Is Stevia Extract a Safe and Healthy Sweetener?

The FDA has approved the use of highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves as they are considered safe to consume. This has earned stevia a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) classification, meaning that it can be legally added to food products in the US. Stevia is a great option for those looking to reduce their calorie or carbohydrate intake, such as people with type 2 diabetes. However, some studies suggest that consuming non-nutritive sweeteners such as stevia instead of sugar does not reduce total calorie intake or blood sugar levels. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for steviol is 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight per day.

This is equivalent to about 12 mg per kilogram (kg) of stevia extract per day. For a 150 pound person, this would be equivalent to about 40 packs of stevia. The sweet-tasting components of stevia are called steviol glucosides, which are naturally present in the stevia leaf. Some research suggests that stevia may be a safe and effective way to help control blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Research shows that there is no accumulation of stevia (or of any component or by-product of stevia) in the body and that it passes through the body during metabolism.

Stevia is a naturally occurring calorie-free sweetener that has been used as a natural sugar substitute and as a flavoring ingredient for hundreds of years. The process of purifying stevia to obtain a high-purity stevia leaf extract is similar to that of other plant-based ingredients, such as cane sugar or natural vanilla extract, through a series of steps, from the raw vegetable matter harvested to the final product. Stevia is mainly cultivated in Paraguay, Kenya, China and the United States and in many other parts of the world, such as Vietnam, Brazil, India, Argentina and Colombia. Stevia leaf extract is often considered a safe and healthy sugar substitute, as it can reduce calorie intake, blood sugar levels, and the chance of developing tooth decay. Stevia contains no calories or carbohydrates, while sugar contains 15 calories and 4 carbohydrates per teaspoon. If you're concerned about the potential side effects of stevia, research shows that it is safe to consume and is unlikely to cause side effects in most people. Stevia also has effects that lower blood pressure and blood glucose, so people who take certain medications or conditions should talk to their healthcare provider before using stevia for a long period of time.

Sucralose can be especially carcinogenic (can cause cancer) when heated, so stevia may be a healthier option for baking.

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