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What You Didn't Know About Stevia

Well, let’s start with what you probably DID know about stevia, but just in case you didn’t:

stevia plant

Stevia is an extract from the Stevia rebaudiana plant that’s native to South & Latinamerica but is now grown all over the world for commercial use. 

Stevia has up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar and is widely used today as a natural sweetener that's not supposed to impact your blood glucose levels and is therefore suitable for diabetics and has also become very popular in the fitness industry and keto products as it doesn't have any calories.

Have you ever tasted stevia? I’ve found it disgusting to be honest, but have come to learn that the liquid extract is actually much more palatable. I personally hate those “keto products” or protein powders with stevia, they’re so sweet that you can’t get them down! And even though stevia might be natural and have no calories, you shouldn’t “oversweeten” your drinks or dishes with it - it still impacts your palate and can even lead to overconsumption of sweet things because you think you can consume them without feeling “guilty”. 

Now last week I was at the IPM Integrative & Personalised Medicine Congress in London and I have actually come to learn that stevia is much more than just a sweetener. I was really surprised to learn that it is actually supposed to help with appetite control and also has antibacterial and antiinflammatory properties!

It's a powerful plant that has been found to have great medicinal properties: 

  • Stevia reduces the appetite and may support diabetic people for the regulation of blood sugar. (Source)

  • It has antibacterial properties (Source) and has even shown to be effective in the eradication of Borrelia burgdoferi (also known for tick-borne disease and lyme infection)

  • Stevia rebaudiana may help with healthy inflammatory response support, as the Stevioside and its metabolite steviol have been found to assist with cytokine support -you remember the cytokine storm we heard so much about during the pandemic? Essentially it means that it will help mitigate an inflammatory response in your body.

  • Blood pressure support from steviol glycosides may be related to alterations in glomerular filtration rate and transport of water and salt in renal tubules, supporting normal sodium and potassium excretion. This also explains how it can be helpful to support healthy kidney function and work agains water retention.

  • Stevioside may support normal vasodilation through changes in Ca2+ ion inflow to vascular smooth muscle => this is important for hot flashes ladies!

  • Stevioside inhibits bone resorptive activity of mature osteoclasts (Source) this means that it actually helps preserve your bone density.

And who would have thought that Stevia rebaudiana also contains phytosterols such as stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol, and campesterol, as well as flavonoids, diterpenes, triterpenes, vitamins, and minerals?

Let’s Resume Stevia’s Special Benefits for Women in Perimenopause and Menopause:

  • Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: by supporting normal vasodilation, stevia can help regulate a normal body temperature, although I doubt that you'll see that benefit with just normal intake, there's likely better remedies for that... (like Phytogyne from Copmed or Rhubarb extract or estrogen hormone therapy)

  • Bone Health: by inhibiting the activity of osteoclasts, it prevents the process of breaking down bone. Don't forget that weight bearing exercise is the best support for maintaining and building bone (and muscle) mass.

  • Sweet cravings: In perimenopause and menopause our blood sugar gets more sensitive and our insulin receptors less sensitive, as you've seen above, stevia has been shown to regulate appetite and have a positive influence on insulin activtiy and blood sugar levels.

So you can see that stevia is more than just a sweetener: it’s a powerhouse plant with numerous health benefits. 

As you can imagine, stevia has been a huge thing for the food industry and there are companies that are trying to maximize their benefits by adding cheap fillers to their stevia in order to increase their margins.

What you should pay attention to when buying stevia:  

  • The base of a high quality Stevia product is usually made of steviol glycosides (Stevia) with a purity of at least 95% and not cheap additives or fillers. 

  • Rebaudioside A is the sweetest component of the leaf and is often referred to as "Reb-A". It should have a content of at least 60% to 98%.

  • The brands “Raw” and “PureVia” have been found to contain dextrose, which is a cheap synthetic sweetener derived from (genetically modified) corn 

  • Opt for brands that use water extraction methods instead of chemical solvents to ensure a purer product. Brands like SweetLeaf, NOW Foods, and Pyure are known for their quality.

Available forms of stevia:

  • Stevia Leaf Powder: This is the least processed form and retains more of the plant's natural compounds. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste and is often green in color.

  • Stevia Extract (Steviosides/Rebaudiosides): This form is more processed and typically comes as a white powder or liquid. It is highly concentrated and often has a cleaner, sweeter taste without the bitterness.

  • Stevia Blends: These are mixed with other sweeteners like erythritol or inulin. They can provide a more balanced sweetness and reduce the aftertaste, but check for any additional ingredients you might want to avoid.

How much should you consume?

Stevia is a very potent sweetener, and a little goes a long way.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for stevia glycosides, the sweet compounds found in stevia, of 4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. This means that for a person weighing 70 kg (154 pounds), the ADI is about 280 mg or 1.4 mL of stevia glycosides. 

As an antimicrobial, you’ll need to take more than that, always consult with your doctor or medical provider before using such high doses of stevia. 

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