This ultra-sweet plant originated in South America, but it's been used in many countries for hundreds of years as a natural sweetener.Whether you're diabetic or just looking for a natural alternative to white sugar, saccharin or aspartame, stevia is a good choice.A few fresh stevia and mint leaves make a refreshing herbal tea when steeped in a cup of boiling water.Fill a blender, food processor or coffee grinder to half full with dry leaves and process at high speed for a few seconds.Use the powder in recipes that call for a sweetener, but make adjustments in the amount used due to its dense sweetness. .

Stevia: Health benefits, facts, and safety

Stevia is an intensely sweet-tasting plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century.The plant is originally native to Paraguay and Brazil but is now also grown in Japan and China.This breakdown looks at the characteristics, uses, health benefits, and side effects of stevia, as well as considering its overall safety.The natural sweetener tastes 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.Stevia and erythritol that have been approved for use in the United States (U.S.) and do not appear to pose any health risks when used in moderation.It typically requires about 20 percent of the land and far less water to provide the same amount of sweetness as other mainstream sweeteners.The term “stevia” will be used to refer to steviol glycosides and reb A throughout this article.Crude stevia, the processed product before it is purified, often carries a bitter taste and foul smell until it is bleached or decolored.Safety studies have marked stevia extract as free of side effects .A study on rats carried out since then suggests that stevia leaves in supplement form may instead possess qualities that protect the kidneys and reduce the impact of diabetes.Current research also suggests that it is safe to consume the recommended amount of sugar substitute or less while pregnant.People with sensitivity to sugar alcohol may experience bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, though one type of sugar alcohol, erythritol, poses less risk of symptoms than others.This may further benefit consumers who prefer foods and beverages they perceive as natural.Stevia sweeteners are used as an ingredient in products throughout Asia and South America such as: ice cream. .

Where Can I Use Stevia

From beverages to baked goods, breakfast to dessert and everything in between, stevia is an ideal choice to add sweet taste to foods you love, all with zero calories.This article will provide buying and usage tips as well as links to recipes to help you reduce sugar without sacrificing taste.For this reason, stevia is usually blended with other ingredients like sugar alcohols, dextrose (a mild sweetener made from corn), or plant fibers such as inulin or cellulose.Without blending, it would be very difficult for home cooks to measure out the extremely small amounts of stevia that would be needed in most recipes.Spoonable stevia is great when using larger amounts, but many manufacturer recipes will also include the number of single serve packets needed.There may be some initial trial and error to get a recipe to your liking, so play around and experiment to find your ideal level of sweetness.And don’t forget to replace sugar in your favorite alcoholic drinks like this classic French champagne cocktail.To make things simple, many manufacturers provide online recipes specifically developed to taste great when using stevia.Stevia is also useful in replacing the hidden sugars found in many foods such as salad dressings, sauces, side dishes and entrees.For yeast-raised baked goods, such as bread, stevia cannot be used as substitute for the small amount of sugar needed to activate the yeast.Stevia is a natural origin, zero calorie choice to reduce or replace sugar in the foods you love including beverages, entrees, side dishes, baked goods, desserts and snacks. .

Stevia: Health Benefits and Risks

In South America and Asia, people have been using stevia leaves to sweeten drinks like tea for many years.Major U.S. soda companies now sell diet cola soft drinks sweetened with stevia.The FDA says it doesn’t have enough information about their potential impact on your health, including kidney and cardiovascular problems.

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Stevia: Side Effects, Benefits, and More

They’re made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A).You can grow stevia plants at home and use the leaves to sweeten foods and beverages.It also left study participants satisfied and full after eating, despite the lower calorie intake.However, one noted limitation in this study is that it took place in a laboratory setting, rather than in a real-life situation in a person’s natural environment.Study participants consumed 20 milliliters of stevia extract daily for one month.Although stevia is considered safe for people with diabetes, brands that contain dextrose or maltodextrin should be treated with caution.A 2019 study reported a possible link between nonnutritive sweeteners, including stevia, and disruption in beneficial intestinal flora.The same study also suggested nonnutritive sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance and metabolic disorders.In some people, stevia products made with sugar alcohols may cause digestive problems, such as bloating and diarrhea.There’s some evidence to suggest that stevia may help fight or prevent some types of cancer.It found that many stevia glycoside derivatives were toxic to specific leukemia, lung, stomach, and breast cancer cell lines.sprinkled on unsweetened yogurt Some stevia brands, such as Stevia in the Raw, can replace table sugar teaspoon for teaspoon (as in sweetened beverages and sauces), unless you’re using it in baked goods.Stevia in the Raw recommends replacing half the total amount of sugar in your recipe with their product.You should add extra liquid or a bulking ingredient such as applesauce or mashed bananas to your recipe to make up for the lost sugar. .

