If you ask dietitians about sugar, sugar substitutes, and natural sweeteners, they will all say the same thing: the best sugar is no sugar at all, with stevia being the second best when it comes to sweeteners of all kinds. Stevia seems to be a new generation sweetener that is all the rage right now, but in fact, it is a well-known natural sweetener.
As we would expect, it had its fair share of controversy back in the 80s, when the FDA deemed it unsafe for consumption. Years later, after careful review and debates including dietitians, nutritionists, and doctors, the FDA lifted the ban in the 2000s, labelling rebaudioside A, the sweetest stevia extract, as generally safe for consumption.
Today, we have a handful of foods and beverages containing stevia-based sweeteners, but stevia seems to have more health benefits than just being a no-calorie healthy sugar. Today, we will look closely at stevia and see what its health benefits are.
1. It Supports Weight Loss
When you talk to a dietitian about weight loss and health improvements, they will tell you to start by cutting off sugar and artificial sweeteners. Research has found that added sugars to food and beverages account for more than 13% of the total calories and American eats on a daily basis. You do not have to be a doctor to figure out that a high amount of sugar correlate positively with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic problems, and more.
If you are serious about following a balanced diet and lose weight in a healthy manner, you should that sugar and processed foods are the first to eliminate from your lifestyle. However, you need to sweeten some foods and beverages, so stevia comes as the next logical step.
In the framework of healthy weight loss, stevia is a plant-base, zero-calories sweetener. However, you need to find a high-quality stevia extract and use it in moderation. If you follow your dietitian’s plan, you should enjoy good blood sugar regulation and lowering of the calories intake.
Of course, a long-term diet plan including moderate quantities of stevia protects you from obesity, heart problems, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
2. Helps You Keep Your Cholesterol in Check
From a dietitian’s perspective, foods and drinks that help people lower their bad cholesterol and keep things in check in general make the holy grail of nutrition and healthy living. Research conducted a few years ago told nutritionists and dietitian all over the world that stevia showed promising effects on lowering the bad LDL cholesterol, while promoting an increase in the good HDL cholesterol levels.
Currently, there are hundreds stevia-based studies wanting to find its health benefits and pinpointing its potential side effects so we could all enjoy better, healthier lifestyles.
Other studies backed up these results, researchers showing that moderate consumption of stevia extract as sweetener correlates positively with lower food intake and weight loss. Moreover, stevia sweeteners seem to work great in the reduction of blood glucose, total lipid counts, total cholesterol, and total triglyceride counts.
3. It Works Well for Diabetics
Still focusing on the field of blood sugar control, weight loss, and cholesterol control, as one can easily imagine, stevia sweeteners are safer for diabetics than artificial sweeteners. Those following a diabetic diet plan know they should give up on sugar and stir away from chemical artificial sweeteners, found to raise blood sugar levels even more than regular sugar.
In other words, if you are a diabetic or in high risk of diabetes, do not pick up diet soda, no matter what the label says about “zero sugar” or “zero calories.”
Animal-based studies showed that a daily dose of 250 and 500 milligrams of stevia sweetener significantly reduces fasting blood sugar levels and stable insulin resistance, triglycerides and alkaline phosphatase (which is usually higher in cancer patients). Human studies showed similar results: consuming stevia lowers blood glucose and insulin levels, aiding in glucose regulation.
If you are in risk of diabetes, talk to your doctor and dietitian about the safe consumption of stevia sweetener to achieve balanced insulin levels.
4. Has Potential in Cancer Treatment
When it comes to cancer, researchers race against the clock to find cures, treatments, and potential health boosters to offer relief to cancer patients. Science tests plenty of natural products and extracts known for their antioxidant properties. Studies correlating stevia consumption and breast cancer reduction go back to 2012 and their results gave hope to people all over the world. The groundbreaking results opened a path to new research in the field of cancer and oxidative stress.
Added stevia to natural colon cancer-fighting mixtures leads to an increase in the antioxidant levels of the said mixtures (namely the blackberry leaf). The anti-cancer properties of the stevia still need further research, but so far doctors found incredible potential in this area.
For instance, in 2018, other groundbreaking research showed that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of stevia leaves correlate positively with the amelioration of oxidative stress, necrosis, and cholestasis in acute and chronic liver damage. Stevia counters oxidative stress of the liver, showing extremely promising results in the treatment of acute and chronic liver disease and damages.
5. Has Potential as a Treatment for High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a problem millions of people need to treat and keep under control. A handful of studies show that stevia correlates positively with lowering blood pressure, but further research is still necessary. The use of stevia for hypertension comes with amendments: the treatment needs time and patience, stevia triggering the positive effects in about 40 to 60 days of daily use – in animal experiments.
Human trials show that people do register lower blood pressure when drinking a stevia-based tea daily for 30 days. Moreover, stevioside and stevia ex-tracts seem to have anti-hypertensive effect in humans with mild to moderate hypertension, without triggering side effects such as increased blood sugar or cholesterol.
Before leaving you with a desire of introducing stevia in your diet for all its health benefits, you should be aware that you have to talk to your GP, dietitian, nutritionist, and medical specialist before you decide to consume more stevia simply because it seems healthy. Everyone warns about dosage, long-term use, and potential side effects when it comes to stevia in general and self-treatment in particular.
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