What is stevia, and does it support good health? This low-calorie sweetener doesn’t raise blood sugar. Because of this, stevia benefits diabetics and those on a keto diet.
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If you’re a diabetic or following a low-carb diet such as keto, you know that traditional sugar products such as cane sugar and refined sugar aren’t a good fit for your circumstances.
Why is that? Well,if you’re a diabetic, regular sugar will cause your blood glucose levels to rise, and this will worsen your ailment. And if you’re following a low-carb diet, traditional sugar products such as refined sugar and table sugar are too high in carbs to be a suitable match.
The solution is to replace regular sugar with a sugar substitute that doesn’t have the same negative effects. Stevia sweetener is one such substitute. It’s low in carbs and won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
What is stevia all about? Let’s take a closer look at how stevia benefits your wellness journey.
In this article, we will:
- Explain what stevia is and where it comes from
- Discuss how stevia extract is made and what it’s made from
- Share insight regarding stevia’s calorie count
- Talk about stevia and diabetes
- Share insight on whether stevia is keto-friendly
- Let you know if stevia is an artificial sweetener or a natural sweetener
- Discuss key stevia benefits
- List common trade names for stevia
What is stevia?
Stevia is a sugar substitute, and it’s classed as a non-nutritive sweetener. It’s extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant; this shrub is part of the sunflower family. There are over 100 different species of stevia plant, and all of them are indigenous to North and South America.
You may know stevia by its other names: candy leaf, sweet leaf and sugar leaf. These names testify to its incredible abilities as a sweetener.
So, what is stevia best known for? As you may have guessed, that would have to be its irresistible sweetness. Stevia benefits anyone who’s looking for a potent and effective sweetener. Pure stevia holds the distinction of being 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. It gets its sweet taste from components called steviol glycosides.
This product is available as liquid stevia or stevia powder in grocery stores.
What is stevia made from, and how is it made?
Stevia benefits those seeking a sweetener that’s sweeter than sugar. We’ve mentioned that the stevia plant gets its natural sweetness from compounds called steviol glycosides. The list of glycosides includes:
- Dulcoside A
- Rebaudiosides A, C, D, E and F
Among these glycosides, stevioside and rebaudioside A are present in the highest amounts.
To create stevia sweetener, each steviol glycoside is separated from the plant’s leaves and purified.
To facilitate this process, the stevia leaves are first harvested and dried. Then a water extraction process is used to separate the glycosides. This leaves you with a product called crude stevia. Finally, the crude stevia is purified. This creates the purified stevia leaf extract that’s sold on store shelves.
The purification stage is important. Crude, unpurified stevia tastes bitter and has a noxious odor. Bleaching and decoloring are required to get rid of these unpleasant aspects. It can take as many as 40 steps to purify and perfect the final stevia product.
What is stevia good for if you’re counting calories?
If you’re seeking a low-calorie sweetener, stevia fits the bill. Stevia has zero calories. For this reason, stevia benefits those who are trying to monitor calorie intake to maintain or lose weight.
How is stevia able to provide so much sweetness with zero calories? It pulls this off because the steviol glycosides that are used in this sweetener aren’t absorbed in the body’s upper gastrointestinal tract. As a result of this, a stevia sweetener passes through the body without adding any calories.
In this way, stevia is similar to monk fruit sweetener, another low-calorie sugar substitute.
Is stevia good for diabetics?
Diabetics need to constantly monitor their diet to avoid raising their blood sugar levels. For this reason, regular sugar is bad for diabetics. Sugar causes blood glucose levels to rise, and this can create a dangerous situation if you have diabetes.
A stevia sweetener differs from sugar in its effect on blood glucose levels. Does stevia raise blood sugar? The answer to that question is no. Stevia provides sweetness without impacting your blood sugar.
So, is stevia good for diabetics? Because of the fact that it has zero impact on your blood sugar, stevia benefits those wrestling with diabetes. It’s a safe sweetener for diabetics to include in their eating plan.
