The Truth About Stevia Extract: Benefits, Safety, and Usage

As a nutritionist and health expert, I am often asked about the safety and benefits of various sweeteners. One that has gained a lot of attention in recent years is stevia extract. This natural sweetener has been linked to numerous benefits, including lower blood sugar levels. However, there is still some confusion and misinformation surrounding this product.

In this article, I will provide you with the truth about stevia extract, including its benefits, safety, and proper usage.

The FDA Approval and Antioxidant Properties of Stevia Extracts

First and foremost, it's important to understand that not all stevia products are created equal. The FDA has only approved highly purified steviol glycosides from stevia leaves as safe for consumption. This means that refined extracts are considered safe, while raw and whole-leaf products have not been thoroughly researched. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of stevia extracts can vary depending on the methods used to process the extract. A study conducted on six commercial stevia products found that three of them were actually counterfeit products.

This highlights the importance of purchasing stevia from reputable sources.

Why You Should Avoid Whole-Leaf Stevia and Raw Stevia Extracts

If you come across whole stevia leaves or raw stevia extracts at your local health food store, my advice is simple: don't buy them. These products are not approved by the FDA and cannot legally be added to food products in the U. S. This is because the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) classification does not apply to these less processed forms of stevia. While there may be potential therapeutic and pharmacological applications for these forms of stevia, more research is needed to determine their safety and effectiveness.

As an expert, I recommend sticking to pure stevia extracts that are considered safe for consumption.

The History and Popularity of Stevia Extract

Stevia has been used as a food sweetener in Paraguay for centuries. However, it has only gained popularity in other countries, such as Brazil, Korea, Japan, China, and much of South America, in recent years. This may explain why participants in a human experiment did not consume additional food to compensate for the lack of calories when using stevia extract, unlike those who consumed sucrose. While stevia extract is technically plant-based, it is highly processed and often combined with other ingredients. This is why it's important to read the ingredient list on products labeled as "stevia extract." Look for words like "stevia extract" or "Stevia rebaudiana" to ensure you are getting a pure and safe product.

The Benefits of Stevia Extract Over Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Many studies have suggested that stevia extract may have benefits over sugar and artificial sweeteners.

For example, it has been found to have antidiabetic properties and may help lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, pure sweet glucosides and raw stevia extracts with 50% glycosides are actively used in the food market. However, it's important to note that stevia extract may not be suitable for everyone. Based on the results of a previous study, it was found to reduce the fertility of rats by up to 21% compared to a control group. More research is needed to determine the effects of stevia extract on human fertility.

Proper Usage of Stevia Extract

As with any sweetener, moderation is key when it comes to using stevia extract.

While it is considered safe, consuming large amounts may lead to side effects such as bloating, nausea, and gas. It's important to use stevia sparingly and not rely on it as a sole source of sweetness in your diet. Additionally, it's important to note that stevia extract may not be suitable for baking or cooking. Its chemical structure is different from sugar, so it may not provide the same texture or consistency in recipes. It's best to use stevia extract in beverages or as a topping for foods like yogurt or oatmeal.

The Bottom Line

As an expert in the field of nutrition and health, I can confidently say that stevia extract can be a safe and beneficial alternative to refined sugar.

However, it's important to choose pure extracts from reputable sources and use them in moderation. Avoid whole-leaf stevia and raw stevia extracts, as they have not been thoroughly researched and may have potential risks. With proper usage, stevia extract can be an excellent substitute for refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.

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