body type and taste. If stevia is taken under the proper guidance of a nutritionist or fitness trainer, it can certainly give you good results.
What Are The Different Types of Stevia?
There are quite a few types of stevia products available in the market. Depending on the stages of processing, stevia can be classified into three basic forms –
Green Leaf Stevia
This is the least processed form of stevia in the industrial context. It is approximately 40-50 times sweeter than sugar and is also bitter to taste to some extent.
Its extracts are nearly 200 times sweeter than processed sugar. If you compare it with the Green Leaf Stevia, stevia extracts are less bitter.
This is the most processed form of stevia which comprises of GMO ingredients. Although it is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar ironically, it is often labelled as the worst stevia form.
Which Stevia to Purchase?
NuNaturals NuStevia – Does not contain alcohol in it.
Now Foods, Certified Organic, Better Stevia – Completely organic with limited alcohol percentage.
Wisdom Natural Sweetleaf Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia – Comes in a variety of flavours.
SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Liquid Stevia – For all the tea and coffee lovers.
Stevia is not only safe but also a healthier alternative to sugar. Low-calorie sweeteners like stevia sweeteners can come very handy in nutritional plans to assist in weight loss and insulin regulation.
Even if stevia alone is not likely to affect a person’s blood sugar control remarkably, it still could be useful for other ailments and lifestyle changes that come along with it.
Always keep in my mind that while choosing a stevia product, it is important to check the label for other contents that can possibly have a bad effect on your body. Anyone unsure should get some help from fitness consultants.