Stevia extract is one of the low glycemic sweeteners and comes
from the leaves of a plant. This plant was initially grown in South
America and contains natural sweeteners known as stevioside and rebaudioside. It is called sweet leaf (sweetleaf) or sugar leaf because the extract of this
leaf is over 300 times sweeter than sugar. The extracts that give it
its sweet taste are stevioside and rebaudioside.
In 1995, the FDA approved this natural sweetener for use as a dietary supplement, but not as a
Benefits of Stevia
- Sweetleaf is natural plant
product with no artificial ingredients.
- Replaces sugar as a
sweetener without the calories of sugar. This makes it a very good sweetener
for diabetics, obese people and all those who desire reduced calories without
compromising the sweetness of foods.
- Over 300 times
sweeter than sugar, so you only need very little amount.
- It is not easily
destroyed by heat, so it can be used in cooking, unlike saccharine and
aspartame. Cooking with stevia is one of its major advantages, like
baking cakes and cookies, but it is difficult to make hard candies, because
unlike sugar, it does not caramelize. Sweet leaf candy can be in the form of chocolates
and others that do not need the of sugar to make.
- Stevia recipes are just almost any other recipe that calls for sugar.
Just replace sugar with this sugar substitute, except that you will have to
reduce the quantity of this sweetener.
- It will not increase blood sugar, so it is
safe for diabetics. A review by Goyal SK, et al suggests that it may be
beneficial for health maintenance in diabetes. Some studies found that it may
increase insulin production and the sensitivity of the body to insulin.
- When used before
meal, it may decrease the post-prandial blood glucose
- It is safe for children
- Unlike sugar, sugar leaf
protects the teeth from plaque and tooth decay.
- Sweet leaf has not been
found to be toxic to humans for many generations.
- Some studies
suggest that this sweetener may have antifungal and antimicrobial properties. That is it can
be effective in combating germs and yeast infections.
- Sweet leaf can be used to treat
obesity because it is sweet without adding any significant calories to the
- It may be useful
for treatment of high blood pressure.
- It has been used to
treat heart burn.
- It can also be used
to lower uric acid level, which will make it beneficial in the treatment of
- It has been found
to act as a cardiac stimulant, this may or may not be beneficial depending on
the outcome you want.
- It may also treat
cancer, inflammation and diarrhea and may act as a diuretic.
Rebaudioside A is the extract that the FDA has approved
for use in the USA .
Are There Dangers Stevia Use?
There does not seem
to be any major dangers. The Guarani
Indians have been using it centuries before Christopher Columbus first landed
in the Americas, without any health problems known to result from it.
It has not been shown to be toxic, but a few
studies suggest possible contraceptive effect. Though the contraceptive side effects
have not been proved, people seeking to get pregnant should consider this
possibility before using this product. Also, this should never be used for
contraception as this property has not been proved.
In 1995, the
World Health Organization (WHO) found no adverse effects of sweetleaf.
Up to 40% of food sweeteners in Japan come from sugar leaf.
Only a small
percentage of the seeds germinate, so growing the plant is mainly done by cloning.
Stevia side effects
- When used in
baking, it does not ferment and does not feed the yeast. As such the bread
does not rise as well as that baked with sugar.
- Sweetleaf is said to be a
cardiac stimulant, but that could be a problem from the consumption of many
times the consumption of reasonable daily amount.
- It is possible to
act as a diuretic. While this could help in the reduction of blood pressure, it
could contribute to dehydration. It is important for people using this product
to maintain a good daily fluid intake.
FDA has not approved the use of whole leaf stevia because of possible effects
on the heart, kidneys and reproductive systems.
The amount of This natural sweetener needed for human purposes is very small and may not be enough to cause any side effects.
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