Is stevia keto?
If you’re on a keto diet, you know that it’s essential to minimize your intake of carbohydrates.
So, what is stevia good for if you’re following a keto diet?
A stevia sweetener contains zero carbs. For this reason, stevia benefits a keto eating plan. It’s a great sweetener to use if you’re on a ketogenic diet.
Is stevia an artificial sweetener or a natural sweetener?
Some sugar substitutes are made entirely in a lab. Both aspartame and sucralose fall within this category. These sugar substitutes are typically called artificial sweeteners.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find natural sweeteners. These sweeteners are often made from ingredients found in nature.
So, what is stevia best described as: artificial or natural?
Stevia sweeteners come from a plant. Because it’s plant-derived and not engineered in a lab, some people consider stevia a natural sweetener.
Keep in mind, though, that even though stevia sweeteners are derived from natural sources, the end result is heavily processed. As we’ve mentioned, stevia must be extensively refined to create a product suitable for consumption.
Making the matter even more complicated is the fact that some stevia sweeteners contain ingredients that are broadly labeled as “natural flavors.” Ingredients that fall under this umbrella are often highly processed.
Stevia’s unique qualities make it a sweetener that is of special value to people with certain needs. Here are some ways in which stevia benefits health:
Stevia benefit #1: Safe for diabetics
Many of us are naturally drawn to sweet foods, but sweets can raise your blood sugar levels. This can be problematic if you’re a diabetic. If a diabetic’s blood sugar levels rise, it can bring on symptoms and worsen the disease.
Stevia benefits diabetics due to its effect on blood sugar. Unlike regular sugar, stevia won’t raise the body’s blood sugar levels after you consume it. For this reason, a stevia sweetener can be safely consumed by someone with diabetes.
Furthermore, some research suggests that stevia may have the effect of actually lowering insulin and glucose levels. In a 2010 study, stevia reduced the insulin and blood sugar levels of the participants.
Stevia benefit #2: Supports weight management by reducing calorie intake
If you want to lose weight, there’s a simple rule that you need to follow: You need to make sure that you’re burning more calories each day than you’re consuming.
Added sugar can increase the calorie count of the foods you consume. A teaspoon of sugar contains 20 calories. This can eventually have a big impact on calorie intake, especially when you consider how many foods contain added sugars.
So, what is stevia doing to support weight management? Stevia contains zero calories. If you use it as a sugar substitute, it can create notable reductions in your calorie intake over time.
Stevia benefits your efforts to cut calories. And by doing this, it can help you lose those extra pounds or maintain a healthy weight.
Stevia benefit #3: May prevent some types of cancer
Research indicates that stevia may help curb or prevent certain types of cancer.
A 2012 study looked at a glycoside called stevioside; this compound is found in stevia. The study showed that stevioside can help kill cancer cells in those suffering from breast cancer.
Stevia benefit #4: May lower harmful cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is harmful and has been linked with heart disease. HDL cholesterol is different; it’s been linked with detoxification and supports good health.
Research shows that stevia benefits healthy cholesterol levels. In a 2009 study, stevia leaf powder lowered harmful LDL cholesterol. It also had the effect of increasing the level of health-supporting HDL cholesterol in the body.
What is stevia called in grocery stores?
On grocery store shelves, stevia goes by different trade names. You’ll need to know what these are if you wish to purchase stevia products. Here are a few:
- Stevia In The Raw
Some stevia sweeteners contain added ingredients. For example, stevia products are sometimes sold as a blend that includes erythritol, a sugar alcohol.
And some stevia sweeteners contain additives such as dextrose and maltodextrin. Both of these additives contain carbohydrates and can negate stevia’s low-carb benefits.
If you want to avoid a particular food additive, be sure to read a product’s label carefully and check each ingredient before purchasing.
Now that you know what it has to offer, what is stevia good for on your health journey? Find out firsthand how stevia benefits wellness. Purchase stevia powder or stevia liquid at your local grocery store, and take it for a test run.
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