Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from Stevia rebaudiana, a plant first discovered centuries ago in Paraguay by the indigenous population. But it wasn't until the late 19th century, when a Swiss botanist working in South America documented it as "sweet leaf", and brought it back with him. Stevia is available in many forms. The most popular is the white powder-extract, but you can also buy dried stevia leaves, liquid stevia extract, or even small pellets to sweeten your coffee with. Sweet leaf is also available in granular form in small packets.
However, the all-natural sweetener stevia is different from sugar in many ways, and there are several reasons why stevia is a better choice than sucrose if you're diabetic or simply looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Let's take a look at them!
1. Stevia is very, very strong
The first leaves of the stevia plant are about 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the powdered sweetener derived from them is up to 200-300 times sweeter. This means that just a small amount of stevia would be enough for most of your sugar-free recipes. The lifespan of sweet leaf is about 5 years, so it is definitely a worthwhile investment.
2. Stevia has no calories at all
Refined sugar is fattening, there's no denying that. Sucrose is high in calories and there are so many sugary products these days that avoiding them has become almost a constant chore. Consequently, 34% of adults in America are obese and for our children – who are exposed to sugar from a very young age – that figure is 17%.
These rates are alarming: they are three times higher than they were thirty years ago. Fortunately, stevia does not contain any calories. While it is by no means a weight loss product, the benefits of stevia and its huge potential in this area are obvious.
3. Stevia helps suppress cravings
As we all know, sugar is addictive. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose may have no calories or glycemic index, but they still promote cravings for sugary sweets. An increasing number of consumers over the years have reported negative side effects when using artificial sweeteners, ranging from headaches and dizziness to rashes and stomach aches. Stevia on the other hand, has been reported to suppress cravings.
Time for some trivia: Did you know that Stevia has been approved as a sweetener in Japan since 1970 and is today the number one sweetener there, with a market share of over 40%? And all this without the reports of unwanted side effects!
4. Stevia is good for your teeth
When you consume sugar, an adhesive layer of bacteria forms on your teeth, causing plaque and cavities in the long term. So-called "sugar alcohols" (also called "polyols") such as erythritol, maltitol and sorbitol are popular ingredients in chewing gum and toothpaste because dental bacteria cannot ferment and therefore cannot attach to teeth. your.
There is a downside to sugar alcohols though: they still contain a lot of calories and some of them still have a high glycemic index, which is harmful for diabetics. They also cause bloating and gas in people who are sensitive to them. Stevia has the same benefits as polyols, but without the same hassles.
5. Stevia is good for diabetics
The reason sugar is so bad for diabetics is that it contains large amounts of carbohydrates. In order to see which types of food are suitable for diabetics and which are not, a system called the "glycemic index" was developed. I'll bore you with the details of this system, but it means that types of foods with a glycemic index value of less than 50 are considered relatively safe for diabetics.
The lower the number, the better. To give you an idea: apples have a glycemic index of 39, French fries have a glycemic index of 95, table sugar has a glycemic index of 80. Stevia has a glycemic index of 0 (yes, zero). This makes sweet leaf ideal for keeping your diabetes symptoms low without compromising any sweetness in your food.
6. Stevia regulates hypertension
For generations, indigenous tribes in South America have used Stevia to sweeten their mate, a type of herbal tea. Apart from sweetness, they also use it to lower blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. Today, South African doctors officially prescribe medicine containing stevia to help control high blood pressure. Extensive trials have shown that stevia does not lower blood pressure in healthy people.
7. Stevia helps people with candidiasis
Candida albicans is a natural type of yeast that is present in the gut of every human being. In some people, this yeast population can grow too large and cause an infection called "candidiasis" with symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The main culprit for candidiasis is the fermentation of sugars in the gut, and therefore many candida diets are based on eliminating sucrose from a person's eating habits.
Raw Stevia cannot be fermented by Candida albicans and does not promote candidiasis, so it should be perfectly safe to replace sugar with stevia in people with this condition. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet but be careful to use only pure stevia. Some brands available add inulin or maltodextrin to some of their products: substances to be avoided when you are prone to candidiasis.
Conclusion on Stevia
When you are used to sugar, the taste that Stevia gives can take time to get used to. It contains two sweet ingredients (called “glycosides”), stevioside and rebaudioside A. But when you add it all up, the benefits of stevia far outweigh the temptations of sugar. You owe it to yourself to give the sweet sheet a try!
Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM