Stevia: what it is, what it is for and how to use it

Stevia is a natural sweetener obtained from the plantStevia Rebaudiana Bertoniwhich can be used to replace sugar in juices, teas, cakes and other sweets, as well as in several industrialized products, such as soft drinks, processed juices, chocolates and gelatins.

Stevia is made from steviol glycoside, called rebaudioside A, which is considered by the FDA to be safe and can be found in powder, granular or liquid form and can be purchased in supermarkets or health food stores.

It is also possible to grow the plant and use its leaves to sweeten, however this use is not yet regulated by the FDA due to the lack of scientific evidence. Stevia has the power to sweeten 200 to 300 times more than ordinary sugar and has a bitter taste, which may slightly alter the flavor of foods.

How to use

Stevia can be used on a daily basis to sweeten any food or drink, such as coffee and tea, for example. In addition, as stevia's properties remain stable at high temperatures, it can also be used in the process of making cakes, cookies that go into the oven, for example.

It is important to remember, however, that 1 gram of stevia is equivalent to 200 to 300 grams of sugar, that is, it does not take many drops or spoons of stevia for the food or drink to be sweet. In addition, it is recommended that the use of this natural sweetener be made as directed by the nutritionist, especially if the person has any underlying disease such as diabetes or hypertension, or is pregnant, for example.

How much is it safe to consume stevia

Adequate daily intake of stevia per day is between 7.9 and 25 mg / kg.

Stevia Benefits

Compared to artificial sweeteners, such as sodium cyclamate and aspartame, stevia has the following advantages:

  1. It can favor weight loss, since it has very few calories;
  2. It can help regulate appetite and reduce hunger, and can be beneficial for people who are overweight;
  3. It can help control and reduce blood sugar levels and can be beneficial for people with diabetes;
  4. It can help to increase HDL cholesterol, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular problems;
  5. It can be used in food cooked or baked in the oven, as it remains stable at temperatures up to 200ºC.

The price of stevia sweetener varies between R $ 4 and R $ 15.00, depending on the size of the bottle and where it is purchased, which ends up being cheaper than buying regular sugar, as it only takes a few drops to sweeten the food, making the sweetener last a long time.

Side effects and contraindications

In general, the use of stevia is considered safe for health, but in some cases side effects such as nausea, muscle pain and weakness, abdominal swelling and allergy may occur.

In addition, it should only be used in children, pregnant women or in cases of diabetes or hypertension according to the advice of the doctor or nutritionist, as it can cause a lower than normal reduction in blood sugar or blood pressure , putting the person’s health at risk.

Another side effect of stevia is that it can affect kidney function and should be used with care and only under the doctor's control in cases of kidney disease.

Learn about other ways to sweeten foods naturally.