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The Natural Sweetener Stevia and its Health Benefits

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

About Stevia

Stevia is a genus of about 240 plants, herbs and shrubs, belonging to the sunflower family, Asteraceae. These plants are native to South America Central America and Mexico.

Some common names for stevia are sugar leaf, sweet leaf, honey leaf etc. In India, it is called "meethi patti' meaning sweet leaf. The stevia plant is mainly grown for its sweet leaves and being a natural sweetener, stevia is a healthy replacement for chemical sweeteners like Splenda, aspartame and saccharine, even the common table sugar.

Stevia

Stevia Around The World

The stevia plant is widely grown in Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela and Paraguay. Stevia has been used in Venezuela for over 1500 years and the Guarani tribes of Paraguay have used stevia since centuries to sweeten unpalatable medicinal drinks. It has also been used in Japan for several decades now. The European Union approved its use as a sweetener in 2011.

In the U.S. and Canada stevia is available labelled as a dietary supplement.

Whole leaf stevia and crude stevia extracts are not permitted by the FDA to be used as food additives in view of their safety to health notably in the area of effects on the cardiovascular, reproductive and renal system and control of blood sugar.

Some products like Truvia and PureVia containing the glycoside rebaudioside A, which is obtained from the stevia plant, have been cleared as a food additive.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2006 declared that Stevioside and Rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro and in vivo and that the genotoxicity of Steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives in vitro, is not expressed in vivo.

Stevia has also been used as a natural sweetener in many other countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Israel etc since decades and many research papers have been published around the world regarding the safety of stevia.

About Stevia Plant And Leaves

Stevia is a small shrub about 2 to 3 feet in height and of the about 240 odd species, only Stevia rebaudiana possesses the natural sweetness which is a distinguishing characteristic of stevia.

Stevia leaves are 30 times sweeter than sugar while the leaf extract rebaudioside A is 300 times sweeter than sugar. The leaves contain 2 glycosides of which Stevioside comprises 10-20% and Rebaudioside A comprises 1-3%.

Stevia rebaudiana is the most lucrative herbal plant that gives great returns in commercial cultivation and is the most cultivated species.

The glycosides, Stevioside and Rebaudioside impart the sweet taste. When these are consumed the Rebaudioside is converted to Stevioside and this is broken down into glucose and Steviol. The glucose is used by the bacterial in the colon while the Steviol that cannot be digested further is passed out of the body without being absorbed.

Health Benefits Of Stevia

Some of the health benefits of stevia are given below :

  • Stevia has antihyperglycemic, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-diarrheal, diuretic and immunomodulatory properties. It also has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties.
  • Calorie and carbohydrate-free making it an excellent choice for diabetics and those wishing to control their weight.
  • Rich in nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, chromium, zinc, riboflavin and protein.
  • Very stable at high temperatures of even 100 degrees Centigrade, over a broad range of pH from 3 to 9 and is non-fermentative.
  • Has hardly any effect on blood glucose levels when consumed while it may even enhance glucose tolerance.
  • Has zero glycemic index as compared to 70 for sugar and 80 for artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Equal, Sweet N Low, etc.
  • The leaves contain many sterols and antioxidant compounds like triterpenes, flavonoids and tannins. It contains kaempferol and this nutrient has been found to reduce the risk of cancer and this has been reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
  • The chlorogenic acid prevents the conversion of glycogen into glucose as well as decreases the absorption of glucose in the digestive tract making stevia effective in reducing blood sugar levels.
  • Stevia can lower blood pressure due to its glycosides some of which dilate the blood vessels and also increase sodium and urine excretion.
  • Stevia prevents cavities and tooth decay as being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the causative organism, finds the environment unfriendly for its growth.
    Certain compounds found in stevia inhibit these bacteria as well.
  • Stevia also heals cuts and wounds more rapidly without leaving scars, improves digestion, increases energy levels and mental acuity.