How to Make Stevia Extract

As much as I would like to be one of those people who can happily chug black coffee and has no problem passing up dessert, I’m just not.White sugar is pretty much banned from our house, and I don’t even use as many unrefined sweeteners as I used to.Eating a piece of fruit generally satisfies my cravings for sweetness (which have lessened considerably), and I’m pretty darn creative about using small amounts of maple syrup, honey, or stevia to sweeten stuff instead.Of course, there is some debate surrounding stevia, (because, quite frankly, there is debate surrouding everything these days…) Some people question if it is safe to use in large amounts, and other folks don’t like the more-processed forms of stevia powder on the market today.I made a fairly small batch this time around, so I only ended up using about 1 cup of vodka, and a handful of chopped leaves.Discard any wilted or brown leaves, and coarsely chop the rest.Fill the jar with vodka, making sure the leaves are completely covered.Place the lid on securely, and give it a good shake and set it aside.Pour your finished extract into a small bottle (I like one with a dropper–it makes it easier to use) and store it in the fridge.Add 1-2 drops to your favorite beverages (I especially love using homemade stevia extract to sweeten my coffee or tea!).I made a fairly small batch this time around, so I only ended up using about 1 cup of vodka, and a handful of chopped leaves.Discard any wilted or brown leaves, and coarsely chop the rest.Fill the jar with vodka, making sure the leaves are completely covered.Place the lid on securely, and give it a good shake and set it aside.Pour your finished extract into a small bottle (I like one with a dropper–it makes it easier to use) and store it in the fridge. .

Stevia Safety: Forms, Dosage, and Side Effects

It’s also associated with several impressive health benefits, such as reduced calorie intake, blood sugar levels, and risk of cavities ( 1 , 2 , 3 ).In fact, many varieties on the market are highly refined and combined with other sweeteners — such as erythritol, dextrose, and maltodextrin — which may alter its potential health effects.Some research indicates that stevia may be a safe and effective way to help manage blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.In fact, one small study in 12 people with this condition showed that consuming this sweetener alongside a meal led to greater decreases in blood sugar levels compared to a control group given an equal amount of corn starch ( 2 ).Keep in mind that certain stevia blends may contain other types of sweeteners — including dextrose and maltodextrin — that can increase blood sugar levels (11, 12 ).Using these products in moderation or opting for pure stevia extract can help maintain normal blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.However, animal studies suggest that this sweetener — in the form of steviol glycosides like Reb A — does not negatively impact fertility or pregnancy outcomes when used in moderation ( 13 ).Limiting your kid’s consumption of foods with stevia and other sweeteners, such as sugar, can help prevent adverse side effects and support overall health.For example, one review noted that zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia could interfere with concentrations of beneficial gut bacteria, which play a central role in disease prevention, digestion, and immunity ( 15 , 16 , 17 ).Another study in 893 people found that variations in gut bacteria could negatively impact body weight, triglycerides, and levels of HDL (good) cholesterol — known risk factors for heart disease ( 18 ).What’s more, a review of seven studies discovered that routine consumption of zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia may contribute to increased body weight and waist circumference over time ( 21 ).Additionally, certain products with stevia may harbor sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol, which are sweeteners sometimes associated with digestive issues in sensitive individuals ( 22 ). .

