Natural Stevia: benefits, contraindications

Natural Stevia: benefits, contraindications

What is natural stevia?

Natural Stevia: benefits, contraindications

Natural stevia is an unpretentious-looking plant, native to South America, specifically Paraguay.

"Stevia" is a genus of 240 species of tropical and subtropical plants, but when we talk about stevia we are referring to Stevia rebaudiana Bertone.

All stevia offerings that we can find, whether liquid stevia, stevia powder, or stevia leaf, come from stevia rebaudiana.

The stevia plant became popular due to the sweetness of its leaves, which is between 15 and 30 times sweeter than sugar, which is why it has been used since ancient times by indigenous peoples who consumed it to sweeten drinks, such as yerba mate, and chew it. A leaf for its sweet taste.

Currently, natural stevia is a sweetener of choice when we want to avoid the anti-inflammatory and harsh effects of some other natural sweeteners.

Stevia composition Glycosides from natural stevia

  • Stevia is made up of carbohydrates (62%), proteins (11%), fiber (16%), and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
  • It also contains phytochemicals with important healing properties, such as terpenes, flavonoids, and tannins.
  • But what has led to the widespread consumption of stevia is its glycosides, molecules with great sweetening capacity found in the leaves of the plant.

Although stevia contains about 40 glycosides (also called steviol glycosides), the two most commonly used are:

  1. Stevioside: Most abundant, 5-10% of stevia leaves. It is responsible for the bitter taste and licorice taste that characterizes stevia.
  2. Rebaudoside: There are two types, Rebaudoside A and Rebaudoside M (Reb A and Reb M). Type M tastes more like sugar, so it's a favorite.
  3. Steviolbioside and glucoside: other and less frequently used minority of glycosides.

  • The intake of these glycosides does not lead to an increase in blood glucose, since their glycemic index is 0. That is, they are not inactive, and do not provide calories, but their taste is intensely sweet.
  • What we must bear in mind is that if we consume stevia in leaves or a powdered preparation, we can also enjoy its medicinal benefits, but if we use liquid stevia extract, we have a natural sweetener without the medicinal properties.
  • This is interesting when choosing one presentation or another do we just want to sweeten or do we want to take advantage of the natural properties of stevia?

Natural benefits of stevia

Although we know stevia as a natural sweetener, it is a medicinal plant that we can use as such, whether we use stevia leaf, whole leaf, or powder, thanks to its properties:

  • It provides no calories and does not affect blood glucose or blood sugar.
  • Antibacterial.
  • vasodilator.
  • Diuretic.
  • Immunomodulatory.

These benefits of natural stevia make it a useful plant in treating:

Stevia and diabetes

The number one benefit of natural stevia for diabetics is that its extract or use as an infusion provides no calories or carbohydrates. It also has no effect on blood sugar levels or insulin response.

According to some studies, consuming stevia appears to reduce the response to glucagon in the blood (the hormone that regulates glucose levels), a response that is usually not effective in diabetics.

Stevia and obesity

On the other hand, stevia helps you lose weight for the simple reason that it is a sweetener without adding calories. Since it also favors the glucose and glucagon response, as we said before, everything supports more efficient carbohydrate metabolism.

At this point, it is also interesting to highlight the usefulness of its use in children's diets, since childhood obesity is largely associated with excessive consumption of refined sugars.

Stevia and blood pressure

Stevia has a dilating effect on blood vessels and can increase diuresis or sodium excretion. As a result, it can lower blood pressure.

Stevia and dental plaque

Natural stevia is also very beneficial for dental plaque when its leaves are chewed, which discourages the development of bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans, which are responsible for tooth decay. It is also useful in cases of gingivitis and mouth ulcers.

Stevia in traditional Chinese medicine

Also, from the holistic view of TCM, stevia does not provide moisture, so it is suitable for people with excess mucus, weight, or excessive proliferation of Candida or other fungi.

Natural stevia contraindications

  1. There are no known contraindications or side effects in the use of natural stevia, it is considered a safe food even during pregnancy, lactation, and in children.
  2. No allergic reactions related to the use of natural stevia or the use of stevia extracts, which are glycosides isolated from stevia leaves, have been detected.
  3. We found some indications of sterility with stevia tests in mice, which were given more than 50% of their body weight in stevioside (an excessive amount).
  4. Apparently, it's a study conducted at the time stevia was being undermined, in the '70s and '80s. Subsequently, other studies were conducted in which no evidence was shown regarding infertility problems.

Stevia presentations: in leaves, liquid, and powder differences

stevia leaves

It is stevia in its entirety and its medicinal form. It can be eaten fresh, chewed as is, in salads, and in smoothies.

The most common way to consume it is the dried leaves which are used in infusions, like any other medicinal herb. We can also use dry leaf stevia to prepare a concentrated homemade extract.

Stevia in dry extract

Our dry extract of Pàmies vitae is 100% natural and made without using any chemical product to extract it. For this reason, it retains its medicinal properties.

Being an unrefined extract, it is dark green/brown in color and provides all the flavor of stevia. Suitable for use in making biscuits, cookies, sweet drinks, and the like.

