Among the many sugar substitutes, stevia has a special place. Unlike most sweeteners, it has a natural origin and contains a lot of substances beneficial to humans. According to studies, regular use of the product improves digestive processes, increases defense capability and prevents the formation of fat deposits. But what is stevia? Why is it so useful and can its use have a negative effect on the body?
What kind of plant is stevia?
For the production of this sweetener, the leaves of the eponymous perennial plant growing in Central and South America are used. For many centuries, the Guarani Indians used stevia as a sweetener to add “mate” to tea, as well as a therapeutic agent that helps with heartburn and diseases of the digestive tract. Among the Aborigines, it was believed that it has powerful healing power and can improve overall health.
Research on the “sweet grass” was carried out as far back as the 16th century, however, only in 1931 the French scientists Lavier and Bridel managed to isolate the special substances “steviosides” from it, which gave the plant a characteristic sweetish taste. As it turned out, they are 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose, and do not affect the level of glucose in the blood and can be used for diabetes.
The huge benefits of stevia for the human body is determined by its rich composition, which includes more than a hundred useful substances:
- vitamins – tocopherol, groups B, PP, calciferol, retinol, ascorbic acid;
- essential oils;
- pectins and tannins;
- linoleic, chlorogenic, arachidonic, gibberellic acid;
- minerals – calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, etc.
With increased sweetness and a rich chemical composition, the calorie content of the herb is only 18 Kcal per 100 g. This allows people who are on diets and try to lose excess pounds to safely include it in their diet. Stevia can be added not only to drinks, but also to various sweet dishes – creams, sauces, pastries.
The benefits of stevia sweetener
Since the discovery of stevioside, scientists have paid much attention to the study of the benefits and harms of the Stevia sugar substitute for the body. As a result of experiments, they were able to find out that the plant is perfect for hypertensive patients. The use of a sweetener contributes to the expansion of blood vessels and the elimination of sodium from the body, which has the ability to retain fluid and increase blood pressure.
“Sweet grass” has strong antioxidant properties and effectively fights free radicals, therefore it is an excellent prophylactic against oncology. In particular, the kaempferol flavonoid contained in its leaves prevents the development of pancreatic cancer.
In addition, it was proved that the benefits and harms of stevia are far from equivalent. Vitamins and minerals in the composition of the plant improve the functioning of all organs and systems, providing a wide range of positive effects on the body:
- management of pain in muscles and joints;
- improved metabolism;
- restoration of the balance of intestinal microflora;
- normalization of pH and cholesterol levels in the blood;
- strengthening hair and nail plates;
- fatigue reduction during physical and intellectual stress;
- weakening cravings for alcohol and smoking;
- purification from toxins;
- strengthening of blood vessels and heart muscle;
- management of skin rashes.
Also, the herb helps with inflammatory diseases of the oral cavity. It is noticed that in the regions where this plant is regularly consumed, people practically do not suffer from caries and periodontal disease. Stevia well cleans teeth from dirt and strengthens tooth enamel.
However, with all its indisputable advantages, the plant has one small drawback – a licorice flavor with a bitter aftertaste.
Is there any harm from stevia?
In the 1980s, some scientists suspected the plant of the presence of mutagenic properties that can provoke cancer. However, it was subsequently proved that the harm of the stevia sugar substitute is greatly exaggerated. Conducting research in this direction has allowed to remove all charges from the “sweet grass” and establish not only its absolute safety for the body, but also the ability to block the development of cancer cells.
Meanwhile, the use of the sweetener has some limitations. It is not recommended for use in the following diseases and conditions:
- low blood pressure;
- individual intolerance;
- pregnancy and lactation;
- nervous disorders;
- hormonal and endocrine disorders;
- after surgery.
Do not eat stevia along with dairy products – this is fraught with flatulence and bloating. To avoid possible harm to stevia, it is undesirable to combine it with taking vitamin complexes, since in such a situation the likelihood of developing hypovitaminosis increases. If you adhere to the restrictions and use the sweetener in reasonable quantities, it will become an indispensable natural medicine and will allow you to enjoy sweet dishes without negative consequences for the body.
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