What Is Stevia?
Maybe you’ve heard of stevia already, maybe you haven’t. But if not, then it’s time you did! Stevia is a natural sweetener, derived from the stevia rebaudiana plant that was first discovered centuries ago in Paraguay by the native population. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a Swiss botanist working in South America documented the so-called “sweet leaf”, and brought it back with him.
These days you can buy stevia in many forms. The most popular is white extract powder, but you can also buy dried stevia leaves, stevia liquid extract, or as small pellets to sweeten your coffee with. The sweet leaf sweetener is also available in its granular form in small packets.
However, the all-natural stevia sweetener is different from sugar in many ways, and there are several reasons why stevia is a better option than sucrose, whether you’re diabetic or just looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle. So let’s go and have a look at them!
1. Stevia is very, very potent
The raw leaves of the stevia plant are approximately 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the powdered sweetener derived from them is up to 200-300 times sweeter. What this means, is that just a tiny bit of stevia will suffice for most of your sugar-free recipes. The sweet leaf’s shelf life is about 5 years, so it most certainly is a worthwhile investment.
2. Stevia has no calories
Refined sugar makes you fat, there’s no denying it. Sucrose contains a lot of calories and there are so many sugary products nowadays that it’s become almost a full-time chore to avoid them. As a consequence, 34% of adults in America are obese and for our children – who are being exposed to sugar from a very young age – that figure is 17%.
These alarming rates are three times higher than they were thirty years ago. Luckily, the stevia sweetener harbors no calories whatsoever. While it isn’t by any means a weight loss product, the benefits of stevia and its huge potential in this area are obvious.
3. Stevia helps to suppress cravings
As we all know, sugar is addictive. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose may not have any calories or glycemic index, but they still promote cravings for sugary sweets. On top of that, an increasing amount of consumers over the years has reported negative side effects when using artificial sweeteners, ranging from headaches and dizziness to rashes and stomach pains. Stevia on the other hand, has been reported to suppress cravings.
Time for a bit of trivia: did you know that stevia has been approved as a sweetener in Japan since the 1970?s, and is now the number one sweetener there, with a market share of over 40%? And all this without any reports of unwanted side effects!
4. Stevia is Good for Your Teeth
When you consume sugar, an adhesive layer of bacteria is formed on your teeth, causing dental plaque and cavities in the long run. So-called “sugar alcohols” (also called “polyols”) such as Xylitol, Erythritol, Maltitol and Sorbitol are popular ingredients in chewing gums and toothpastes because the dental bacteria cannot ferment them and thus, can’t adhere to your teeth.