Where does Stevia come from?
Stevia is a herb that is categorised into the Asteraceae family, which is related to lettuce, chicory and marigold. Stevia was originally grown in the highlands of Paraguay and Brazil. It was used over 1500 years ago by Guarani people as medicine, sweetener for teas and as a “sweet treat”. Though it was ‘officially’ discovered in the late 19th century by a scientist, named Dr Moises Santiago Bertoni. He named the plant Stevia Rebuadiani Bertoni, in honour to a Paraguayan chemist named Rebuadi.
Stevia has a lot of health benefits if a person uses it in their day-to-day lifestyles. It has near to zero calories but has up to 300 times the sweetness of cane sugar. It also has no impact on Blod Glucose levels.
Due to the polyphenolic antioxidant phyto-chemical kaempferol, the risk of pancreatic cancer can be reduced by 23%. There is also a decreasing rate of absorption of glucose to the gut, which means that it helps reduce blood sugar levels and increase the liver concentration of glucose-6-phosphate and glycogen.
Theglycosides in stevia extracts help dilate the blood vessels, increase sodium excretion and urine output so that it can help lower blood pressure. Stevia being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, helps fight the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth. Which is a large contributor to dental caries and tooth cavities. It can also inhibit caries that are causing bacteria and inhibits the development of plaque. It also increases insulin sensitivity for diabetes.
Stevia is 300 times more sweeter than cane sugar due to eight glycoside compounds, which include: stevioside, stevioleioside, rebaudiosides A- E and dulcoside. As well due to these compounds, stevia has unique qualities that other sweetners do not possess, such as: Long shelf life, high temperature tolerance, non-fermentative and contains near-zero calories. Stevia is in fact heat stable to about 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), which is almost the same as cane sugar.
Japan is one of the largest consumers of Stevia and has been using Stevia as a sugar substitute for decades, with no detrimental effects or long term use side effects.