I recently recommended stevia to my diabetic friend. She looked dubious as she sipped the coffee with stevia in it.
Then she exclaimed, “OMG, it’s so damn sweet.. even sweeter than sugar!”
photo credit : stevianet.gr
Well, that’s because, while stevia is 300X sweeter than sugar, it ain’t sugar. It has virtually zero calories. It is a steviol glycoside in the plant (or leaves of the stevia plant rather) that gives it that sweetness. The extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar and therefore, stevia is great in meeting the demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar sweeteners. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose it is attractive to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets, especially diabetics and obese patients.
The stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and ragweed. Several stevia species called “candyleaf” are native to New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. But the prized species, Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni), grows in Paraguay and Brazil, where people have used leaves from the stevia bush to sweeten food for hundreds of years. In traditional medicine in these regions, stevia also served as a treatment for burns, colic, stomach problems and sometimes as a contraceptive.
One study showed positive results – people did not overeat after consuming a meal made with stevia instead of sugar. Their blood sugar was lower after a meal made with stevia than after eating a meal with sugar, and eating food with stevia resulted in lower insulin levels than eating either sucrose and aspartame.
However, caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored and stevia may also interact with anti-fungals, anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, and a whole host of other medications. People should talk with their doctor before deciding to take stevia in large amounts.