What Is Stevia?
Stevia is perhaps unique among food ingredients because it’s most valued for what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t add calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant. There is some question as to its effectiveness as a weight loss aid or as a helpful diet measure for diabetics.
As an alternative to sucrose, or table sugar, using stevia as a sweetener carries the potential for considerable health benefits.
The sweet-tasting components in stevia sweeteners occur naturally. This characteristic may benefit people who prefer naturally-sourced foods and beverages. The low calorie count qualifies Stevia to be a healthful alternative for diabetes control or weight loss.
Stevia provides beneficial effects against various diseases and can be further exploited as a nutraceutical.
Stevia rebaudiana is 100–300 times sweeter than sucrose with steviol glycosides as active ingredient.
Steviol glycosides can be exploited in novel applications such as natural emulsifier or foaming agents in foods.
Amphiphilic behaviors and strategies to improve taste of steviol glycosides are highlighted.
Stevia is mainly used as sucrose replacer, solubilizing agent, and functional food ingredient.
Risks and side effects
According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake for stevia glycosides is 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight.
When used as a sweetener or to flavor foods, experts do not consider highly purified stevia to cause adverse side effects.
While several studies have identified potential side effects of stevia over the last few decades, most were done using laboratory animals, and many have since been disproved.