Do you watch your sugar intake? Have you ever felt the need to curtail your sweet tooth? How do you beat those sugar cravings? If you ask all of these to your doctor, they will probably point you to efficient alternatives for sugar, and that is where Stevia comes in.
Stevia is a sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It is about 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia’s uniqueness as a sugar substitute comes from the fact that despite being sweeter than normal sugar, it is a zero calorie ingredient. Stevia is perhaps unique among food ingredients because it is most valued for what it does not do: it does not add calories. Because of this property, it is seen as an aid to the weight loss process. Weight gain is often attributed to calorie intake, and thus, substituting stevia in place of sugar is seen as a contributing factor to an individual’s weight loss program. Stevia is used as a healthful alternative to added sugar in many meals and beverages.
This sweetener is devoid of any artificial ingredient as unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant and is a plant-based organic sweetener. It has been used since the 16th century, and is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil. It is now also grown in Japan and China and is exported to other nations. The popularity of Stevia has increased as its benefits have become more known.
The effect of a nonnutritive sweetener on a person’s health may vary depending on how much is ingested and when it is consumed. It is suggested that If you have diabetes, stevia may help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Stevia leaf powder may also help regulate cholesterol, according to a 2009 study. Participants in the study drank 20 millilitres of stevia extract every day for a month. Stevia was found to lower total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides while having no harmful side effects, according to the study. It also helped to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. A study was conducted in 2010, where it was inferred that Stevia dramatically reduced insulin and glucose levels in 19 healthy, lean adults and 12 obese people, and despite the lower calorie consumption, it also left study participants content and full after eating. However, one drawback of this study is that it was conducted in a lab rather than in a real-life situation in a person’s natural environment.
However, there is some question as to its effectiveness as a weight loss aid or as a helpful diet measure for diabetics. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the marketing of stevia as a food additive in 1987. However, stevia regained its status as a sweet, sustainable dietary ingredient in 1995. The sweetener has since soared in popularity, with a 58 percent boost in new products that contain stevia. Despite what is suggested by some studies, it is unknown whether using stevia in small amounts on a regular basis will have the same effect.
Nonnutritive sweeteners have also been linked to glucose intolerance and metabolic diseases. The flavour, as with most nonnutritive sweeteners, is a big drawback. Stevia has a faint, licorice-like flavour with a hint of bitterness. Some people appreciate it, while others find it repulsive. Some people may experience digestive issues from stevia products containing sugar alcohols, such as bloating and diarrhoea.
Raw stevia herb is thought to be harmful to your kidneys, reproductive system, and cardiovascular system. It may potentially cause dangerously low blood pressure or interfere with blood sugar-lowering medicines. Although stevia is generally regarded as safe for diabetics, products that leave behind starchy residues should be avoided. Stevia leads to production of sugar alcohols and may also alter the carbohydrate count slightly. These side effects have led to a major debate about the effectiveness of Stevia, even though it is immensely popular with respect to dietary fads and weight loss programs.
The bottom line remains that despite contrary evidence, one must consult their physician before making the major health decision of switching to alternatives such as Stevia and must make an informed choice. Special care must be taken by patients who are suffering from diabetes or metabolic conditions, as their dietary specifications are modified to suit their physical health, as the product is yet to receive the complete nod of approval from health practitioners.