Stevia plant with stevia powder on white background

11 Interesting Facts About Stevia

Spread the love

Stevia is a natural sweetener that has gained popularity in recent years as a healthier alternative to sugar. Derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, stevia offers a sweet taste without calories or negative effects on blood sugar levels. In this article, we will explore 11 interesting facts about stevia, from its origins and cultivation to its benefits and culinary uses. So, let’s delve into the world of stevia and discover some fascinating facts!

Introduction

Stevia is a plant native to South America, where it has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener and medicinal herb. The leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant contain sweet compounds called steviol glycosides, which are responsible for their intense sweetness. Stevia has become a popular choice for those seeking a sugar substitute due to its natural origins and potential health benefits.

1. Zero Calories

One of the most significant advantages of stevia is that it contains zero calories. Unlike sugar, which is high in calories and can contribute to weight gain, stevia allows you to enjoy a sweet taste without the added calories. This makes it an appealing option for individuals looking to reduce their calorie intake or manage their weight.

2. Plant-Based Sweetener

Spoon with sweetener over a cup of milk coffee
Spoon with sweetener over a cup of milk coffee

Stevia is a plant-based sweetener, which means it is derived directly from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The leaves are harvested, dried, and then processed to extract the sweet compounds. This natural origin sets stevia apart from artificial sweeteners, which are chemically synthesized.

3. High Sweetness Level

Stevia is incredibly sweet, with a sweetness level that is estimated to be 200 to 400 times greater than that of regular sugar. This means that only a small amount of stevia is needed to achieve the desired level of sweetness in recipes or beverages. It’s important to note that the sweetness of stevia can vary depending on the brand and the specific product.

4. Blood Sugar Regulation

Unlike sugar, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, stevia does not have a significant impact on blood glucose levels. This makes it an attractive option for individuals with diabetes or anyone looking to manage their blood sugar levels. Stevia has a minimal effect on insulin production and can be used as part of a balanced diet for those with diabetes.

5. Heat Stable

Stevia is heat stable, which means it can be used in both hot and cold beverages as well as in various cooking and baking recipes. Unlike some artificial sweeteners, stevia does not lose its sweetness when exposed to high temperatures, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of culinary applications.

6. Digestive Friendly

Another interesting fact about stevia is that it is generally well-tolerated by the digestive system. Unlike sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol or xylitol, which can cause digestive upset and bloating in some individuals, stevia is less likely to cause gastrointestinal issues. This makes it a suitable option for those with sensitive stomachs or digestive concerns.

7. Natural Antioxidants

Stevia contains natural antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that help protect the body against oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants, such as flavonoids and triterpenes, have been linked to various health benefits, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancer.

8. Safe for Teeth

Unlike sugar, which can contribute to tooth decay and cavities, stevia is considered tooth-friendly. Stevia does not promote bacterial growth in the mouth or lead to the production of acids that can harm tooth enamel. This makes it a suitable sweetener for individuals concerned about oral health and those looking to reduce their sugar intake.

9. Culinary Versatility

Stevia
Stevia

Stevia’s sweet taste and heat stability make it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It can be used to sweeten beverages like coffee, tea, and smoothies. Stevia can also be incorporated into a wide range of recipes, including baked goods, sauces, dressings, and even homemade ice cream. However, it’s worth noting that stevia may have a slightly different taste profile compared to sugar, so it may require some experimentation to find the right balance in recipes.

10. Global Approval

Stevia has gained global approval as a safe and natural sweetener. It is approved for use in food and beverages in many countries, including the United States, European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan. It has undergone extensive safety testing and is considered safe for consumption by regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)1.

11. Availability in Different Forms

Stevia is available in various forms to suit different preferences and culinary needs. It can be found as a powdered extract, liquid extract, or in granulated form, similar to sugar. Each form has its advantages and can be used interchangeably in recipes. The powdered extract is convenient for measuring and can be used in baking, while the liquid extract is great for sweetening beverages. The granulated form is a popular choice for sprinkling on cereals or fruit.

Frequently Asked Questions about Stevia

What is stevia?

Stevia is a sweet sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant species Stevia rebaudiana, native to Paraguay and Brazil. It contains compounds known as steviol glycosides, which are responsible for its sweetness and are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable.

Is stevia calorie-free?

Yes, stevia contains zero calories as a non-nutritive sweetener because the human body does not metabolize the glycosides in stevia.

What is the legal status of stevia as a food additive?

The legal status of stevia as a food additive or dietary supplement varies from country to country. In the United States, certain high-purity stevia glycoside extracts have been generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and may be lawfully marketed and added to food products.

How is stevia used commercially?

Stevia is used in sugar- and calorie-reduced food and beverage products as an alternative for variants with sugar. It has been used as a natural sweetener in various products around the world, including beverages and sweet treats.

What are the safety and regulations associated with stevia?

Studies have found that the use of Stevia rebaudiana sweeteners as replacements for sugar might benefit children, people with diabetes, and those wishing to lower their calorie intake. Regulatory approval and maximum dosage of steviol glycosides vary widely from country to country, and it is important to be aware of the specific regulations in each region.

Conclusion

Stevia is a fascinating natural sweetener with numerous benefits and uses. From its zero-calorie content and blood sugar regulation properties to its culinary versatility and global approval, stevia offers a healthier alternative to sugar without compromising on taste. Whether you’re looking to reduce your calorie intake, manage your blood sugar levels, or simply explore new sweetening options, stevia is worth considering. So why not give it a try and discover the sweetness of stevia for yourself?

  1. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/6691 []

Spread the love

Similar Posts