There has been a swirl around this new compound which is a perfect substitute towards sugar and has more health benefits to offer compared to sugar and is known as stevia.

Discovery of this sugar substitute will allow you to go on extra cheat meals without having to worry about those additional calories in the meal. So let’s see what this substitute exactly is in detail.

Stevia is a sweetener and a sugar substitute which is extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. It’s active compound called steviol glycosides which makes it 150 times sweeter than sugar. It is heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable. This incredible substitute was discovered in Brazil and Paraguay which dates almost 1500 year back. The reason stevia got massive popularity off lately was due to its ability to maintain check over blood glucose for the people who are on carbohydrate-controlled diets.

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Advantages of stevia

  • The first and foremost advantage of stevia is it does not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet and hence they do not affect blood glucose or insulin response due to this benefit of stevia people suffering from diabetes gets to consume a wide variety of foods and comply with a healthy meal plan.
  • Certain amounts of glycosides present in it’s extract have been found to dilate blood vessels, increase in the sodium excretion, and urine output. The research says plant may have cardiotonic actions, which helps to normalize blood pressure and regulate heartbeat. Consumption of stevia in high doses is said to help in lowering the blood pressure.
  • The known causes of a person being overweight is usually lack of physical activity, prolonged sitting, and increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high on fat and added sugars. Researches show that added sugars has been shown to contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in the American diet and has been linked to weight gain and adverse effects on glycemic control. So stevia can be of real help to someone who is looking to cut down on the sugar without compromising in the taste.
  • Since Steviol glycosides are poorly absorbed in the body so therefore they are passed through the upper gastrointestinal tract fully intact. Once it reaches the colon, gut bacteria convert steviol glycosides into steviol. Steviol is then metabolized by the liver before it is excreted in the urine.
  • It’s also been proved that there is no accumulation of stevia (or any byproduct of stevia) in the body during metabolism which is due to its poor absorption in the digestive tract that stevia has zero calories and it does not raise blood glucose or insulin when digested.
  • It’s plant is said to have many sterols and antioxidant compounds which includes kaempferol, quercetin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, isoquercitrin, and isosteviol. Studies have also found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.
  • In a research conducted by European Food Safety Committee (EFSA) to check whether stevia can be potential cause for any allergy but the reviewers concluded that “steviol glycoside” is non-reactive and are not metabolized to reactive compounds; therefore, it was concluded that steviol glycosides cannot cause allergic reactions when consumed in foods.”

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Disadvantages of stevia

  • This substitute is quite expensive than sugar and most other artificial sweeteners available in the market.
  • Consumption of this substitute may lead to certain side effects like bloating, nausea and gas.
  • Though stevia tends to be very sweet in taste, but its aftertaste is bitter and some user resembles its aftertaste to the taste of licorice.

Though, stevia has lots of benefits towards it but it’s always advisable to consume everything in appropriate proportion and if you are allergic to any plant from the Asteraceae family such as daisies, ragweed, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers than you should avoid consuming it.

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