Cardiovascular & Other Health Benefits Of Stevia
Stevia has been around for a long time. Since the 16th century, Asians and Europeans have been using this special ingredient. Stevia rebaudiana is the species that we know most today. It is used as a sweetener, primarily. It was named by Moises Santiago Bertoni, the botanist who rediscovered the plant and classified it in 1899, noting the sweetness in the plant. It was named after botanist and physician, Petrus Jacobus Stevus, who first described the plant found in eastern Paraguay in mid 16th century, and also incorporating the name of Paraguayan chemist Ovidio Rebaudi. It was not until 1931 that French chemists were able to isolate the compounds that give the leaf its sweet taste.
England also got into the stevia trend during the Second World War, where it investigated the plant and how it can be used as an alternative to sugar. This was because sugar was particularly in short supply during the time. The Japanese also started using stevia during the ‘70s because another sugar alternative, saccharin, was banned. As a result, stevia became the chosen alternative to flavor their drinks and food, so much so that Japan became the largest consumer of stevia worldwide. At present, stevia is still widely used in China, India, South America, South Korea, Israel, and Taiwan.
Stevia for the Heart
Here are the reasons why stevia is not just good for sweetening and flavoring but is also a healthy ingredient that everyone should consider adding to their diet
Stable Blood Pressure
In a placebo-controlled study, researchers found that stevia, taken orally in doses of 250 mg twice a day for a whole year, can lead to significant decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate hypertension.
A subsequent study was conducted by the same team and lasted two years, where they used a larger dose of 1500 mg of stevia. The second study showed results of a decrease in blood pressure, cementing their findings from the first study.
More importantly, the use of stevia as treatment was tolerated by the subjects and there were no side effects reported. Also, the group that received stevia said that they had a significantly higher quality of life compared to those in the placebo group. In addition, researchers noted that individuals from the placebo group were more likely to develop left ventricular hypertrophy later on in life. This is a cardiovascular condition that is characterized by an increased size of the left ventricle of the heart caused by hypertension.
Even though the effect of stevia was not considerably better than the current pharmaceutical drugs available, many people appreciate having a more natural sugar alternative instead of taking medicine. Plus, there are no demonstrated side effects, which can make stevia a great supplementary therapy or alternative for people with high blood pressure.
Managing Blood Sugar & Insulin
Stevia extract has been used for hundreds of years not only as a food sweetener but also as a medicinal herb in the more traditional ways of treating diabetes, particularly in South America. Today, science backs the evidence that stevia can support this historic precedent as a potent regulator of blood sugar and insulin levels in the body.
The most important dietary practice that you can possibly do today is to avoid too much sugar intake and to make sure that your blood levels are always in the normal range. This not only prevents the development of diabetes, but also reduces the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and other lifestyle- and age-related disorders.
A group of researchers conducted a study that involved subjects diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. One of their control groups was given stevia extract after meals. Results showed that their blood glucose levels were reduced by an average of 18%.
Compared to regular sugar, consuming stevia prior to meals can lead to lower after-meal insulin and glucose levels. And compared to aspartame, another sugar substitute, stevia can still lead to lower postprandial insulin levels. We should note that the comparison between stevia and aspartame is even more impressive because a disparity in glucose and insulin levels can't be done simply by a difference of calories, such as from sugar.
The primary findings from this research tell us that participants who take stevia feel more satisfied, eat fewer calories, and do not crave for more food later on in the day to compensate. Stevia can help with stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels throughout the day.
Stevia is not just another sugar substitute. It is also a naturally occurring ingredient that has been used both for medicinal and culinary purposes for hundreds of years. It is a natural insulin sensitizer that promotes normal sugar and insulin levels both in people with diabetes and without. The extract of the stevia plant also reduces low-density lipoproteins and triglycerides, lowers blood pressure, provides a safe sugar alternative without compromising taste and flavor, and improves our quality of life.
Check out NatriSweet’s Stevia collection and flavor your food and beverages without the guilt.