The people of South America refer to stevia as the “sweet herb.” You might be familiar with stevia for its use as an artificial sweetener in foods and beverages in the United States. Stevia is an herbal plant that grows in South America. The plant’s extract is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Studies have shown that stevia health benefits include the ability to aid in weight loss, improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and even help fight cancer. When consuming stevia products, it’s important to make sure you avoid chemically processed products to avoid stevia side effects.
Types of Stevia
- Green Leaf Stevia: Least processed type, best stevia option for health benefits but should be used in moderation.
- Stevia Extract: Tastes sweeter than green leaf stevia, but does not provide the same health benefits.
- Altered Stevia (Like Truvia): Extensively processed, contains GMO ingredients, side effects include gastrointestinal problems, should always be avoided.
Stevia Health Benefits
1. Fights Cancer
Stevia health benefits include anticancer properties. In a 2012 study published in Nutrition and Cancer, researchers found that stevia consumption led to breast cancer reduction. The study showed that stevioside was able to enhance cell death and decrease stress pathways in the body that play a role in cancer growth. Like other cancer-fighting foods, stevia increases the body’s antioxidant levels to strengthen the immune system and fight off disease. (1)
2. Helps Manage Diabetes
Stevia health benefits include the ability to benefits a diabetic diet. Replacing sugar with stevia can help significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance. Studies have shown that stevia can help those struggling with diabetes by assisting in natural glucose regulation. (2)
3. Aids in Weight Loss
Stevia health benefits include the ability to aid in weight loss. High sugar intake is linked to weight gain. It also has negative effects on blood sugar levels that can cause serious health problems. As a plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener, stevia can help fight obesity, diabetes and weight gain when used in moderation in place of conventional sugar.
4. Improves Cholesterol Levels
According to a 2009 study, stevia health benefits include the ability to reduce cholesterol. Researchers found that stevia extract was able to decrease elevated serum cholesterol levels, including LDL or bad cholesterol. Stevia also worked to increase HDL or good cholesterol, to improve overall cholesterol levels. (3)
5. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Stevia health benefits include the ability to lower blood pressure levels. Studies have shown that the glycosides in stevia extract work to dilate blood vessels and increase sodium excretion. These two actions can help keep high blood pressure at bay. Research suggests that stevia may work as a natural treatment method for hypertension.
Stevia Side Effects
Stevia side effects can occur with chemically processed stevia products, including Truvia, which contains less than 1% real stevia. To avoid stevia side effects, look for green leaf stevia products. Chemically processed products can cause stevia side effects that may include hormonal imbalance, kidney damage, allergic reactions, low blood pressure and gastrointestinal symptoms.