  • It is more heat stable: the powdered extract better tolerates baking at high temperatures without changing its flavor.
  • It is convenient to mix it well with the liquid part of the recipe or with eggs.
  • The dry extract of Pamies cress preserves the medicinal properties of stevia.
  • It is dark in color and can change the tone of preparations.

Stevia in liquid extract

It is a convenient option when it comes to liquid, semi-liquid, or creamy sweeteners or when we are going to prepare in small quantities.

The quantity can be regulated very well since the bottle usually has a dropper built-in, which makes it convenient to make sure we choose a pure extract.

It's the best option if you prefer a stevia sweetener without its distinct flavor, considering that it is extracted only from sweet glycosides, it does not provide the medicinal properties of the entire stevia leaf.

Stesweet liquid extract concentrates on the stevia sweetener molecule (Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni), steviol.

Although it does not retain the medicinal properties of stevia in dry leaf form or stevia in raw powder form, this liquid extract does not provide the typical flavor of stevia and may be more suitable for preparations that have a mild flavor.

Sweet cream-like cake topper or for people who don't like the wholesome stevia flavor at all. Of course, it is an extract that does not give any undesirable effect.

  • It does not provide the typical licorice taste of stevia.
  • Suitable for preparations of more liquid consistency.
  • Add it with the eggs or in the liquid part of the recipe and mix well.

Stevia dose as per serving

We refer to the dosages of each type of stevia to use in the most common preparations we use them in:

Stevia Leaves: 

To sweeten liquids or coffee, leave 1 to 3 leaves in a cup to steep when making the drink.

Stevia powder or dry extract:

  • To sweeten cake or cookie dough: 1-2 teaspoons of coffee for a standard cake.
  • To sweeten a cup of a beverage such as hot chocolate: ⅛ - 1 teaspoon.
  • To sweeten the jam: As mentioned earlier, it will depend on the fruit we're using, but an average of 1g per 250g of fruit serves as a guideline.

Stevia in the liquid extract:

  • To sweeten 1 cup of liquid, syrup, or cream: 3-6 drops.
  • For the sweetening sponge cake: 12-24 points for a standard sponge cake.
  • To sweeten the jam: It will depend so much on the fruit we use as a base, sweetening the sour plum jam will not be the same as the apple jam. In general, 2-3 drops per 250g of fruit is considered a general measure.

Stevia Formulas With Sugar

It is not easy to establish a stable relationship of equivalence between sugar and stevia, we can establish according to our experience:

Sugar and Stevia Powder Extract

Depends on the type of recipe, the brand of stevia we use, the shape, and personal taste. Therefore, although adjustments must be made according to the type of recipe and the palate, as a guide we can say that with this natural extract and as a rule: 1 cup of sugar can be replaced with ½-2 teaspoon (teaspoon) of stevia in dust.

Sugar and stevia extract in liquid

We will also have to try at first until we find the measure most satisfactory to us, our intent is that with 2-3 drops of the liquid extract we can sweeten a cup of drink, and with 6-12 drips of 1 cup of cookie dough.

Frequently asked questions about stevia

Is there natural and artificial stevia?

Stevia is a natural plant and the glycosides are also natural, although the process of extracting the glycosides means that they are not considered natural according to European legislation. Therefore, legally, stevioside and riboside are considered unnatural.

Is stevia legal?

Yes, stevia is currently legal. However, it has been surrounded by intense controversy since the 1980s, because it wanted it to be monopolized and patented by giants of the food industry. There was so much government resistance that they even released studies with supposed scientific evidence against stevia. 

 It has been used legally in Japan since the 1970s, but in the USA, Coca-Cola has patented 23 isolated stevia molecules. Currently, in the European Union, it is allowed to use stevia leaf and its glycosides, which are allowed as additives.

What are steviol glycosides?

Steviol glycosides are glycosides called Stevioside, Rebaudioside A, and Rebaudioside M.

Does stevia taste?

It depends on the presentation we use: natural stevia in fresh, dried, or powdered leaves has a typical flavor reminiscent of licorice. Only rebaudioside extracts do not have this taste, especially rebaudioside M.

How many calories are in stevia?

Stevia does not contain calories, it does not provide calories or carbohydrates (unless we eat the whole leaf, in which case you will provide a small number of carbohydrates).

Who can take stevia?

There are no contraindications to the use of stevia. It can be taken by everyone, including children and pregnant women.

Can I grow stevia at home?

Yes sure. Stevia comes from tropical and subtropical climates, although it adapts well to all climates. For example, in Spain, we can easily grow it.

Is stevia an alternative to sugar?

Stevia is a good sugar substitute, although the equivalents depend on how you present it. We can say that fresh stevia leaves are 15 times sweeter than sugar, dried leaves 30 times sweeter than sugar, and stevia extract 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

What is the flavor of stevia?

Stevia fresh or dried leaves are sweet, with a slightly bitter taste and a taste reminiscent of licorice, which is not to everyone's taste. Stevia extracts do not have these flavors, especially extracts made with Rebaudioside M, the most similar flavor to sugar.


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