Stevia is a plant grown in Brazil, China, Paraguay and various countries worldwide and it is used traditionally as a food ingredient to make tea and sweeten beverages. The extract gotten from this plant is 300 times sweeter than table sugar and this is why it is used in various food items such as protein drinks, candy, energy bars, ice cream, chewing gum, seafood, yogurts, desserts, sauces and some teas. The sweet components found in this plant occur naturally and have zero calories. There are diverse advantages and dangers of Stevia to the consumer in Lebanon, which we have outlined in this article. Below are the various benefits and risks.
Benefits of Stevia
Studies show that Stevia has various health benefits and is a low diet solution. The health benefits include the following:
People who have diabetes can consume a wide range of foods, which have the Stevia ingredient because its sweeteners do not contain calories or carbohydrates; therefore it cannot interfere with insulin or blood glucose response. The sweetness in its ingredient occurs naturally therefore it cannot cause health problems associated with excessive intake of sugar.
Stevia does not cause habitual changes in eating and does not temper with metabolism in human beings. This is because its extracts are inadequately taken in by the body and when they pass through the tract, they are fully intact. During metabolism, there is no building up of Stevia in the body, consequently leading to poor absorption in the digestive system. This is the main reason it does not raise blood glucose and insulin levels after it has been digested.
3- Pancreatic Cancer
Studies show that people who consume food items with the Stevia ingredient reduce the risk of acquiring pancreatic cancer by 23% compared to those who take in artificially sweetened food items.
4- Lower Blood Pressure
High intake of Stevia as a sweetener can lead to low blood pressure. This is because the substances found in its extracts are known to expand blood vessels, increase urine output and sodium emission. Stevia plant also has cardio actions, which aid in regulating the heartbeat and stabilizing blood pressure.
5- Weight Control
Intake of added sugars in food items contributes to 16% of the total calories in a human diet and this causes immense weight gain. However, the natural sugars in Stevia do not have calories and therefore do not contribute to weight gain. For this reason, it can be used in the diet to help in weight control.
Used in the diet consumed by pregnant women, children and nursing women because it plays a major role in reducing calorie intake gotten from artificial sweeteners. Since it is a natural substance, Stevia is recommended for special populations such as the ones mentioned above and people who have allergies.
- It is used to sweeten beverages and other food items.
- Stevia is used as a traditional medicine to treat burns, stomach problems, Colic and sometimes it is used as a contraceptive.
- Another benefit of Stevia is that it contains iron, which fuels up hemoglobin production and has fibers which help in curing constipation.
Risks of Stevia
As much as Stevia intake is safe for human consumption, there are some health concerns, which have been raised against it.
- Anyone who is under oral medication for blood pressure is advised to take caution and consult a qualified health practitioner before consuming food items which have the Stevia ingredient because it may cause a drop in blood pressure. The same applies to anyone who is taking in insulin or other drugs for diabetes.
- Caution is also advised for persons taking appetite suppressants, cholesterol lowering drugs, fertility agents, drugs that increase urination, calcium channel blockers, anti-virals, anti-cancer drugs, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and other medications because Stevia may interfere with the working of these drugs.
Generally, Stevia is considered safe for consumption because extracts from this plant occur naturally. However, for anyone considering using its products, ensure that you go through the Stevia benefits and risks that we have clearly outlined above for your own good. Stevia is calorie free but does not guarantee weight loss. However, it can aid in weight control.