Apart from its use as a natural sweetner, Stevia has a number of health benefits, which are as follows; controls Diabetes, weight control, regulates blood pressure, prevents cancer, cures allergies, cures skin problems, improves bone health, improves oral health.
Stevia is actually the name for the more than 240 species of shrubs and small flowering plans in the Asteraceae family, which is the same family as sunflowers. Stevia is known by different names, including sweet leaf or sugar leaf, but the formal scientific name is Stevia Rebaudiana. It is a sweetener and sugar substitute. A non-nutritive sweetener is one that contains little to no calories. The natural sweetener tastes 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. , stevia is a tender perennial that loves the warm sun and dies back in a freeze.
Stevia is valued mostly for its sweet leaves and its ability to replace sugar in a diet, but stevia also contains a wealth of antioxidant compounds, such as flavonoids, triterpenes, tannins, caffeic acid, kaempferol, and quercetin. The stevia plant also contains fiber, protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. However, in the sweetener form, these additional elements are nearly negligible. The smaller organic compounds play the real role in 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 and comply with a healthful meal plan. Stevia sweetens food in a similar way as sugar, but it contains stevioside, which is a non-carbohydrate glycoside compound. When stevioside breaks down, the glucose-containing particles are absorbed by the bacteria in the colon, rather than being absorbed into the bloodstream and affecting glucose levels in the body. This is an ideal replacement for normal sugar for diabetics or people on carbohydrate-controlled diets because they can eat sweet foods without having to worry about diabetic complications. Thus stevia showed minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin levels, blood pressure, and body weight.
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. The intake of added sugars has been shown to contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in the American diet. This has been linked to weight gain and reduced control of blood glucose levels. Stevia is very low in calories and is anywhere from 40-300x sweeter than sugar, depending on the prevalence of certain extracts in the species variety. This means that people can eat foods like cakes, cookies, and candies made with stevia without worrying about gaining a great deal of calories from sugars, so they won’t hurt their chances of successfully losing weight.
Stevioside is a type of glycoside, but there are other glycosides in 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 attacks, and strokes.
The wide range of antioxidant compounds found in stevia makes it an ideal dietary supplement for cancer prevention. Quercetin, kaempferol, and the other glycoside compounds in stevia helps to eliminate the free radicals in the body, thereby preventing them from mutating healthy cells into cancer cells. Studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23%. Antioxidants also help to prevent premature aging, cognitive malfunction, and various other serious conditions like heart disease.
Due to its anti- bacterial properties, stevia has been found to be a useful topical application for skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. It inhibits the spread of bacteria and acts as a steroid in these situations, making it a popular option for many people who can’t get relief from these conditions.
Although this hasn’t been extensively tested in humans, certain studies have shown that chickens that have been fed a stevia diet lay significantly thicker shells that contain a much higher content of calcium than average eggs. This has been extrapolated to humans, meaning that it could potentially help build stronger bones and decrease the chances of osteoporosis, thus improving bone health.
Stevia has been found to reduce bacterial formation in the mouth, making it a popular additive for toothpastes and mouthwashes. It also prevents cavities and gingivitis, which sucrose certainly doesn’t do, thus improving the oral health.
In 2010, the European Food Safety Committee (EFSA) reviewed existing literature to determine if there was any cause for concern regarding the potential for allergic reactions to stevia. The reviewers concluded that 'steviol glycosides are not reactive and are not metabolized to reactive compounds, therefore, it is unlikely that the steviol glycosides under evaluation should cause by themselves allergic reactions when consumed in foods'. Even the highly purified forms of stevia extract are highly unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.
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 since the mid-1990s, and many 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, desserts, sauces, Yogurts, pickled foods, bread, soft drinks, chewing gum, candy, seafood, prepared vegetables.
Some stevia products also contain sugar alcohol. People with sensitivity to sugar alcohol may experience bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, though one type of sugar alcohol, erythritol, poses less risk of symptoms than others. Current research also suggests that it is safe to consume the recommended amount of sugar substitute or less while pregnant. As long as stevia is highly-purified and used in moderation, it will not cause side effects and can be consumed worry-free.
The plant is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in Japan and China.
Stevia plants are best grown in the loose, loamy, well-drained soil that the plant prefers, it will grow 1 to 3 feet in height, depending on the length of the growing season. One should wait until all danger of frost has passed before planting. The plant should be fed with compost or Bonnie Herb and Vegetable Plant Food as directed on the label. The plant should be prevented from drying out on hot summer days. Container-grown plants will benefit from the same plant food and mulch. Stevia shouldn’t be grown in soggy soil, or the roots could rot. A sure sign of rot is wilting from which the plant doesn’t recover after watering.