Have seen or used stevia before? Wait, firstly, do you know what stevia is? Well, I am talking about the natural sweeteners that the Guarani people from Paraguay and Brazil used. Not just that, it also has a great effect as a medicine. As a matter of fact, it has a place in the traditional medicine, especially in treating burns, stomach aches, colic, and many others. Well, the health benefits of stevia are so many, but we will discuss some of it later in this article. If you want to learn more about it, feel free to give this article a read. You will surely gain knowledge from it!
Stevia: What is this?
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In South America, there are about more than 200 species of stevia. What is it? Well, stevia is a kind of herbal plant, which actually belongs to the Asteraceae plant family. Therefore, it is close in relation to the marigolds, chrysanthemums, and ragweed. The most expensive variety of the stevia is the Stevia rebaudiana. Nevertheless, it is also the most valuable for the production of consumable products from stevia.
In the year 1931, chemists R. Lavielle and M. Bridel sequestered the rebaudioside and stevioside –the two glycosides, which make the stevia leaves sweet. They isolate it in five different variations: F, A, C, E, and D. The stevioside is actually sweet, yet also has a bitter aftertaste in it, which people complain about when eaten. On the other hand, the rebaudioside is the sweet glycoside that has no bitter aftertaste.
A lot of raw and less handled stevia products possess both types of the stevia compounds. Nevertheless, only the most greatly processed forms contain the rebaudioside or the sweetest part of the leaf. The high-pureness rebaudioside A or rebiana is mainly recognized to be safe by the FDA. It may be beneficial as one artificial sweetener in both beverages and foods.
Types of Stevia
There are actually three types of stevia. All of which are not created equally. I will be explaining these from the most processed type to the least ones.
- Altered Stevia. This is the least healthy option of stevia. Some manufacturers and companies actually use various processes in creating these type of blends, which include acetonitrile, and many other chemical solvents. This is not healthy for the central nervous system.
- Stevia Extracts. If you are going to avail this kind of stevia in the US, you will consume the rebaudioside A in a pure extract. Even though the refined stevia extracts are way more processed than the green leaves, the health benefits are on par with the unprocessed equivalent.
- Green leaf stevia. This is the least processed among all the types. The leaves are dried and are ground into powder. Japanese and South Americans use it for over centuries now as their natural sweetener.
Stevia: Is it safe?
Most people who use the stevia actually do well when consuming this natural sweetener. Nevertheless, if you are going to try it, make sure that you listen very well to your body. Remember, it is an herb, and our body may react in a different way. The side effects and the health benefits of stevia mainly depend on what type you choose to take.
Various theories say that it may cause some allergic reactions to those who are allergic to ragweed. Nevertheless, it has never been studied nor reported in a structured research. Some other general side effects of the stevia include dizziness, nausea, muscle pain, bloating, and numbness.
Health Benefits of Stevia
Here are some of the most incredible health benefits of stevia:
- Helps in lowering the high blood pressure. Various glycosides in the stevia extract may have the capacity to dilate the blood vessels. It may also increase the excretion of sodium. These two things are beneficial in keeping the blood sugar on a healthy level.
- Helps in improving cholesterol levels. One study shows that the stevia extract has encouraging and positive effects on the overall cholesterol levels. It is also effective in reducing the elevated serum levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the good cholesterol.
- Helps in supporting in weight loss. The consumption of added sugars may contribute more than 13% of the total calories every day. Since there are no calories in the stevia, if you consume it in moderation, you will be able to reduce not just the overall daily intake of sugar, but also the fend obesity.
- Aids in diabetes. You can use stevia instead of white sugar. This is beneficial for those who are diabetic who wants to avoid the conventional sugar. Studies also suggest that having stevia before a meal may reduce the calories in the body.
- Helps in preventing cancer. The antioxidant properties in the stevia have the capacity to prevent cancer. It is also perceived that the stevioside may help enhance the cancer cells and reduce various pathways in the body, which may contribute to the cancer growth.