Refined sugar is harmful for health and for this reason, many people look for healthy alternatives. There are many low-calorie sweeteners in the market, but most of them are artificial sweeteners. Stevia which is commonly known as ‘meethi tulsi’ in India is a natural sweetener that has become immensely popular in recent years. Stevia is a 100% natural, zero calorie sweetener with a number of health benefits.
Health benefits of Stevia:
- Diabetes Control: The most important or widely praised aspect of stevia for human health concerns its ability to regulate blood sugar levels in the body. Stevia sweetens food in a similar way as sugar but it contains stevioside which is a non-carbohydrate glycoside compound. When stevioside broke down, the glucose containing particles are absorbed by the bacteria in the colon, rather than being absorbed by the bloodstream and affecting glucose levels in the body. This is an ideal replacement for normal sugar for diabetics or people on carbohydrate controlled diets.
- Weight Loss: Stevia is very low in calories and is anywhere from 40-300 times sweeter than sugar, depending on the prevalence of certain extracts in different species. This means that people can eat sweet products made with stevia without worrying about gaining weight.
- Blood Pressure: There are types of glycosides in stevia that can actually relax the blood vessels, increase urination and facilitate the elimination of sodium from the body.
- Oral Health: Stevia has been found to reduce bacterial formation in the mouth making it a popular additive for toothpastes and mouthwashes. It also prevents cavities and gingivitis.
- Skin Health: In a similar antibacterial function as it plays in the mouth stevia also has been found to be a useful topical application for skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. It inhibits the spread of bacteria and acts as a steroid in these conditions making it a reliable option.
- Bone Health: Stevia helps in building stronger bones and decrease the chances of osteoporosis. Studies showed that chickens that have been fed a stevia diet lay significantly thicker shells that contain a much higher content of calcium.
- Cancer Prevention: The wide range of antioxidant compounds found in stevia make it an ideal dietary supplement for cancer prevention. Quercetin, kaempferol and the other glycoside compounds in stevia helps to eliminate free radicals from the bod preventing them from mutating healthy cell into cancer cells. Antioxidants also help to prevent premature aging, cognitive malfunction and various other serious health conditions.
Is Stevia safe?
Although there was some uncertainty about the health effects of stevia but researches support its use as a sweetener and as a food additive. However there might be an allergic reaction in people who are
allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and related plants. Also some people complained of bloating and cramping after having stevia along-with the occasional dizziness or headaches but these cases are rare and stevia remains a safe and beneficial for people around the world. Stevioside, the main glycoside of stevia, was found to be nontoxic in acute toxicity studies in a variety of laboratory animals. No major contraindications, warnings, or adverse reactions have been documented.
Shivani Bhardwaj, Pratibha Singh and Shalu; Health Benefits of Curry Leaves. Indian Farmers Digest. Volume 53, no 7. pg 38-39