Stevia is perhaps unique among food ingredients because it’s most valued for what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t add calories. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant. The prized species, Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni), grows in Paraguay and Brazil, where people have used leaves from the stevia bush to sweeten food for hundreds of years.
Moises Santiago Bertoni, an Italian botanist, is often credited with the discovery of stevia in the late 1800s, even though the native Guarani people had used it for centuries. Known as kaa-he (or sweet herb) by the native population, the leaves of the plant had many uses. In traditional medicine in these regions, stevia served as a treatment for burns, colic, stomach problems and sometimes as a contraceptive. The leaves were also chewed on their own as a sweet treat.
What are the benefits of Stevia?
Studies Show That Stevia Can Lower Blood Pressure – Elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for many serious diseases.This includes heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.Studies have shown that taking stevioside (one of the sweet compounds in stevia) as a supplement can reduce blood pressure.
Diabetes Management – Type II diabetes is currently one of the biggest health problems in the world. It is characterized by elevated blood sugar in the context of insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin. Stevia has been studied in diabetic patients with impressive results. In one of the studies, type 2 diabetic patients took either 1 gram of stevioside with a meal, or 1 gram of maize starch. The group taking stevioside had a reduction in blood sugar by about 18%
Another study compared sucrose (regular sugar), aspartame and stevia. It found that stevia lowered both blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal, compared to the other two sweeteners.Other studies in animals and test tubes have shown that stevioside may increase production of insulin, as well as make the cells more sensitive to its effects.
Insulin is the hormone that drives blood sugar into cells, so this appears to be the mechanism behind the blood sugar lowering effects.
Manages Obesity – A study has shown the potential benefits of cocoa in preventing high-fat-diet-induced obesity. Its intake helps in modulating lipid metabolism and reducing the synthesis and transport of fatty acids. It has also demonstrated an improvement in thermogenesis, the mechanism of heat production in white adipose tissues and the liver.
Enhances Mood – Consuming cocoa has shown antidepressant-like effects on certain physiological processes. Studies have shown that its flavonoids help to enhance mood, combat depression, and promote improved cognitive activities during persistent mental exertion. The presence of the neurochemical phenylethylamine in it also helps in enhancing feelings of contentment and promoting aphrodisiac effects!
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