Stevia: Health Benefits, How to Use & Side Effects

Stevia is a natural sweetener obtained from the Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni plant. It can be used to substitute the sugar in juices, teas, cakes and other sweets. It is added to many processed foods, like soda, chocolate and jello. 

Stevia can be made from steviol glycosides, which are considered to be sage by the FDA. It can be found in powder, granulated or liquid form, and can be purchased at supermarkets or natural health stores.

It is also possible to cultivate the plant and use the leaves to sweeten your foods, although this use is not regulated by the FDA due to lack of scientific evidence. Stevia can sweeten your food 200 to 300 times more than regular sugar, and contains a slight bitter taste that can alter the taste of your food. 

Imagem ilustrativa número 4

Health benefits

Compared to artificial sweeteners, like sodium cyclamete and aspartame, stevia may contain the following benefits: 

  1. Promoting weight loss, as it is low in calories 
  2. Regulating appetite and hunger, making it beneficial for people who are overweight 
  3. Managing blood sugar levels, making it beneficial for diabetics 
  4. Increasing HDL cholesterol, which can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease 
  5. It can be added to boiled or baked food, as it remains stable at temperatures up to 200ºC.

To obtain the health benefits of stevia, the recommended dose is 7.9 a 25 mg/ kg of weight per day. 

How to use

Stevia can be used in your day-to-day diet to sweeten any food or drink, like coffee or stea. Stevia's properties remain stable at high temperatures, making it a great option for baked cakes or cookies. 

It is importnat to rememver that one gram of stevia is equivalent to about 200 to 300 g of sugar, and therefore only small amounts are necessary for sweetening food. It is also recommended that this natural sweetener is consumed as recommended by your doctor or registered dietitian, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes, hypertension or pregnancy. 

Side effects and contraindications

Generally, stevia is generally safe for consumption, but it can cause side effects like nausea, pain, muscular weakness, abdominal bloating and allergies. 

Children, pregnant women and people with diabetes, hypertension or kidney problems should speak to their doctor or registered dietitian before taking stevia. Some studies show that raw stevia can lead to hypotension or interact with diabetes medication. 

It is important to avoid consuming more than the daily recommended dose. Some studies in rats showed that consuming more than 6,700 mg/kg per day can lead to fertility problems.

Frequently asked questions

Questions that are commonly asked regarding stevia include: 

1. Can diabetics, pregnant women and children consume stevia? 

Yes, stevia is safe and can be consumed by diabetics, pregnant women and children, as it does not cause side effects or allergies. Stevia can protect the tea from cavities. Diabetics should only use stevia after speaking to their doctor, as excessive use may require insulin dose changes. 

2. Is stevia totally natural?

Stevia is totally natural and made from natural plant extracts. 

3. Can stevia alter your blood sugar?

No. Some studies show that stevia does not cause significant blood sugar changes, different from other types of sugars, like sucralose.

4. Is stevia harmful?

Consuming stevia is considered to be safe, making it different from other processed sweeteners that can cause side effects. However, it is important to consume it in moderation within the recommended doses.