Calorie and sugar intake are hot topics these days, particularly for those trying to lose weight. While skipping sweeteners entirely is the most direct way to eat cleaner and lose weight, it can be quite difficult!
This is where Stevia extract - a natural 0 calorie sweetener - comes in. But what is Stevia exactly? How do we eat it? And what are the primary benefits and downsides to adding it into your diet as a sugar replacement?
Keep reading to find out!
First, What is Stevia?
Stevia is a 0 calorie, natural sweetener derived from the South American plant “Stevia Rebaudiana”. It contains rebaudiosides and steviol glycosides, and approximately 150-200 times sweeter tasting than sugar. Historically, the plant extract was used by South American natives to sweeten beverages or chewed on for their sweet taste.
The plant became increasingly popular in the developed countries over the past few years, however its legal status as food additive and supplement varies from country to country. For example, Japan has used the sweetener for decades, whereas the United States approved its legal usage in 2008.
How Do I Eat Stevia?
The Stevia leaf can be bought in many different forms. The one we know from the shelves in the supermarket is the white extract powder, but it is also available as dried stevia leaves, stevia liquid extract, granulate form or small packets.
Now that we're caught up to speed, let's jump into the benefits!
What are the benefits of Stevia?
1) Supports Healthy Blood Sugar and Weight Loss:
Several studies have revealed that stevia can support blood sugar and weight loss. It's also been linked to treating more serious diseases, but the research is still out.
2) No calories:
Believe it or not, It does not have any calories! And the good thing about it is that in contradiction to sugar or artificial sweeteners that harm your body, it is not addictive. Less cravings for sugar mean less sugar consumption which in turn can lead to a healthier body.
3) Healthy teeth:
It is widely known that sugar is bad for your teeth. But also sugar alcohols which can be found for example in chewing gums or tooth paste are not good for you, as they can lead to bloating, gas and can be harmful for diabetics. Stevia does not have any of them.
4. It is save for diabetics:
Diabetics have to control their carbohydrate intake. In order to measure it, the Glycemic Index was developed. Anything under 50 is considered to be relatively safe. Sugar has a GI of 80, whereas Stevia has a GI of 0.
What about the downsides?
1) Taste: Stevia is sweet, but it does not exactly taste like the sugar we are used to. In fact, it may have a tiny bitter aftertaste. If you find products that are based on rebaudiosides, the bitter aftertaste will not be existent.
2) Not every stevia is created equal:
Unfortunately in many cases there is not much left from the real stevia leaf, which has been used for centuries. Look for “whole leaf stevia” if you want to consume the real, natural plant.
3) Manufacturers´ tricks:
Many products containing stevia also contain real sugar or artificial sweeteners, mainly because of its aftertaste and price. Tereos PureCircle stated that out of 604 new products launched worldwide in 2010 containing stevia, at least 60 percent still contained sugar. Again, look for “whole leaf stevia” if you want to consume the real, natural plant.
Ready to try incorporating Stevia extract into your diet? All of 310 Nutrition's tasty, meal replacement shakes use Stevia extract for flavor and sweetening.
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