Stevia Background and Benefits
Stevia is the generic name for a sugar substitute that is derived from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a plant commonly known as sweetleaf and sugarleaf. This plant originates from South America, where it has been used as a sweetener for more than 1,500 years. The Stevia genus was named after the Spanish botanist Petrus Jacobus Stevus, who discovered it in the early 16th century. The Swiss botanist Moises Santiago Bertoni described Stevia plants in detail for the first time in 1899.
Research on stevia remained limited until 1931, when French chemists isolated the components that give Stevia leaves their sweet taste. These components belong to a class of chemicals called glycosides, which consist of a sugar molecule bound to another functional group known as an aglycone. The glycosides in stevia primarily include rebaudioside and stevioside, which have several properties that make it useful as an artificial sweetener. It is up to 150 times as sweet as sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, but doesn’t provide any calories. Stevia is also stable with respect to heat and pH level, and won’t ferment.
In comparison to table sugar, stevia’s sweetness takes longer to take effect and has a longer duration. Stevia may also have a bitter aftertaste at high concentrations due to the reactions of the taste receptors with the aglycones. Rebaudioside breaks down into stevioside in the colon, which bacteria then break down into steviol and glucose. These bacteria then consume the glucose before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
The legal status of stevia varies considerably between countries. For example, it is been in wide use for decades in Japan, while the European Union didn’t approve stevia until 2011. The United States approved rebaudioside A as a general purpose sweetener in 2008.
Uses of Stevia
The uses of stevia generally derive from its ability to provide a sweet taste to foods without adding calories. This property can be helpful for managing weight, metabolic syndrome and healthy blood pressure levels in addition to supporting digestive health.
Dental health support
Stevia may help to support dental by reducing the amount of refined sugar in your diet, which is a major source of tooth decay.
Metabolic syndrome support
Stevia may help to support the body’s ability to manage healthy blood sugar levels, according to recent research. These studies indicate that stevia doesn’t affect blood sugar levels like sucrose does.
Manage healthy blood pressure
Some research shows that stevia may be helpful for managing healthy blood pressure levels. The dosages of stevia in these studies were between 750 and 1,500 milligrams of stevioside per day.
Foods that contain stevia as the sweetening agent instead of sugar can help to control caloric intake. This use of stevia is typically combined with regular exercise and other lifestyle changes.
Signs You May Need Stevia
A desire to reduce caloric intake is generally most significant sign that you may need stevia. This is especially true if you drink a lot of sweetened beverages such as soda, coffee and tea. You may also benefit from stevia if you have difficulty in managing your blood sugar level. Addition indications that stevia could help you include a high rate of tooth decay, especially if you consume a lot of fruit sugar (fructose).
Synonyms and Similar Forms of Stevia
Stevia rebaudiana, sweetleaf, sugarleaf