stevia-sweetener-300x225Our very human cells depend on sugar for energy and glucose actually helps to power the brain. However, over indulgence in sugar can cause obesity and metabolic disorders like diabetes and even cardiovascular disease. There are many alternatives to sugar out there but many of them have been shown to be unsafe. There is a healthy sugar alternative that have proven to be healthy and helpful. Stevia, a healthy alternative to sugar and could be the answer to your sweet tooth’s desire!

Stevia rebaudiana is actually a shrub in the Aster family and is native to South America. The intensely sweet leaves have been used by the people in Paraguay for medicinal and to sweeten things for many years. Japan and Brazil have been using it as a non caloric sweetener for over 20 years. The FDA GRAS status has only recently been granted as a food additive and sweetener.

Stevia is about 15 times the sweetness of sugar. It can be used fresh, dried and ground or even liquid extract. A quarter teaspoon of the ground leaves will equal about 1 teaspoon of sugar. You can actually purchase the whole or crushed leaves. Most of the time you will find that you are probably getting a refined version of the plant’s isolated sweet compounds.

The raw, natural Stevia product will use glycosides from the whole leaf Stevia. Some of the more processed brands will isolate the Rebaudioside A and mix it with sugar alcohols. Stevioside is the most abundant component from the plant, while rebaudioside is usually thought to be the best tasting, producing less bitterness.

There are quite a few benefits to using Stevia. It has been shown to have antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-neoplastic and anti-viral effects. Unlike the other artificial sweeteners, Stevia has not been shown to cause problems with satiety which might lead to rebound eating. Stevia has been shown to stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas and in to increase cellular insulin sensitivity. This may be the reason behind Stevia’s ability to lower blood sugar.

Stevia has a zero glycemic index, so it is considered safe for diabetics, as it does not raise blood sugar. It is a great way to reduce your sugar intake. The studies conducted on stevia have shown it to be safe for those that might have a blood pressure concern, as it has been shown to have no effect at all.

This is really a no-brainer to a sugar substitute. If you are looking for a healthy, safe alternative to sugar that you can feel good about giving Stevia a try.