The stevia plant has been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní people of Brazil and Paraguay, who refer to stevia as ka’a he’ê, which means “sweet herb. Stevia [Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni; Family Asteraceae] is a natural sweetener plant that is grown commercially in many parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Central America, Thailand, Korea, China and India. The leaves of stevia are the source of sweet glycosides. It is mainly used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in the food and beverage industry.
The stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and ragweed. Several stevia species called candyleaf are native to New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It is commonly and variously known as sweet leaf, honey leaf, candy leaf, sweet weed or sweet herbs. Stevia is gaining significant popularity in different parts of the world and is expected to be a major source of high potency sweetener. Worldwide, 32,000 hectares have been under stevia cultivation and China has a major chunk of 75%. The stevia plant also contains fiber, protein, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Stevia has no calories, and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar in the same concentration. Other studies suggest stevia might have extra health benefits. According to a 2017 article in the Journal of Medicinal Food, stevia has potential for treating endocrine diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, but that more research is needed. Stevia contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol.
Stevia sweeteners may include any of the following additional sweetening ingredients:
· Sugar alcohols
Other benefits of Stevia
· Blood glucose lowering
· Blood pressure lowering
The question of whether stevia is safe to consume largely depends on what someone means by "stevia." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved stevia leaves or "crude stevia extracts" for use as food additives.