ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Health Benefits of Stevia Sweetener

Updated on December 28, 2011
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

You may be curious about the health benefits of stevia. Is it worth adding to your diet?

Stevia is getting an increasing amount of publicity and for good reason. Not only is the herb a natural, zero calorie sugar substitute but it also has several medical uses.

What Is Stevia?

Stevia is a plant, part of the chrysanthemum family, and is native to the subtropical areas of North and South America. It has been used by native peoples for thousands of years. The plant has long leaves that almost resemble sage and small white flowers when it blooms.

It can be grown in Texas, Arizona, and other states with warm climates. It is most often propagated by cuttings and does not grow well from seed.

The species, Stevia rebaudiana, is also known as sweetleaf or sugar leaf.

Source

How Does Stevia Taste?

Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar. It can have an aftertaste that is similar to licorice but is less apparent than the aftertaste of chemically produced artificial sweeteners. This aftertaste can often be controlled by controlling the amount of stevia that is added to a recipe.

The sweet taste is a result of steviol glycosides present in the leaves of the plant. These stieviosides can be extracted into a fine, white powder that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar while the leaves themselves are about 20 percent sweeter than conventional sugar.

Effects and Health Benefits of Stevia

Stevia does not affect blood glucose levels and is perfect for a low carbohydrate diet as well as for diabetics and others that must watch their blood sugar. It easily replaces artificial sweeteners in the diet and is much healthier and without the side effects that sometimes occur with chemical sweeteners (such as headache).

  • In some cases stevia actually lowers blood sugar levels and keeps them level.
  • Stevia may inhibit the development of plaque on the teeth.
  • Although the raw stevia contains phytonutrients most people will not ingest stevia in a large enough amount to benefit from these vitamins and minerals.
  • Stevia may help the body absorb more calcium.
  • Stevia may help prevent hypertension.

Stevia is not available or allowable in all countries. The United States, for example, banned stevia until the 1990s and until recently could not be sold as a food product but must be sold under the guise of a nutritional supplement.

In Japan stevia is used in Coco Cola products as well as other sugar free foods and beverages because the country has outlawed chemical sweeteners. In fact Japan uses more stevia than any other country.

Obviously one of the biggest health benefits of stevia is in the lack of sugar and calories, essentially allowing you to have your cake and eat it, too. It is a safe alternative for people who wish to forgo sugar in their diets but don't want to use potentially carcinogenic artificial sweeteners.

Grow Your Own

Want to use stevia and save money too? Grow your own plants. You can plant them in your garden in the warmer climates or grow indoors if you live in the chillier zones.

Prepare the bed with a rich loam. Use plenty of compost as a top dressing; stevia plants are top feeders. Choose an area of the garden that is not subject to high moisture or standing water. It should drain easily and be in an area where the plants will receive plenty of sun.

Begin by buying stevia plants at the nursery or online. Wait until the temperatures warm up to warm spring temperatures warm the soil into the 60s and all danger of frost is past before planting in your garden. Set the plants in rows two feet apart and a foot and a half between plants. Healthy stevia plants will grow to be about three feet tall and two feet wide.

Be careful not to overwater. Frequent light watering will keep the plants hydrated and healthy.

Wait until just before your first frost to harvest if possible. The cooler temperatures of autumn intensify the sweetness in the leaves. When you are ready cut the branches off and strip the leaves. Be sure to save some cuttings to start inside for the next year's plants.

To start cuttings use a commercial rooting hormone. Dip the cuttings into the root stimulator and plant in a rooting medium for about three weeks before potting. Keep in a sunny place until temperatures are warm enough to transplant your new plants outside.

Stevia for Health

Stevia is a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners. It comes in several forms including a pure white powder, liquid drops, and dried ground leaves. You should experiment with stevia to see which form you prefer.

For more information on using stevia in your cooking and baking, as well as more information on both artificial sweeteners and natural options, you may want to read Artificial Sweeteners Natural Sweeteners.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Chuck Bluestein profile image

      Chuck Bluestein 

      4 years ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      I have been using stevia for over 2 decades.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Stevia is awesome. I learned of it while learning of the negative aspects of aspartame. I switched to Stevia. I hadn't known of the relationship it holds with diabetics, which I am. Now, I am happier to be using it. Great Article. Very Informative. A great positive reinforcement for my choice not to drink diet sodas too! I look forward to reading what you have to say about teas, since that is my choice of beverage today.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      I have never heard of it and it was very informative and interesting.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      I would like to try Stevia, it seems much better for you than regular sugar. Thanks for the information.

    • mslizzee profile image

      elizabeth 

      7 years ago from Buncombe County, NC

      Wow, hopefully all those aspartame, Nutra Sweet folks will switch before they get sick.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 

      7 years ago from A Coast

      Very interesting facts about Stevia that I was not aware of. I switched from sugar to Stevia (the pure white powder) for my coffee a few years ago and I like it a lot; I've never noticed an aftertaste at all. I love that I can sweeten my coffee and not have to use any points, as I'm on Weight Watchers!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)