Stevia Availabilty

Stevia is not available in the sweetener section but in the supplement section and one can buy it in the health food stores too.

Fresh stevia leaves, when chewed, have an extremely sweet taste reminiscent of liquorice. The dried leaves are sweeter in taste than fresh leaves and this form is used to prepare herbal tea. Drying and powdering the leaves helps to draw out more of the flavour and sweet taste from the leaves. The powdered leaves can be used in foods and beverages.

Stevia is also available in the form of a white powdered extract. In this form, it is the sweetest. It is also available in liquid concentrate form that is made by various methods.

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References

  • http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/166/8/924
  • http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241660546_eng.pdf
  • http://steviacultivation.blogspot.in/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia
  • http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214864.htm
  • http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/stevia-plant.html
  • http://healing.about.com/cs/herbaltherapy/a/stevia.htm
  • http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2006/9241660546_eng.pdf
  • http://www.steviabenefits.org/index.html
  • http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_Article.aspx?Id=2269


Disclaimer

The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.


Some Of My Other Hubs On Healthy Foods

Understanding Alternative Sweeteners

How to Make a Stevia Liquid Extract

How to Make Your Own Pure Stevia and Liquid Stevia

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly

Comments

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 10, 2020:

Glad you liked the article, Umesh. Thank you.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 09, 2020:

I found this article extremely useful and having complete information on Stevia. Thanks.

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on November 03, 2013:

I have been using stevia for over two decades.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 18, 2013:

Thanks, Indian Chef.

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on August 17, 2013:

Hi rajan, thanks for introducing me to this plant. I had never used or heard about it. I am surely going to try it out. Voted up, interesting, rated 5 stars and shared.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 23, 2013:

@stevia-good to know many commercial products in Peru use stevia as a substitute for white sugar. Thanks for reading and sharing.

@lemonkerdz-glad you are using stevia. Thanks for reading.

@rebecca-Glad you like the info. Thanks.

@PegCole-thanks and good to note you are thinking of using stevia.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 22, 2013:

With this information I'll be trying stevia and adding it into my baked goods. Thank you for an informative and useful article.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on June 22, 2013:

Thanks, Rajan. My family needs to do a better job of using stevia rather than sugar. Thanks for the reinforcement!

lemonkerdz from LIMA, PERU on June 22, 2013:

Stevia is all over the place here in cusco. i recently started using it especially in fruit juices that we make up, it saves you on kilos of sugar and is so much better.

Thanks for sharing this hub.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 22, 2013:

Stevia is quite popular here in Peru. It's most common in the white powder form, although you can also find the leaf. We use it in combination with brown sugar or honey so the stevia flavor isn't so noticeable. It does help decrease our sugar intake. Many commercial products in Peru, such as yogurt, contain stevia. It's good to know about all the health benefits. This is another informative article. Voted up, 5 stars and shared. Thanks!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 28, 2013:

Thanks Elias. Glad you like the info!

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on May 27, 2013:

I recently heard about stevia as more and more people prefer it over sugar as a natural sweetener. Thanks for the hub and the information you shared with us.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 22, 2013:

Thanks Shyron! This info will be useful for those looking to purchase Stevia.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on May 21, 2013:

Rajan, I forgot to mention that I purchase Sweet Leaf Stevia at Sprouts, it not only cost less, it is always available. I bought it from the healthfood store GNC when I lived in Illinois.

@Tebo, look up Stevia cooking on the Internet. I am with Jaye on the soft drinks.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 21, 2013:

@Au fait-thanks for your appreciation. I think a bit of trial and error method will give you an estimate of how much stevia to use. I certainly appreciate both your visit and comments and of course the votes and sharing. It's good to see you again.

@Shyron-This is a very useful input and will pretty much help those readers who are in a dilemma whether to use stevia or not. Thanks so much and I much appreciate your visit and comments.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on May 21, 2013:

Rajan, I have been using the Stevia sweetner for years, and I love it. I have not purchased regular sugar in at least 25 years.

