Stevia: what is it?
Stevia sugar is a sweetener originating from the Stevia plant. The substance is used to sweeten numerous products and is considered a 'healthy' alternative to ordinary sugar. One of the reasons for this is that it has a Glycemic Index of 0. This index shows how quickly carbohydrates (including sugars) are absorbed.
Sweetness from the 'Rebaudiana' plant
Stevia products are made from the leaves of the Rebaudiana plant. This plant originally grows only in South America, particularly Brazil and Paraguay. Here, the leaves of the plant have been used for centuries to sweeten tea, but also for making traditional medicines. The sweetener is known as explosively sweet: up to 300 times as sweet as sugar.
How is the sweetener extracted?
Stevia sweetener is extracted from the plant leaves. These are ground and soaked in water. This produces a paste, which is then purified and dried. What remains are the crystals containing the sweetener. The main sweeteners in the plant are Rebaudioside and Stevioside. These sweeteners are known collectively as Stevioglycosides.
Also in liquid form
Besides Stevia sweeteners, it is also possible to buy liquid Stevia. You can use the liquid sweetener in cocktails and smoothies, but of course you can also use it in breakfast with yoghurt or desserts. It is also possible to bake (savoury) with Stevia drops: two or three drops of sweetener are equal to a teaspoon of sugar.
Suitable for Diabetics
That Stevia is suitable for patients with diabetes has to do with the fact that the sweetener has a GI (Glycemic Index) of 0. A high value in the index means that the sweetener is quickly absorbed by the blood, which can cause blood sugar fluctuations.
How healthy is this sweetener?
The question remains: is Stevia healthy? There is no simple answer to this. We can say that Stevia is a healthier alternative to traditional sugars. This is due, among other things, to its low Glycemic value and the fact that Stevioglycosides do not contain any carbohydrates.
Because the substance is so sweet, you only need a very small amount to make a dish sweet. This also applies to coffee and tea: a single sweetener is enough to sweeten an entire cup or mug. The advantage is that you can go a long way with a small packet, whereas you'd soon need whole packs of sugar.
The pure sweetener can be added to include cottage cheese, yogurt or smoothies. They give your liquid meal a unique twist. Looking for a tasty, healthy soft drink, sugar free and low in calories? Then the Rebaudiana plant offers a solution.
The sweetener can be used in baking up to 200 degrees Celsius. Be careful with the dosage: a small dash is more than enough to sweeten your dish. Make sure the sweetener is mixed well.
As a replacement for sugar
Buying stevia means a replacement for sugar in the house. Not just any replacement: a replacement that is no less than 200-300 times sweeter. The only disadvantage may be the somewhat bitter aftertaste, which sugar does not have, but that can be disguised with other remedies.
In general, the Rebaudiana sweetener is a tasty replacement of sweetener, completely free of carbohydrates and with a GI of 0. Are you trying to lose weight? This is the sweetener for you!
Good for the teeth
With Stevia, tooth decay seems a thing of the past, provided you keep brushing your teeth twice a day of course. Cavities are a problem, especially with young children. The biggest culprit is sugar.
Since the intake of sugar in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has increased explosively, the number of cases of tooth decay has also increased significantly. The sweetener of the Rebaudiana has the great advantage over sugar that it is not bad for teeth.
Safe use of the sweetener
Stevia is in many ways a lot less harmful than sugar, but that does not mean that you can continue to take it indefinitely. As with everything, there is a limit.
The sum that you can get per kilogram of body weight about 4 milligrams of the substance Steviolglycosides. With a weight of 60 kilos, that means 240 milligrams on a day. This sum also applies to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Does Stevia also have disadvantages?
The sweetener has a surprisingly long aftertaste, which can be very penetrating and by people sometimes as unpleasant (intense, sharp, bitter or "metallic") is experienced). This is something to bear in mind: everyone loves sugar, but this is not always the case with the sweetener from the Rebaudiana plant. The substance is very pungent and often overpowers.
Watch out for some medicines
Stevia is considered healthier than sugar, although the description 'less unhealthy than sugar' is perhaps more appropriate. Please note that the active ingredient Steviolglycosides can have a negative effect on some medications.
The sweetener from the Rebaudiana plant is an ideal alternative for diabetics, but it can clash with certain diabetes medications.
Pay attention to proportions
Manufacturers want to ride on the excellent reputation that Stevia has. They will soon put on their packaging that this sweetener is in their product and then conceal the fact that there are also many other sweeteners in it.
Always look carefully at the ingredients. At Vehgro you can be sure that you are dealing with quality products. Our motto is openness and honesty. All our products are 100% organic. Sustainability is our goal.
European legislation on stevia
The European Union has determined through legislation that the green leaves of the plant can not be traded as food. The Steviol glycosides from the plants may be processed as an ingredient (with the name E960) in food under certain conditions.
What are Novel Foods?
Novel Foods is an initiative that started in 1997 within the European Union. It concerns foodstuffs which were not or hardly used in human food products in Europe until 1997. These were considered "Novel Foods".
They may not just be put on the market, but need a permit. That was also the case for the famous sweetener from the Rebaudiana plant, originating from South America.