When it comes to foods that cause weight gain, sugar tops the list. It’s high in calories and has also proven to be addictive in some cases. Sugar-sweetened beverages, with their high glycaemic index(GI), are major contributors to diabetes and obesity the world over. In recent years, a search for dietary alternatives like healthy snacks has meant that sugar substitutes like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, xylitol, and erythritol have become popular. The most popular among these alternatives is stevia.
Stevia is a sweetener and sugar substitute made from harvesting the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, which are then dried and steeped in hot water to extract the incredibly sweet liquid within. The compound’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar for a given quantity and contains virtually zero calories. Stevia is 100% natural, offering a significant advantage over chemical-based artificial sweeteners.
The emergence of stevia might seem recent, but the truth is that it has been around for a long time. Originally native to Brazil and Paraguay, stevia leaves have been used since the 16th century to sweeten drinks, treat burns, and relieve gastric discomfort.
Although stevia is marketed primarily as a healthier alternative to sugar, it has a lot more to offer. Here are a few lesser-known facts about stevia.
1. Promotes heart health and regulates blood pressure
Stevioside, a compound found in stevia, has been found to lower blood pressure by dilating and relaxing blood vessels. It also increases urine output and aids the elimination of sodium from the body, reducing stress on the cardiovascular system.
2. Lowers bad cholesterol
Studies have shown supplementing with 400ml of stevia daily could reduce bad LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It simultaneously increases good HDL cholesterol that is essential for a good lipid profile.
3. Prevents osteoporosis
Stevia is known to strengthen and defend the body against osteoporosis by promoting the absorption of calcium in the body. The result is increased bone mineral density, strength, and better skeletal health.
4. Promotes dental health
Stevia also protects your pearly whites. It can prevent the build-up of bacterial plaque, cavities, and gingivitis making it a popular ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwashes.
5. Strengthens immune system
The stevia plant contains many sterols and is a rich source of antioxidant compounds including kaempferol quercetin. A diet rich in antioxidants is great for the immune system and can lower the risk of infections and even terminal illness in some cases.
6. It’s Eco-friendly
Not only does stevia offer health benefits to the human body, but it’s also good for the environment! Cultivation of stevia leaves a minimal environmental footprint. It uses about one fifth the land and significantly lower water (5% of the water used for sugarcane cultivation) when compared to other sugar products.
It’s never too late to make the shift to stevia if you haven’t already. It’s available in a variety of forms such as leaves, powders, pellets, and liquids. It is important to note, however, that not all stevia products are created equal. Only pure refined stevia can give you the multitude of benefits mentioned above, so avoid products that contain additives like aspartame, sucrose or other bulking agents.
If you’re in the market for a stevia product, our wide range of QNet products has just the thing for you. The nutriplus™ Natose Stevia Liquid Concentrate is 100% natural with zero additives or artificial flavours. With summer fast approaching, try adding a few drops of this nectar to your favourite beverages like the classic lemonade, cold coffees, teas, or even cocktails and mocktails to give them a new dimension of sweetness.