What Is Stevia?
With all of the negative hype surrounding refined sugar lately, more and more people are turning to alternative sweeteners like stevia, and for good reason. Let’s look at what stevia is, along with 7 great reasons to try it.
1. Stevia Is 100% Natural
As the potentially harmful effects of artificial sweeteners become increasingly more evident, people are turning to natural alternatives. One sweetener that has been making a big splash in health food circles is stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the green leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to South America. It has been used as a sweetener in Paraguay and Brazil for hundreds of years. It is 100% natural and contains no artificial ingredients.
2. Stevia Tastes Great
Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. A little goes a long way with this tasty alternative!
3. Stevia Contains ZeroCalories
The Average American consumes close to 130 pounds of sugar every year, more than 3 times the recommended allowance, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In their draft guidelines on sugar intake for adults and children, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated, “There is increasing concern that consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, may result in … an increase in total caloric intake, leading to an unhealthy diet, weight gain and increased risk of noncommunicable diseases”. Stevia contains no calories, fat or cholesterol, making the sweetener a great alternative for dieters and health conscious consumers alike.
4. Stevia May Help Reduce Sugar Cravings
According to Dr. Mark Hyman, chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine and founder of the UltraWellness Center in Massachusetts, “sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine”. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive as well. In one study, rats were allowed to choose between water sweetened with saccharin and intravenous cocaine. “The large majority of animals (94%) preferred the sweet taste of saccharin” (1). Replacing sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia may help reduce sugar cravings.
5. Stevia May Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for many serious conditions such as heart attack, heart disease and stroke. “Available research is promising for the use of stevia in hypertension,” said Catherine Ulbricht, senior pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration. In a 2-year study, oral stevioside significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with placebo in Chinese patients suffering from mild hypertension (2). The study also noted, patients that received oral stevioside reported improved quality of life.
6. Stevia May have a Positive Effect on Blood Sugar
Studies show that stevia may lower blood sugar levels and increase glucose tolerance by reducing insulin resistance and increasing insulin production (3,4). The American Diabetes Association reports that, “Stevia-based sweeteners have minimal calories and carbohydrates so they will not have a significant effect on your blood glucose levels. Stevia, along with other very-low calorie sweeteners, can be useful for people with diabetes to curb sweet cravings without disrupting blood glucose control“.
7. Substituting Sugar With Stevia May Mean Fewer Trips To The Dentist
You’ve heard it before; sugar is bad for your teeth. But does stevia have the same harmful effects on your pearly whites? Studies suggest not. In one study, sixty rat pups were divided into four groups and given either table sugar, stevioside, rebaudioside A or nothing at all (reb-A and stevioside are both molecules extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant),”It was concluded that neither stevioside nor rebaudioside A is cariogenic [causing tooth decay] under the conditions of this study,” noted researchers (5).
Let’s Recap. Stevia is 100% natural, tastes great and contains no calories, making it an excellent substitute for sugar. Furthermore, replacing sugar and artificial sweeteners with stevia may help reduce sugar cravings and does not seem to contribute to tooth decay. Stevia has proven health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing blood sugar levels, making the sweetener a great alternative for diabetics and health conscious consumers alike.
- Lenoir M, Serre F, Cantin L, Ahmed SH (2007) Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward. PLoS ONE 2(8): e698. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000698
- Chan P, Tomlinson B, Chen YJ, et al. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension. Br J Clin Pharmacol . 2000;50:215-220.
- Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. 2010;55(1):37–43.
- Antihyperglycemic effects of stevioside in type 2 diabetic subjects. Gregersen S, Jeppesen PB, Holst JJ, Hermansen K. Metabolism. 2004 Jan; 53 (1): 73-76. PMID: 14681845 [PubMed; indexed for MEDLINE]
- Das S., A.K. Das, R.A. Murphy, I.C. Punwani, M.P. Nasution and A.D. Kinghorn (1992): Evaluation of the Cariogenic Potential of the Intense Natural Sweeteners Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. Caries Res. 26, 363-366.