Stevia is a plant with a powerful sweet taste that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century. It is considered as a natural sweetener and is considered as all-natural and an extremely safe alternative to processed sugar. The plant is originally native to South America but is now also grown in Asia and is mainly used as a non-nutritive sweetener and sometimes as an herbal supplement. A non-nutritive sweetener is one that consists of little to no calories. Stevia is usually used as a healthy alternative to added sugar in many beverages such as energy drinks. Some of the best energizing drink brands in the world which are mainly used as a source of hydration contain approximately 12g of sugar and a wide range of artificial colors and flavors that can be harmful to health.
What exactly is Stevia?
Stevia is also known as ‘Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni’ and is a bushy shrub which is part of the sunflower family. There are approximately more than 150 species of stevia which are all native to North and South America. One of the largest exporters of stevia products currently is China. Nowadays it is produced in many countries worldwide and can be grown at home as well. Since stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, it typically needs about 20% of the land and less water to provide the same amount of sweetness as any other conventional sweeteners available in the market. Stevia consists of 8 glycosides. Glycosides are the sweet components isolated and purified from the leaves of stevia. These glycosides include:
- Dulcoside A
- Rebaudioside A
- Rebaudioside C
- Rebaudioside D
- Rebaudioside E
- Rebaudioside F
Stevioside and rebaudioside A (reb A) are some of the most plentiful of these components. These are extracted through a process of harvesting the leaves, then drying, water extraction and purification. The processed product before it is purified is known as Crude stevia and often carries a bitter and foul smell until it is bleached or discolored. Approximately it takes around 40 steps to process the final stevia extract.
Health Benefits of Stevia
Unlike Sugar which has a harmful impact on health, Stevia is completely different! Below are a few health benefits of Stevia:
- Diabetes – Research has shown that stevia sweeteners do not add calories or carbohydrates to a healthy diet and have no effect on blood glucose or insulin response of the consumer. This allows customers with diabetes to consume a wider
variety of foods and comply with a healthful meal plan which may contain stevia in it. (there are some studies which say it regulates the spike so helps diabetics pls research and add that point)
- Weight Control – Obesity has many causes such as physical inactivity and excess intake of foods that are high in fat and added sugars. Stevia contains no sugar and very few calories. It can be used to maintain a well-balanced diet in order to help reduce energy intake without sacrificing taste.
- Pancreatic cancer – Stevia consists of many sterols and antioxidant compounds such as kaempferol which can help in reducing the risk of getting pancreatic cancer.
- Blood pressure – Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels and also increase sodium excretion and urine output. Stevia could potentially help lower blood pressure as it might have cardio tonic actions which can normalize blood pressure and regulate the heartbeat. Although, further research needs to be conducted as some researchers say that stevia may not have an impact on blood pressure.
- Children’s diets – Foods and beverages which contain stevia can help play a key role in reducing calories from unwanted sweeteners/sugar in the diets of children. There are many products on the market which contain naturally-sourced stevia, ranging from salad dressing to snack bars. The widespread availability of these products allows children to consume sweet foods and drinks without the added calories while moving to a lower sugar diet.
How is Stevia Used?
The sweet components in stevia sweeteners are naturally occurring. This may further benefit customers who favor foods and beverages they distinguish as natural. Worldwide, approximately more than 5000 food and beverage products currently contain stevia as an ingredient. Stevia sweeteners are used as an ingredient in products which are present in South America and Asia like; Ice-cream, Desserts, Sauces, Yogurts, Pickled foods, Bread, Soft drinks, Chewing gum, Candy, Seafood & Prepared vegetables.
Stevia which is also known as “meethi tulsi” in India has recently become a store name. So why is it that Stevia has a negative connotation even though it does not harm?
The reason is that the stevia or meethi tulsi that you get off shelves contains Common Fillers and Additives! To name a few-
Maltodextrin: This is a filler that is made of either rice, potatoes or corn which provides a sweet flavor and thus creates a free flowing product. This filler is also used to bulk up baked goods without clumping it. Since this product is corn based which is often genetically modified it might be bad for your health. Hence when purchasing stevia always look for stevia that is organic or non-GMO.
Dextrose: This filler is made from corn sugar, fruits and honey. It is said to be a closer substitute of sugar when compared to any other fillers in the market. Just like Maltodextrin, this filler is also very sweet but is in a chemical form. If you follow a sugar free diet then you should definitely avoid products which contain dextrose.
Inulin: another filler which is said to be one of the safest additives because of its vegetable properties (but don’t let the vegetable part fool you into taking the wrong product home) is Inulin. Though it's a good source of fiber it has still been linked to gastrointestinal disorders like bloating, gas, and general digestive problems
The truth about Stevia
Store bought Stevia products are usually made with fillers and additives. Sadly, this is what gives it a bad name. But brands such as our Beyond Water use 99% pure stevia of the highest quality that is derived from stevia farmers to create an all-natural essential vitamin drops product, making it safe for you and people of all ages to consume and even those who are diabetic. They use a natural sweetener called stevia compared to processed sugars. Often, store bought stevia brands may have fillers which make them as bad as Sucralose or Aspartame that are harmful to our body. Off the shelf energy drinks and juices contain approximately 12g of sugar and a range of artificial flavors and colors. These drops are not only refreshing but also will transform your water into an energizing drink.