Everything You Need to Know About Stevia Sweeteners – Food Insight

Stevia sweeteners can be used by food and beverage manufacturers as an ingredient in beverages (such as diet sodas, light or low-sugar juices and flavored waters), canned fruits, condiments, dairy products (such as ice cream, flavored milk and yogurt) and other foods (such as baked goods, cereals, chocolate and other confections) and syrups.The stevia plant has been used for food and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, and its leaves and crude extracts have been sold as a dietary supplement.Steviol glycosides are not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract and therefore do not contribute to any calories or impact blood glucose levels.High-purity steviol glycosides are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), a regulatory review process category used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).The FDA refers to the ADI established by the JECFA for certain high-purity steviol glycosides purified from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni).The ADI represents an amount 100 times less than the quantity of stevia sweeteners found to achieve a no-observed-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) in toxicology studies.Stevia sweeteners can add sweetness to a child’s foods and beverages without contributing to calories consumed or added sugars intake.While observational research among children and adults has shown an increase in the percentage of people reporting daily consumption of products containing low-calorie sweeteners,12 current intake of low-calorie sweeteners is considered to be well within acceptable levels.8,70 One modeling study estimated intakes of stevia sweeteners in children with type 1 diabetes, who may be at a higher risk of exceeding the ADI due to a need to reduce consumption of added sugars.13 The researchers concluded that there is little chance for children with type 1 diabetes to exceed the ADI for stevia sweeteners.The 2020—2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) do not recommend the consumption of low-calorie sweeteners or added sugars by children younger than two years of age.16 This DGA recommendation is not related to body weight, diabetes or the safety of added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners, but is instead intended to avoid infants and toddlers developing a preference for overly sweet foods during this formative phase.While no published research has examined possible effects of purified steviol glycosides on pregnant and lactating women, several landmark studies in animals have demonstrated no adverse reproductive or developmental effects on mothers or their offspring, even when animals were exposed to levels more than 100 times the ADI, every day, over long periods of time.17,18 After reviewing the safety evidence, regulatory agencies like the EFSA, FDA and JECFA have determined that stevia sweeteners are safe for the general population, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, when consumed within the limits of the ADI.Global health professional organizations have published their own conclusions on the safety and role of low-calorie sweeteners for people with diabetes.Conclusions from observational research studying the impact of low-calorie sweeteners on body weight often conflict with data from randomized controlled trials.Instead, observational studies examine the association between an exposure (such as reported stevia sweetener intake) and an outcome (such as body weight or a health condition).This behavior is called the “licensing effect” or “self-licensing,” in which an individual justifies giving in to indulgences by finding reasons to make a behavior that is inconsistent with their goals more acceptable.42 Although it may occur in some instances, there is little evidence from scientific studies that people consistently and consciously overconsume calories as a result of consuming low-calorie sweeteners or foods and beverages that contain them.43.It has also been suggested that people who already have overweight or obesity may begin to choose low-calorie-sweetened foods and beverages as one method for losing weight.44–47 This makes it difficult to assume that the use of low-calorie sweeteners can be the cause of weight gain, since reverse causality may be a factor.A 2020 systematic review and meta-analyses of intervention studies concluded that low-calorie sweetener consumption can help reduce body weight by decreasing overall caloric intake.51 Researchers examined 88 sustained intervention studies that included objective measurements of body weight and BMI and the use of relevant comparators.The Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) included a systematic review of 37 studies (six of which were randomized controlled trials) published between January 2000 and June 2019 on the role of low- and no-calorie-sweetened beverages on adiposity.Lifestyle and behavioral practices like eating healthfully, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and maintaining social support networks are all important factors in achieving weight loss and weight-maintenance goals.This positive association has been hypothesized to enhance appetite, and, if left unchecked, the resulting increase in food intake may contribute to overweight and obesity.55 Low-calorie sweeteners can also lead to a stimulation of reward pathways by activating sweet taste receptors, but they are not a source of calories.Some animal studies have demonstrated changes in food intake and appetite-related hormones after consuming low-calorie sweeteners.34,48 And yet, similar effects have not been seen in humans.Although research on the gut microbiome is still in its infancy, the microbes living in our intestinal tract have become recognized as potentially significant contributors to our health.All types of foods and beverages, including those made with stevia sweeteners, can have a place in a variety of healthy eating patterns.In contrast, randomized controlled trials consistently support that low-calorie sweeteners can be useful in nutritional strategies to assist with weight loss and/or weight-maintenance goals.

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