Posted on | August 2, 2010 | 5 Comments
Stevia is a small perennial shrub with green leaves that belongs to the aster or chrysanthemum family of plants. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweet leaf, sugar leaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. They grow primarily in the Amambay mountain range of Paraguay.
The leaves of the stevia shrub contain specific glycosides which produce a sweet taste due to its sugar components-glycone. The glycone is heat stable, pH stable, and non-fermentable, so stevia unlike aspartame can be used in baking. Stevia’s ability to sweeten is rated between 70 to 400 times that of white sugar and it has a licorice/aniseed-like aftertaste. Stevia leaves also contain protein, fibre, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, sodium and calcium. Humans cannot metabolize the sweet glycosides, which are eliminated from our body with no calorie absorption. This means stevia never initiates a rise in blood sugar.
Benefits of Stevia Plant and Its Extracts
√ Does not adversely affect blood sugar
√ Non toxic
√ Inhibit the formation of cavities and plaque
√ Non artificial ingredients
Worldwide Ethno medical Uses: Stevia and its extracts are widely used in Brazil, South America and United States for diabetes, hypertension, depression or as a sweetener. It is only used as a sweetening alternative for diabetics in Paraguay.
Common and/or Recommended Dosage: As a sweetener, 3-4 teaspoons of stevia is equal in sweetness to approximately 1 cup of sugar. The amount used depends on the level of sweetness a person desires and the form of stevia used. In the liquid form, 2-3 drops or 1/16 teaspoon powder form is enough to sweeten tea.
The Potential Dangers of Stevia
√ Reproductive Difficulties: A group of European scientists conducted experiences on both male rats and female hamsters in early 2006. They fed the male rats and female hamsters large amount of stevia and stevioside respectively. The results showed that sperm production was severely reduced for male rats and the offspring became smaller and fewer for female hamster.
√ Carcinogenic: Another study showed that stevia was linked to cancers, because its extract steviol can be converted into a mutagenic compound that promote cancer by causing mutation in DNA. Further study needs to be conducted to confirm this finding.
√ Energy Metabolism Disruption: Studies indicate that large amounts of stevioside can interfere with energy metabolism by affecting the absorption of carbohydrates in animals and disrupting the conversion of food into energy within cells.
Contraindications for Use: It is not recommended that any women who are pregnant or breastfeeding use this herb, nor is it recommended that children use it.
Health Guru Recommendations: Stevia and its extracts appear to be natures natural gift as it is sweet yet calorie-free, diabetic-safe, non-toxic and from plant origin. However, due to the licorice aftertaste, it makes it hard to hide and use widely in products. It does appear that more research needs to be conducted on this natural sweetener before opening up to commercial use. In addition, here in Singapore, Stevia and its extracts are presently banned for use based on the Sales of Food Act.