Sugar seems to be hidden in almost everything these days. We all know that refined sugar really isn't that great for us but artificial sweeteners aren't any better, if anything they are worse! There are other options like honey and maple syrup which have health benefits but are still high in fructose, even though it is natural! One sweetener I have been using off and on the last 5+ years is stevia! You may have noticed that stevia has grown in popularity and are in products like Halo Top ice cream and various sodas like Zevia. It is very sweet yet has no calories, I have had my suspicions but decided it was time for some more research! If you are wondering stevia is, health benefits or concerns, you are in the right place, continue reading below!
So what exactly is stevia? Stevia is an herb that is originally from South America. This plant may seem new to us as it has recently been made popular but it has been used for hundreds of years. Stevia is actually the name for more than 240 species of shrubs/small flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. It has been used mainly as a sweetener but also known for some medicinal benefits that I will discuss later on. It is naturally very sweet and considered about 200 times sweeter than table sugar, however it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels unlike sugar and other artificial sweeteners. The next question you may be wondering is if it is safe? *Please note that stevia leaf in fresh or dried form is a natural herbal sweetener, however other forms of stevia based sweeteners can be processed. Especially the powder which goes through dozens of steps like bleaching and chemical alteration ( I do NOT recommend using the powder.)* Now that we have that out of the way, yes stevia is safe when it is in the form of leaf or tincture (like the drops). Like all things I believe it should be used in moderation. Check your stevia for additives and make sure it is not mixed with anything filler ingredients. If you have concerns, make your own, its not hard! Coeur d 'Alene friends, Pilgrims carries dried stevia leaves in the bulk section!
There have been many studies done on stevia to show its health benefits and possible negative affects. Since there have been so many I am just going to touch on a few (the ones I found most interesting/ relevant).
- One of the main benefits of using stevia is for those who have diabetes since it has such a sweet taste but not effect on blood sugar.
- Stevia is quickly becoming known for cancer prevention. For its antioxidant compounds as well as quercetin, kaempferol, and the other glycoside compounds in stevia help to eliminate free radicals in the body, which can help prevent the mutation of healthy cells into cancer cells. Also sugar feeds cancer so its a great option for sweet crazing without the negative side effects.
- Stevia has also been found to reduce bacterial formation in the mouth, helping to prevent cavities and gingivitis
- Used topically for skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis (personally cant wait to try this out on my winter eczema) It inhibits the spread of bacteria and acts as a steroid but without the negative side affects.
- May cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and related plants.
- Does it causing hormones mimicking? I do not believe so based off all the research I have done. The only studies I found on hormones balance being temporarily affected were with EXTREMELY large amounts of the stevioside part of the plant (which only makes up 10% of that) So personally I have little to no concern about this one but maybe avoid if you struggle with hormone problems or infertility. Check out these other sources here: SOURCE (goes over studies on stevia and fertility.) SOURCE ( great quick read on fertility and stevia)
My ending thoughts at this point. Stevia is fine to use in moderation and does have many health benefits! After all my research I do not find concerns with stevia and fertility but I would recommend researching for yourself if you still feel any concerns! If you are going to use stevia use the leaf , or in a tincture not the powder! Do you use stevia? What are your thoughts on its use after reading this, were you aware of any risks? Would love to hear your opinions on this!