Learn More About Stevia
What is stevia?
Stevia rebaudiana is an herb that is closely related to sunflowers. Because stevia is indigenous to South America this plant has been used by Paraguoy Indians of South America for thousands of years. They used it as a sweetener, and as a tonic for stomach ailments. It can be found in the wild as far north as Arizona and Texas. It is widely recognized for its sweet leaves. These leaves contain a substance known as steviosides which ranges anywhere from 30 times to 300 times sweeter (when concentrated) than sugar.
Stevia can be used as a replacement for sugar, just like an artificial sweetener. This sweetness is not accompanied by a spike in insulin, as stevia extract cannot be metabolized by the human body and therefore passes through the digestive system unabsorbed. This is only one of the benefits of stevia extract.
How do artificial sweeteners compare to stevia's natural sweetness?
The definitive answer to that is maybe leaning more on the side of yes. A list of well known artificial sweeteners would include sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. A simple Google search of these well-known artificial sweeteners reveals the controversy about their safety and side effects. In 1992 75-85% of complaints received by the FDA were in direct relation aspartame. After 1992, the FDA changed its classification of complaints and decided to do away with classification specificity. Now complaints are filed under general categories such as seizure, rather than aspartame seizure.
So what makes stevia different? Let us go back to the definition of artificial sweeteners, and we discover that stevia does not fall in this category. Because it grows naturally in a plant, and it requires no alteration by some scientist in a lab, stevia is well tolerated by everyone. So if you want that sweet taste in your drink without the calories, but you don’t want to reach for a sweetener that was designed in a lab, grab some stevia.
If stevia’s sweetening ability and all natural origins are not convincing enough then simply take a look at the process of creating such artificial sweeteners as saccharine, aspartame and sucralose. Without consulting the sage known as Google, one can easily deduce the process involved in making stevia: wait for plant to grow, harvest plant.
What else is stevia known for?
It is interesting to note that Japan began using stevia as an alternative sweetener to sugar in the early 1970s. Now stevia use accounts for 40% of their current sweetener market. Since stevia extract is unaffected by heat, it can easily be supplemented for sugar in any recipe. Some other non-sugar sweeteners do not hold up well in heat and are not ideal for baked goods such as cookies. Stevia has also shown an ability to calm upset stomachs and improve digestion.
Stevia has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure in individuals with diabetes and hypertension, while having no affect on individuals with normal blood pressure. Because it has a score of zero on the glycemic index, and it is not metabolized by the body, stevia is ideal for those wanting to cut calories out of sweet drinks and snacks. Diabetics can use the benefits provided by stevia as well, because it does not cause a spike in insulin. No side effects have been reported from users of stevia.
Stevia does not stop there. It has been shown in studies to reduce the proliferation of oral bacteria. This reduction leads to healthier gums and teeth. Some toothpaste manufacturers are already adding stevia to enhance their current formula. Stevia has shown antibacterial properties and has been used in the treatment of acne, eczema and dermatitis. Stevia has even been used directly on cuts and wounds to expedite the healing process and keep the wound free of bacteria. One final benefit of stevia is its ability to fight obesity by reducing cravings of sweets and fatty foods and offering 0 calories to those foods it enhances.
The next time you want to add a little sweetness to your tea, coffee or cookies reach for stevia and enjoy all natural sweetness without the guilt of calories.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.