This is a great hub, Rajan.

C E Clark from North Texas on May 20, 2013:

Forgot to mention that I gave you 5 more stars, too!

C E Clark from North Texas on May 20, 2013:

So packed with valuable information as I have come to expect with your articles! How to make one's own is so interesting and useful. Where to buy this product. I'm wondering how one might use it as a substitute in baking since it is measured by the pinch rather than the spoonful . .

Voted up, interesting, useful, and will share!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 18, 2013:

Graham, I'm glad you like the info presented here and also that you came across this when you needed it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Graham Gifford from New Hamphire on May 16, 2013:

Rajan, I have never eaten stevia and was curious about it. I'm pleased that I saw your hub - it was informative.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 15, 2013:

tebo, Jaye is right! these processed stevia sweeteners have added fillers which detract from the full benefits of stevia. I'd rather use the powdered leaves or buy organic stevia.

It's good to see you here and my thanks for stopping by.

tebo from New Zealand on May 14, 2013:

Lots of interesting information. I did buy some powdered stevia at one time but I don't think I ever used it. I was interested in using it in baking, but didn't really try it out. A bit interested in Pepsi Next which we don't get here, but I see Jay Wisdom isn't convinced.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 07, 2013:

@moonlake-glad to know you are using this stevia. Thanks for the read and share.

@Que Scout-thanks for the links and read.

@Nithya-good to know you use stevia. Thanks.

@Rasma-thanks for stopping by and sharing.

@Jaye-I certainly appreciate your visit and thanks for the useful comments. Appreciate the sharing.

@Flourish Anyway-glad you like the info. Thanks.

@Peggy-thanks for the votes and sharing. As you can see Jaye has a lot of good to say about stevia.

@Sonya-it's better to always makes changes slowly and progress further. Thanks.

@RTalloni-good to learn that you've been growing it and also using it. Thanks for the visit and comments.

@StephSev-thanks.

@Kathryn-glad you like the info and I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 06, 2013:

This is very interesting, and I bet many people are going to view this one! Stevia is a popular subject. I always get confused which sweetener is which, but at least now I'll remember Stevia is one of the more natural ones. It's great that a sweetener can be made from a plant. Thanks for sharing this with us, Rajan. I enjoyed reading it.

Stephanie Marie Severson from Atlanta, GA on May 06, 2013:

Thank you for a great Hub!

RTalloni on May 06, 2013:

Thanks for highlighting this herb with interesting info for people who are not familiar with it.

We especially like this sweetener with fruit drinks or recipes that use fruit as a main ingredient. I love it in most teas, but not my coffee!

I've had good success growing it and was glad to see how easily it reseeds itself in our area for new plants the next year.

Sonya Artis from Kansas City, MO/Ft. Lauderdale, FL on May 06, 2013:

I will try this. Based on what Susan said above, I will start slow and small. Thank you for this article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 06, 2013:

I was talking just the other day with a friend who would like to bake one of my sweet bread recipes but she is diabetic and has to avoid sugar. Will be sending this hub to her as well as sharing it with my followers. Interesting to note all of the other health benefits associated with this plant. Up, useful and interesting votes and will also pin.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 06, 2013:

Wonderful information. Good to have another natural alternative to aspartame.

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on May 06, 2013:

I use only pure organic stevia grown in the U.S., available in powder (for hot beverages) and liquid (for cold and for cooking). The human palate can become accustomed to a new taste within two weeks. I like stevia, particularly because I know it's healthier for me than alternatives. Too many people seem unaware (though it's publicized) that sugar causes health problems, and chemical sweetners, such as aspartame and even sucralose, have dangers.

When buying stevia, don't trust the products by Coca-Cola (Truvia) or PepsiCo (Purevia), or Stevia in the Raw, all of which contain unhealthy fillers. These companies only climbed on the stevia bandwagon for profit, not to help people maintain health. The first two companies contributed millions to pay for false advertising and confuse California voters to help defeat the proposition that would lead to labeling GMOs, so that tells you how unethical they are!

