Stevia is a small plant which is sweet, leafy herb of South America origin. It is now grown in other parts of the world, including Canada and part of Asia and Europe. It is probably best known as a source of natural sweeteners.
Some people take stevia by mouth for medical purposes such as lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, heartburn, high uric acid levels in the blood, for weight loss, to stimulate the heart rate, and for water retention.
Stevia also use as the culinary herb was known to the native Guarani tribes of Paraguay since centuries. Recent scientific trials firmly establish that this sweetleaf herb has, indeed, much health benefiting plant-derived phytochemical compounds that help control blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure in addition to its worth as a natural sweetener. Together with the rise in demand for low-calorie food alternatives, stevia has drawn the attention of health-conscious fitness lovers all over the planet.
Benefits Of Stevia
- Stevia herb parts are very low in calories. Parts by parts, its dry leaves possess roughly 40 times more sweetness than sugar. This sweetness quality in stevia is due to several glycoside compounds including stevioside, steviolbioside, rebaudioside A-E, and glucoside.
- Stevioside is a non-carbohydrate glycoside compound. Hence, it lacks the properties that sucrose and other carbohydrates possess. Stevia extracts, like rebaudioside-A, are found to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Besides, being a near-zero calorie food ingredient, stevia extracts have several unique properties such as long shelf life, high-temperature tolerance, non-fermentative.
- Further, the stevia plant has many sterols and antioxidant compounds like triterpenes, flavonoids, and tannins. Some of the flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidant phytochemicals present in stevia are kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin, iso-steviol, etc. Studies found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23% (American Journal of Epidemiology) .
- Chlorogenic acid reduces the enzymatic conversion of glycogen to glucose in addition to decreasing absorption of glucose in the gut. Thus, it helps reduce blood sugar levels. Lab studies also confirm a reduction in blood glucose levels and an increase in the liver concentrations of glucose-6-phosphate, and of glycogen.
- Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels, increase sodium excretion, and urine output. In effect, stevia, at slightly higher doses than as sweetener, can help lower blood pressure.
- Being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, stevia would not favor the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth which is attributed to be a causative agent of dental caries and tooth cavities. On the other hand, certain compounds in stevia rather found to inhibit caries-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Further, being a herb, stevia contains many vitals minerals, vitamins that are selectively absent in the artificial sweeteners.
Stevia plant uses in traditional medicine
Stevia extract has been in use by native South Americans (where it is known as caa-he-éé or kaa jheéé) to reduce weight; to treat wound infections, inflammatory conditions, swelling in the legs and as a tonic to treat depression.
How does Stevia work?
Stevia is a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods. Researchers have also evaluated the effect of chemicals in stevia on blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, research results have been mixed.
Dosing considerations for Stevia.
The appropriate dose of stevia depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for stevia. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.