Stevia: benefits, usage and side effects

Stevia is a sweet, zero-calorie plant extract, which is often used as a sugar substitute. He gained wide popularity in recent years because of the reputation of a more natural sweetener compared to conventional artificial sweeteners made in a lab. According to PureCircle Stevia Institute, the stevia is part of more than 14,500 products and beverages worldwide.

What is stevia and how is the sweetener?

Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a plant from South America. For hundreds of years people have used stevia leaves as a source of sweetness. In the 1970s shodh stevia has become a popular sweetener in Japan, and after ten years it was used in the United States. Today stevia extract is sweeter than sugar 200-350 times, widely used in cooking throughout the world.

Stevia has many names, therefore to detect its presence in the product is not always easy. Here are a few symbols that you need to look for:

  • Stevia
  • Stevia extract
  • Stevia leaf extract
  • Steveology glycosides
  • Sevillista (E960)
  • Rebiana
  • Rebaudioside A (Reb A)
  • Stevioside

Unlike artificial sweeteners, which are produced in a laboratory, stevia is produced from the leaves of plants. However, they are processed before you get to your table. According to Truvia, stevia Marche, which manages the site the leaves are first harvested, dried and immersed in hot water. The liquid is then filtered to obtain an extract of a very sweet component of the leaves, called sevillistas. Then the extract is mixed with additives such as dextrose or maltodextrin to reduce the sweetness at dobavleniya in different products.

Stevia vs sugar: the comparative characteristic

Below are details about the nutritional value of a teaspoon (4.2 g) granulated sugar:

  • Calories: 16
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 4 g

As you can see, table sugar is a carbohydrate. Moreover, all the carbs (and calories) contained in it come from sugar. For reference, other sweeteners such as maple syrup, contain similar amount of calories.

Now, let’s look at the nutritional value of stevia (1 g sachet):

  • Calories: 0
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 1 g

Obviously, stevia and sugar are very different, especially because stevia does not increase the calories. Other sugar substitutes (aspartame, saccharin, Sucralose) also contain almost no calories.

Stevia is useful for health?

Despite information about the benefits of stevia for health, it is important to understand that research associated with it, so long term effects are not yet clear.

Many people say that stevia has a beneficial effect on the blood sugar, making it an ideal sweetener for those who want to lose weight. According to the statement, published in may 2012 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetitcs, the results of randomized studies on the effect of stevia on weight loss is mixed. Some studies show that the level of blood glucose is really reduced after consumption of stevia, while others reported the absence of any changes.

When it comes to other markers of health such as blood pressure, results are also mixed. Two studies did not report on changes, while in the third, a decrease in blood pressure after consumption of stevia compared with placebo. We recommend you to perceive stevia as a sweetener, and not expect from it any useful properties.

Does stevia to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight?

It is unclear whether stevia to help you lose weight. Theoretically it should be if you consume a sweetener with zero calories instead of the traditional sugar. But the human body is a complex mechanism, and scientists still have not proved that calorie-free sweeteners help to lose weight. In addition, there is a possibility that using sugar substitutes without the calories, you can eat more food throughout the day, considering that stevia helped to save calories.

In one small study published in March 2017 in the International Journal of Obesity, 30 participants drank a beverage sweetened with aspartame, an Arhat, sucrose (sugar) or stevia, and then had dinner in an hour. People who drank the beverage with zero calories (regardless of the type of sweetener), consumed more food during lunch compared to those who drank the sugar drink. What does it mean? Saved through non-nutritive sweeteners energy is fully compensated during subsequent meals. Consequently, no difference in total calorie intake during the day was found.

In another review published in September 2017 in the Nutrition Journal, were considered three randomized controlled studies involving stevia. None of them showed differences in change of body weight between the groups subjected to the intervention and the control group. Conclusion: research is mixed.

Does stevia for people with diabetes?

Yes. According to the American diabetes Association, non-nutritive sweeteners can play a role in your diet if you have diabetes. When used as a sugar substitute, they can potentially help control blood glucose levels, according to a 2012 scientific statement, which contains comments about stevia. But the authors noted that studies have shown that these types of sweeteners can really help people to reduce the consumption of calories or carbohydrates in the real world.

In addition, you may have heard that stevia helps to control blood sugar levels. An initial study on mice, published in March 2017 in Nature Communicationshows that stevia stimulates a specific protein channel that helps the pancreas release the right dose of insulin. But to conclude that stevia is a method of treatment of diabetes, it is not necessary, the authors of the study in a press release.

Tips for choosing and storing stevia

You can purchase stevia as a separate ingredient which can be added to home-cooked meals, but are also the finished products with stevia (carbonated drinks, juices, yogurts, pastries, chewing gum, sweets and much more).

There are two main options for stevia as an ingredient: powder granulirovannye STEVII, which is available in packages, bottles and straw. You can also find it in mixed products in which stevia is combined with additives such as erythritol (a sugar alcohol). Some mix also use ingredients like dextrose and inulin. You can also find brands that mix stevia and regular sugar to help reduce the sugar content of the product.

Stevia is recommended to store in a cool, dark, dry place. When you buy stevia in liquid form, check the information on the label to know whether to store product in the refrigerator. Different types of stevia have different periods of storage.

How to use stevia?

Want to cook baking with stevia? Add it as a sweetener in tea? Keep in mind that stevia can be 350 times sweeter than sugar, this means that you must correctly calculate the proportions. The conversion differs depending on whether you are using a package or a liquid: 1 teaspoon sugar is equal to half pack of stevia or five drops of liquid stevia. For great recipes (e.g. baking) Cup sugar 12 packets of stevia or 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia. But if you regularly use stevia for baking, consider buying a blend of stevia with sugar, designed specifically for this purpose (this will be indicated on the package) that will allow you to replace stevia for sugar in a 1: 1 ratio, facilitating the cooking process.

If you are only familiar with this ingredient, please add it to coffee or tea. Stevia dissolves well in warm drinks, and will help you to reduce sugar consumption. Add a small part of a package of stevia, stir the drink and enjoy, continuing to add more until you reach the desired sweetness level.

Side effects and possible health risks

Stevia was declared safe for health product. But we should not abuse them, thinking that you don’t face the weight gain, it is not so! In addition, it is believed that stevia is non-nutritive and other sweeteners alter the balance of intestinal bacteria in the body. The health consequences of such changes are still completely unclear, as stated in the article, published in July 2018 in PLoS One.

Finally, it is worth noting that stevia does not cause cancer or diabetes. According to the analysis, published in September 2017 in Nutrition Journal, the study did not show a relationship between these diseases and sweeteners like stevia. However, it is necessary to conduct more research on this score to obtain more reliable information.