Stevia is a small perennial herb belonging to the Asteraceae family, in the genus Stevia. Its scientific name is Stevia rebaudiana. Some commonly referred names are honey leaf plant, sweet chrysanthemum, sweetleaf stevia, sugarleaf, etc.
Stevia plant grows 2-4 feet in height with slender, branched stems, and flourishes well all over the temperate, and some parts of tropical regions.
stevia plant leaves can be used directly in drinks as a sweetener.
Remember to use dried stevia sugar in small proportions, as it is nearly 30 times sweeter than cane sugar. Roughly, one teaspoonful of dried leaves powder is equivalent to one cup of sugar; therefore, use it in small quantities adjusting the amount to achieve your desired levels of sweetness.
Health benefits of stevia
Stevia herb parts are very low in calories. Parts by parts, its dry leaves possess roughly 40 times more sweetness than sugar. This sweetness quality in stevia is due to several glycoside compounds including stevioside, steviolbioside, rebaudiosides A-E, and dulcoside.
Stevioside is a non-carbohydrate glycoside compound. Hence, it lacks the properties that sucrose and other carbohydrates possess. Stevia extracts, like rebaudioside-A, are found to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Besides, being a near-zero calorie food ingredient, stevia extracts have several unique properties such as long shelf life, high-temperature tolerance, non-fermentative.
Chlorgenic acid reduces the enzymatic conversion of glycogen to glucose in addition to decreasing absorption of glucose in the gut. Thus, it helps reduce blood sugar levels. Lab studies also confirm a reduction in blood glucose levels and an increase in the liver concentrations of glucose-6-phosphate, and of glycogen.
Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels, increase sodium excretion, and urine output. In effect, stevia, at slightly higher doses than as sweetener, can help lower blood pressure.
Being a non-carbohydrate sweetener, stevia would not favor the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth which is attributed to be a causative agent of dental caries and tooth cavities. On the other hand, certain compounds in stevia rather found to inhibit caries-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Further, being a herb, stevia contains many vitals minerals, vitamins that are selectively absent in the artificial sweeteners.