Terrific hub, Rajan Jolly, and thanks for the reference links (though I don't trust ANYTHING from the FDA, which is a corrupt agency controlled by a former Monsanto attorney and dedicated to protecting the interests of Big Business, NOT consumers!) Okay--I'll climb down off my soapbox! : )

Voted Up++ and shared.

Jaye

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on May 06, 2013:

Voted up and useful. Another informative and interesting hub. Wish we could grow this plant here. Passing this on.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 06, 2013:

I have used Stevia Sweetner. It is very, sweet and has a taste of it's own. Great hub on the Stevia Plant.

Steve from Fiji on May 05, 2013:

The Australian Pepsi Next is sweetened using an extract from stevia and has no artificial sweeteners. It is marketed as having "30% less sugar".

Pepsi Cola is too sweet any day of the week but when they released Next with stevia it tasted better.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepsi_Next

And from Pepsi themselves see http://www.schweppesaustralia.com.au/Our-Brands/Pe...

moonlake from America on May 05, 2013:

I have some Stevia in my pantry. I use it all the time. I'm trying to stay away from all the other sweetners. Voted up five stars and share.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 05, 2013:

@Bill-unfortunately, stevia doesn't grow in too cold a climate. I appreciate your visit and comments, my friend. Have a nice day!

@Susan-I believe a few drops a day will not affect the blood pressure much but it's always good to get a check up done. Thanks for reading and commenting.

@WND-glad you liked the info. Thanks for visiting.

@Devika-thanks for being a regular supporter of my hubs. It is always good to see you.

@Suzie-the linking to my hub would be an honor. I'll be checking out this hub of yours. I appreciate your visit, votes and sharing. Thanks.

@Carol-glad you came across this hub at just the right time. Thanks for the visit, vote and pinning.

@Vicki-maybe, we have been so conditioned to the taste of sugar! Thanks for stopping by.

@Joe-thanks for the comments and I'm glad you'll be using it more often. Aloha, my friend.

@Alex-thanks for the visit.

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 05, 2013:

Stevia is the sweet cure.

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 05, 2013:

Hi, Rajan!

Wonderful hub! We have Stevia in packets, similar to sugar packets, and now that I know more about it, I'll be sure to use it more often. Your information, as usual, is invaluable and timely.

Aloha, my friend!

Joe

Vickiw on May 05, 2013:

I have no doubt that this has numerous health benefits, but it is so sweet, and has that artificial sort of flavour that I have never been able to come to terms with. Strange, because I know it isn't artificial. Maybe it is the extraction process!

carol stanley from Arizona on May 05, 2013:

I am particularly interested in Stevia as we bought some stock. I know it has a slight bitter taste, but what great benefits it possesses. Going to vote this up and pin....As always Rajan a great job.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 05, 2013:

Hi Rajan,

How appropriate you should choose this subject, Stevia. I have included the ingredient in my new mouthwash recipes hub and in the mouthwash list of ingredients so would love to link this informative work of yours to them! This is great for all the benefits and history of this sugar substitute.

Voted up, useful, interesting, shared and pinned!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 05, 2013:

An interesting and informative Hub on the Stevia plant I always look forward to reading something new from you

wetnosedogs from Alabama on May 05, 2013:

I have a definite sweet tooth. Stevia is beckoning me.

Thanks for the great info on this.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

I was told to cut back on my sugar intake three months ago and switched to stevia. I bought the drops and used it in my coffee and tea. I noticed shortly after using it I got bad headaches. I think it was because I was using too much of it so I cut back to one drop per cup and found that the headaches stopped. I didn't know that it could lower blood pressure. I'll have to have my Dr. check my blood pressure next time I see him as I have low blood pressure to start with. Glad to know all the health benefits to using stevia.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 05, 2013:

Very interesting information. I wish we had this plant here where I live. I would definitely use it as a sweetener. Well done once again my friend.

blessings always,

bill

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