If you have ever thought of other ways to get your tea, or beverages sweet without having to involve sugar, then Stevia rebaudiana is the very answer you are looking for. Stevia rebaudiana is the sweetest plant of the stevia genera of Asteraceae family. This small plant has been used for centuries now by Paraguay natives, who named it after a Paraguayan chemist, Dr Rebaudi.
The plant is also found in India. The Gaurani Indians extensively used this plant for more than 1500 years.
Stevia rebaudiana is a short plant. If starts flowering from January to March in the southern hemisphere. The flowers are white in color with a pale purple throat. They are small in size and arranged in the form of small corymbs, and prefers a sandy soil, requiring a warm sunny position. The suitable natural climate is semi-humid subtropical with temperature extremes from 21 to 43°C and average 24°C. Stevia rebaudiana is widely used in many parts of the world as sweetener and grown commercially in Central America, Korea, Paraguay, Brazil, Thailand, and China.
What are the nutritional benefits of Stevia rebaudiana?
This wonderful plant is quite rich in several bioactive and nutritional benefits. In order to serve as a substitute for sugar, Stevia rebaudiana is fortified with sweetening compounds such as isosteviol, sativoside, rebaudiosides (A, B, C, D, E, F), steviolbio-side and dulcoside A. These are compounds are derivatives of diterpene glycosides.
Stevia rebaudiana is rich in amino acids
Aside being a sweetener, stevia is also a rich source of essential and non-essential amino acids, which include:
- Phenyl alanine
Which are classified under essential amino acids, and
Which are non-essential amino acids.
Stevia rebaudiana is rich in fatty acids
The fatty acids composition of stevia include
- Palmitic acid
- Palmitoleic acid
- Stearic acid
- Oleic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid
Vitamins present in Stevia rebaudiana
The leaves of stevia is fortified with B vitamins, which are essential for metabolism and energy production of the body. They are also essential in maintaining normal functioning lf the body, and for bone production. Vitamin C is also present in the plant, and is a strong antioxidant.
What are the nutritional benefits of Stevia rebaudiana?
Stevia is rich in secondary metabolites such as indole-3-acetonitrile, apigenin, quercetin, isoquercitrin, luteolin, miocene, kaempferol, stigmasterol, xanthophyllus, umbeliferone, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, dicaffeoylquinic acid, and also some minerals like chromium, cobalt, magnesium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus. These compounds confer on the plant the numerous medicinal properties, which it is widely known for.
Stevia rebaudiana reduces hypertension
With the increasing cases of high blood pressure among the global population, the demand for hypotensive products are increasing daily. Some of the orthodox medications usually cause adverse effects on the patient. For this reason, and for the high cost medications, most people or low income earners searches for natural means to manage their high blood pressure. Luckily, stevia is one such great antihypertensive herbal remedies.
Stevia rebaudiana is a rich source of Stevioside, which suppresses high blood pressure by inducing vasorelaxation of the blood vessels. A regular consumption of this compound or the plant have been proved to improve cell regeneration and blood coagulation, suppresses neoplastic growth, and strengthens blood vessels.
Stevia rebaudiana is beneficial for treating cancer
Stevioside glycosides and other diterpene glycosides present in the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana are not just there to give you a sweet taste. Beyond being sweeteners, they are also medicinal. One of the health benefits if consuming stevia regularly is the protective from cancer and tumorigenic agents.
Several studies have validated the cytotoxicity and anti-proliferative effects of stevia extracts and derivatives against several cancer cell line, including breast cancer. The extract also inhibits tumor promotion and initiation. Another study showed that Stevioside and other antitumor agents in stevia leaves inhibit tumor promotion through the inhibition of Epstein-Barr virus early antigen (EBV-EA) induction.
Some other herbs in the category of strong anticancer effects include, pigeon pea plant leaves and roots, soursop leaves and fruits, and Senna alata.
Stevia rebaudiana improves diabetes
Stevioside has yet proved another health benefits of the plant leaves. Aside been a sweetener, stevioside also regulate blood fasting glucose levels. They do this through the stimulation of insulin production in the pancreas cells and by insulin sensitization and utilization by the body. This makes stevia a better alternative to sugar as sweeteners, because sugar constitute high caloric intake, which would result in high blood sugar level. But with stevioside, you would enjoy the taste of your drinks or foods, why maintaining a sound health.
Stevia reduces body weight and improves obesity
Stevioside also decreases appetite and thus, reduce frequency of food intake. Frequent food intake is associated with high blood sugar level and is a risk factor for obesity. When we take more sugars and fats than the body requires, the body creates more adipose tissue to store those excess fats. This storage overtime results in increased belly and muscle fats, and eventually lead to obesity.
