Stevia is an ingredient that has far-reaching health benefits. Native to South America, stevia has been utilised for decades for its extremely sweet leaves and the health benefits it brings to the body. In the past, stevia was used as a traditional medicine to treat colic, burns and stomach issues. Interestingly enough, it was also used as a contraceptive. In recent years, it has raised in popularity for being more than 40 times sweeter than sugar without compromising on the overall blood glucose level in the body. At the same time, it has been shown that it doesn’t have any of the negative side effects that other types of sugar have on the body. This makes stevia especially helpful for people with diabetes. Besides the plant itself, the leaves were also chewed on as a sweet treat. Today, stevia functions as a sugar substitute that has no calories whatsoever.
Types of Stevia
Stevia is processed in three different ways. The first type is the green leaf stevia, which is the least processed form of stevia. It is noted to be 30-40 times sweeter than sugar and it can also be somewhat bitter. Stevia also comes in the form of stevia extracts, in which the extracts are 200 times sweeter than sugar and relatively less bitter when compared to green leaf stevia. The final type of stevia is the altered stevia, which is a highly processed form of stevia. This type of stevia contains GMO ingredients and it has been noted to be 200-400 times sweeter than sugar.
Nutritional Value of Stevia
It is apparent that stevia is valued for its extremely sweet taste. This feature makes it more than capable of replacing sugar in the diet. But as you might know by now, that’s not all that makes this ingredient popular. Both its benefits and low-calorie count puts it in the ‘no-calorie’ food zone. However, do note that more research is needed to uncover the true nutritional value of stevia.
Benefits of Stevia
We have heard about the wide number of health benefits that stevia has, let’s delve a little deeper into some of these health benefits.
One of the biggest plus points of this plant-derived ingredient is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. Because it doesn’t compromise the blood sugar levels in the body, it has been touted for being a good alternative to sugar and a “safe” ingredient for diabetics or anyone watching their sugar level to consume. It has also become an ideal replacement for those who are on a diet in which they are maintaining their carbohydrate count — when you consume food items that have stevia swapped out for regular sugar, you do not have to worry about the complications that it might have on your body. Instead of sucrose, stevia contains stevioside, which is a non-carbohydrate glycoside compound. When stevioside breaks down, the glucose particles are absorbed by the bacteria in the colon, instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. This, in turn, keeps the blood glucose levels in the body stable and in check. Do note that it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels after consuming stevia.
Aids in Weight Loss
Because it is low in calories, food that substitutes sugar with stevia can be consumed on a regular basis as compared to food items that utilise normal sugar in their recipe. Sugary treats like candies, cookies and cakes, can be consumed without the worry of a calorie surplus. Because of how sugar can be found in most of the food that we eat, there are limitless possibilities for a substitution when stevia comes into the picture. This is extremely helpful for those who are looking to lose weight and is effective in controlling the excess sugar content in children’s diet as well. However, do ensure that you are not consuming unsafe varieties of stevia or eating food that contains stevia that has been highly refined.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Besides stevioside, which is a type of glycoside, there are other types of glycoside that can be found in stevia. These compounds have the ability to eliminate sodium from the body and this would mean that there would be less stress placed on our cardiovascular system. To go a step further, the properties in stevia can help manage our blood pressure, which would boost our cardiac health and prevent the development of certain chronic conditions including heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis, a disease that leads to plaque building up inside our arteries. Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows the arteries and restricts the blood flow to vital organs. When that happens, our brain and other parts of our body would not receive enough oxygenated blood and it too raises the likelihood of diseases and conditions such as stroke, heart attack and other heart diseases.
Promotes Skin Health
Besides aiding in weight loss and regulating blood pressure, stevia also promotes skin health. In fact, it has been proven to be potent enough to treat eczema and dermatitis. When applied topically, stevia inhibits the spread of bacteria and functions as a steroid. This makes stevia a popular and natural option for anyone looking to boost the health of their skin and those who are trying to achieve a flawless complexion. Stevia might even be an option as a skincare product as compared to other skincare solutions on the market that are filled with chemicals that may be harmful to our skin.