Stevia is a plant native to South America and has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. Stevia was first discovered 200 years ago. It is known as a zero-calorie sweet herb. The leaf extract of stevia is being used globally as a sugar content in foods and beverages.
The botanical name of stevia plant is Stevia rebaudiana and it belongs to Asteraceae (sunflower) family.
Steviol glycosides are naturally present in stevia-leaf which are responsible for its sweet-taste. There are 11 major steviol glycosides of which rebaudioside A and stevioside are the most abundant ones.
In addition to its hypoglycemic property, the plant also exhibits anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, diuretic, antiseptic, anti-fertility and cardiotonic properties as well.
Health Benefits of Stevia are:
- Natural Sweetener: Now a days, low-calorie foods with low sugar content are being fast developed by the food industries to prevent.
- Various sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame etc. are used. Although these Sweeteners are approved as safe but they are classified as non-nutritive sweeteners and are subjected to controversy due to chemical additives.
- Therefore, herbal sweeteners such as stevia are receiving much attention as natural alternatives to artificial sweeteners and sugars. It is 200 times sweeter than the regular sugar (sucrose) and considered as calorie-free as well.
- In a research, it is found that daily intake of 2 mg/kg/bw of stevia was reported to be safe, especially in diabetic patients.
- Therefore, stevia is a natural and healthy alternative sweetener to sugar and other artificial sweeteners.
- Weight Loss: Stevia is very low in calories. People who want to lose weight can include sweets made with stevia without worrying about calories and gaining weight.
- Stevia acts as a substitute for sugar and helps in weight management but it should be used in moderation.
- It does not act as a magic bullet so if you eat too many sugar-free foods, you can still gain weight.
- Regulates Blood Pressure: Stevia is helpful in regulating the blood pressure due to the presence of glycosides that relax the blood vessels, eliminates the sodium and increases urination.
- Due to this, there is drop in blood pressure and less stress is put on the cardiovascular system.
- Studies have also shown that consumption of stevia leads to a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increase in HDL cholesterol level. HDL is essential for a healthy lipid profile.
- Therefore, stevia leaves protect the heart health and prevents certain conditions such as atherosclerosis, risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Anti-Cancer Potential: The leaves of stevia are rich in anti-oxidants which make it an ideal dietary supplement.
- The presence of anti-oxidants makes it a suitable supplement for the prevention of various cancers.
- The extracts of stevia exhibit a high degree of anti-oxidant activity.
- The presence of other glycoside compounds is useful in eliminating free radicals in the body thereby preventing them from mutating healthy cells into malignant ones.
- There are other benefits of anti-oxidants such as prevention of pre-mature ageing, improved cognitive function and heart function.
- Skin Care: The leaves of stevia are also beneficial in skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema.
- Topical application of the leaves of stevia inhibits the spread of infection and acts as a steroid in skin conditions.
Other Health Benefits: In addition to other health benefits, stevia is known to possess anti-diarrhoeal, anti-hyperglycemic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory actions.
Safety: As long as stevia is highly purified and if used in moderation, it will not cause side effects and can be consumed without any worry.
Caution is advised when using stevia with medications that also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes or insulin should use it with caution.
- Stevia may also interact with anti-cancer drugs, appetite suppressants, calcium channel blockers, cholesterol lowering drugs, drugs that increase urination etc. People who are taking these drugs should talk with their doctor before taking stevia.
How to use and store: Stevia leaves and its powder can be used and stored directly as a sugar substitute in various foods like in beverages, baked items, ice-creams etc.
This article is not a substitute to the standard Medical Diagnosis or personalized Ayurvedic Treatment! It is intended only for Information!
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