The ability of stevioside to suppress the appetite to eat more frequently is an important factor in reducing body weight, blood fasting sugar levels, diabetes, in preventing the initiation of obesity. A combination of spearmint tea with stevia would greatly and synergistically improve the obese condition, and fasten weight loss.
Stevia prevents and protects from Ulcer
If you drink stevia tea on a regular basis, you would prevent the incidence of peptic or gastric ulcer. This because stevia rebaudiana is a strong antiulcer agent. The plant functions by suppressing inflammatory responses that are responsible for the development of ulcer colitis. The mechanism of action involved in this activity include the upregulation of Nrf2 and PPARγ with downregulation of NF-κB, TNF-α, IL-1β, TBARS, and MPO expressions.
Aside ulcers, stevia have been known and utilized in traditional medicines for the treatment of other inflammatory bowel diseases, through the suppression of intestinal inflammation and associated pains.
Stevia is used to treat tooth decay
Tooth decay is of the most prevalent diseases worldwide. Both the young and the aged are predisposed to tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when microorganisms of oral cavity produce organic acids metabolites through the fermentation of caloric sweeteners, which attack and lead to demineralization of enamel and eventually result to proteolytic deterioration of tooth structure.
The pain associated with tooth decay can be very excruciating. Often times, this can lead to surgical operation and the removal of such tooth. But we have seen some patients who still suffer tooth decay from other teeth, even after the previous tooth was surgically removed. This has led to the search for a lasting remedy for tooth decay and tooth pain.
Stevia and its derivatives are noncariogenic. They have also been found to inhibit glucan induced aggregation of cariogenic organism, This means that stevia and its derivatives have potential of providing oral health benefits.
Stevia protects renal functions
As a vasodilator, stevioside promotes uresis and natriuresis in both normal and diseased patients. It also increases glomerular filtration rate and renal plasma flow through the vasodilation of both the afferent and efferent arterioles. A study also suggested that at a pharmacological concentration of 0.70 mM, stevioside inhibits the transepithelial transport of P-aminohippurate in isolated S2 segments of rabbit proximal renal tubules using in vitro micro-perfusion.
The steviol component of stevia leaves has also shown its potential to inhibit cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), expression and chloride channel activity by promoting proteosomal degradation of CFTR.
Stevia improves cholesterol levels
Of so many herbs that i have reviewed so far, stevia has a unique way of lowering total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is done by the active compound, stevioside. Stevioside possess the potential to increase bile acid excretion through the prevention of reabsorption of bile acid from the small intestine. This is done by disrupting micelle formation of bile acid. With the increased bile acid and cholesterol excretion, cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase is activated, and thus enhances the conversion of liver cholesterol to bile acid. This results in a reduced cholesterol level.
Also stevioside enhances the activity of liver lipase enzyme, which leads to the catabolism of lipids. It also inhibits the absorption of dietary lipid in the small intestine by reducing micellar solubilization of cholesterol, and increases the excretion of triglycerides through the feces.
Another mechanism by which stevia lowers cholesterol levels in the body involves the interaction between stevia consumption and activation of peroxisome proliferators-activated receptors. Thus, we can see that stevioside confers tremendous health benefits to stevia rebaudiana leaves, beyond its sweetening potential.
Stevia possess cardiovascular benefits
Aside stevioside, stevia rebaudiana like watermelon seed oil and perilla seed oil also possess omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, including oleic acids. These essential fatty acids improves cardiovascular functions, prevents cardiac arrest and suppresses atherosclerosis. All these are good for the normal functioning of your heart. As a vasodilator, stevioside increases blood flow through the blood vessels by inhibiting Ca 2+ influx which in return stimulates the release of prostaglandin, a vasodilator. It also promotes the reduction of Na+ reabsorption, thereby ensuing the reduction of the extracellular fluid volume.
Is stevia healthy for everyday consumption?
There are several refined products of stevia that may be taken without some of the side effects associated with stevia rebaudiana leaves. Some of the side effects may be dose dependent, as there are little evidence of them. These side effects include bloating, vomiting, nausea, cramps, and indigestion. When taken at appropriate amount, stevia rebaudiana leaves are beneficial to your health.
Other side effects of stevia may include headache and diarrhea.
These review of stevia rebaudiana should not replace your doctor. It is highly important that you consult your doctor before taking stevia leaves or any stevia refined products. And where you notice any side effect, please quite taking it immediately, and consult your doctor.
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