Is Stevia Extract a Healthier Alternative to Sugar?

For those looking to reduce or eliminate their sugar intake, stevia can be a winning alternative. This natural sweetener has no calories and, since it doesn't affect blood sugar in the same way that conventional sugar does, it's generally a safe alternative for people with diabetes. Stevia leaves can be processed to obtain liquid or powdered stevia extract, which is much sweeter than sugar. The extract contains practically no calories or carbohydrates and contains only traces of minerals.

It is made from steviol glycoside molecules, which are extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The stevia plant has been used for food and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years, and its leaves and raw extracts have been sold as a dietary supplement. Studies have shown that it can help lower blood sugar and fat levels in blood in animal studies. However, whole stevia leaves and raw stevia leaf extracts are not approved food additives because not enough toxicological information is available, according to the FDA. Pure stevia extract has a bitter aftertaste and, for this reason, many stevia-based sweeteners are mixed with other sugars or artificial sweeteners to improve their flavor. Some health experts believe that stevia's intense level of sweetness may increase cravings for additional sweet foods, and there is some evidence to suggest that both sugar and stevia (or other artificial sweeteners) may change taste preferences in favor of sweeter foods. Cancer and stevia have been researched and, according to the American Cancer Society, stevia is safe to use as a sweetener.

In addition, evidence suggests that even pure stevia extract can cause dysregulation in healthy gut bacteria, inhibiting the growth of certain beneficial strains up to 83%. If you want to avoid these ingredients, you should look for products that include only 100% stevia extract on the label. Unfortunately, many commercial stevia products are highly purified stevia extracts and aren't always as healthy as some of their “natural” labels would have you believe. Stevia sweeteners are derived from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni), an herbal shrub native to South America. Overall, while there are potential drawbacks to using stevia as a sugar substitute, it can be a healthier alternative for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. It has no calories and can help lower blood sugar levels in animal studies.

However, it is important to look for products that include only 100% stevia extract on the label.

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