Stevia Natural Sugar Plant: For several years, there appeared in food stores a brand-new product with very reputed qualities: the Stevia rebaudiana. Containing no calories, a sweetness that does not decay, making a negligible impact on blood sugar, and providing 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has aroused curiosity, enthusiasm, and even suspicion. A small overview of this small shrub full of promise!
Is stevia bad for you?
Stevia is a plant native to the Paraguayan forest. Used for centuries by local people, it has become extremely popular in Asia, including Japan. Stevia is used in everyday cooking in the food industry and has spread widely throughout the world. Some countries assign it the same healing properties that treat high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Indeed, despite its taste, stevia does not provide one gram of sugar.
Today, this shrub attracts interest of Westerners. With a very high sweetness (two teaspoons of the powder can substitute a cup of sugar) and all-natural, it brings a versatility that no chemical sweeteners have: it is excellent in cold drinks, and it survives cooking very well.
A Sweet Taste
But where does the sweetness of stevia come from? Stevioside, a chemical of the family of glycosides, is contained in its leaves. These molecules are well known for their intense sweetness. The composition of this plant reveals other surprises because in addition to its pleasant taste, it contains essential oils, minerals, vitamins, tannins, fluoride, chlorophyll, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and water. In short, an ideal combination to maintain good health.
Forms of Stevia
You can find this plant in several forms: dried leaves, extracts and concentrated fresh plant. It is also easy and inexpensive to cultivate this little plant indoors, because although it is fragile, it becomes robust when it receives sun and a moist but properly-drained soil.
The Attributes of Stevia
Given the many qualities of stevia, can we then stop eating sugar altogether? No. Sugar is an essential fuel for muscles and the brain, which consumes 80% of the recommended daily intake. Moreover, long-term impacts on the health of stevia are not known. Therefore, caution is advised until such time as its safety is completely proven.
Currently, studies are underway to evaluate the healing properties traditionally given to this plant, such as the control of appetite, decreased blood pressure, blood sugar regulation and wound healing. No doubt that it will soon find its place in the food industry, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. It is, in any case, certain that we have not heard the last of this little plant!
Good to Know
- Stevia is the same family as the daisy and dandelion. So beware of allergies!
- Diabetics who use stevia regularly should still monitor their blood sugar.
- Stevia is slightly more expensive than chemical sweeteners, but it has no aftertaste; it is natural, it has no use-by date, and you can use a smaller amount than you would with sugar!
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