Stevia Supplement Guide: A Natural Sweetener That Tastes Great
1. What is it and where does it come from?
Stevia Rebaudiana [Stevia] is a shrub species native to Paraguay, in South America. Paraguay is a South-American nation that borders on Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina. The plant is also harvested in China, Brazil and Japan.
Under testing, Chinese stevia has been shown to be of questionable quality. Many contaminants have been present in the Chinese product that are harmful when consumed by humans. Obtaining Stevia from a reputable manufacturer will ensure a quality product that is safe.
The Stevioside that is extracted from the plant comes from the leaves. In supplemental form stevioside comes as green or white powder, or brown liquid. It's important to distinguish between the green and the white powder, as one is healthier than the other.
The green powder is a result of using the whole leaf. The white powder comes from removing from the leaf the sweetening agent [glycoside]. It is recommended, if possible, that you use the green powder because the leaves of the plant contain a variety of minerals, vitamins, and other immune system boosting agents and factors.
The Stevia plant yields its major glycosides, stevioside, rebaudioside A, rebaudioside C and dulcoside A, from its leaves. The main glycoside, stevioside, is between 110 and 270 times sweeter than sugar.
Of the Stevia plants major glycosides, rebaudioside A has been shown to have the least amount of reported aftertaste.
As a sweetening agent stevia has almost no calories, which, in contrast to table sugar has 4.5 calories per 1 gram. Stevia concentrate has a mildly bitter aftertaste when placed in the mouth. The degree of aftertaste will depends upon which glycoside is consumed.
2. What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Stevia is used widely as a sweetener, in place of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. It has been used for thousands of years.
Stevia is also able to perform a number of other beneficial tasks. For example, it has been shown that Stevia may enhance moods and increase energy levels and mental alertness.
Due to its almost zero calorie nature, Stevia is extremely useful to bodybuilders or obese persons that are attempting to lose body fat. Because it is sweet, it reduces cravings for sugary foods. Stevia essentially fools the body into a state of satiation. This will result in less food being craved [and thus consumed], and reduce caloric intake. Stevia will help with the reduction of cravings, and the suppression of the appetite, without having to resort to products containing stimulants.
The cosmetic industry also employs the use of Stevia in many of the available skin care products. It has been shown to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes when applied topically.
3. Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
There are no symptoms of deficiency but everyone can benefit from the use of Stevia.
Children or individuals attempting to satisfy sugar cravings will find that Stevia will reduce such cravings and satisfy the sweet tooth. Given the nature of the obesity epidemic present in North America there is wisdom in using Stevia instead of table sugar.
4. How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
Stevia may be consumed in pill or beverage form. Many people enjoy Stevia in the form of the tea. It is totally non-toxic.
There are no known side effects associated with the use of this natural supplement. Individuals suffering from diabetes, hyperglycemia, or obesity, should consult with a qualified medical doctor prior to the use of this supplement.
Studies have shown that Stevia is non-toxic. Other studies have shown that long term use of Stevia is safe.
The recommended daily dose of Stevia is between 5.0-7.9 mg.kg-1. It is, however, recommended that one follow the directions as prescribed on the products label.
5. Where can I get it?
There are different brand names that manufacture supplemental Stevia.