Stevia has been used for thousands of years in South American countries like Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten medicinal beverages. It has a known history in countries like Japan, China, Korea, and Brazil, as well. With around two hundred species of Stevia, none of them are as sweet as the plant featured here — stevia rebaudiana.
Also known as candy leaf, honey yerba, sweet herb, or sweet honey, but most popularly called sugarleaf, this plant’s leaves serve as a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners. It is said to be three hundred times sweeter than cane sugar, and up to thirty times sweeter than sucrose.
Moreover, stevia rebaudiana’s natural plant glycoside, stevioside, has been proven to help in lowering blood pressure. Other studies conducted have suggested that the natural sweetener has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and diuretic properties, among others.
One such study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food shows that the glycosides in stevia rebaudiana have therapeutic properties, and is effective in preventing diabetes. The researchers particularly emphasised its positive effects against obesity and glycemia, explaining that it has notable anticarcinogenic properties as well. Another study available through the British Pharmacological Society confirms that stevia rebaudiana has long-lasting positive effects on subjects with hypertension, and recommends the natural sweetener as an alternative or supplementary therapy for patients with the condition.
The plant’s leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and have been traditionally used for centuries to sweeten tea. This is done by directly harvesting leaves from the plant, and adding some of them to a cup of hot water or tea, keeping in mind that around three tablespoons of the chopped leaves is equivalent to a cup of sugar. Another option is to dry the leaves and grind them, to be used as sweeteners for drinks and food items. The process begins by storing the leaves in a warm, dark, and dry area, and then grinding them down to a powder, being careful afterwards to store the powder in a dark airtight container.
These days, stevia rebaudiana is popular as a sweetener in several ready-made products, especially those with slimming effects thanks to its anti-obesity property. PepsiCo makes SoBe Life Water, a low-calorie flavored water sweetened with extracts from the stevia plant. It contains several other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, vitamin B12, vitamin C, chromium, and potassium. Stevia is also a popular sweetener in coffee products like Lean N Green. Lean N Green Coffee’s benefits include speeding up metabolism, strengthening the immune system, and increasing glucose tolerance, which come from Stevia as its sweetener. Of course, if you’re looking to lose weight, slimming products and supplements combined with the suggestions from our article “The Tried and Tested Way to Weight Loss” can help set you on the right path to a healthy weight.
There is still a lot to learn about stevia rebaudiana and its benefits. More studies exploring the plant can be expected in the near future with the trend towards healthy and natural diets. For now, you can enjoy stevia in its many forms in the market, and reap all the benefits of this medicinal sweetener in your cup of tea or coffee in the mornings.