Get to know Stevia Leaves, a Natural Sweetener as a Sugar Substitute

Stevia leaves are known for their steviol glycoside extraction products which are used as natural sweeteners to replace sugar. This natural sweetener is considered to be lower in calories, so it is predicted to be good for diabetics.

Stevia leaves come from the Stevia rebaudina plant which grows a lot in South America. Stevia leaves are known to be sweeter than sucrose and 100–300 times sweeter than regular sugar, but contain almost no calories.

That is why this sweetener from stevia leaves is often recommended for diabetics and people who are losing weight. Even so, you must pay attention to how to use it, including the maximum amount of daily consumption so that it remains safe to use.

Is Stevia Leaf Safe to Use?

Stevia leaves that have been extracted and processed into natural sweetener products as a substitute for sugar are proven to be safe for consumption. This sweet taste comes from the active compounds in stevia leaf extract, such as stevioside and rebaudioside A (Reb A).

However, until now the direct use of stevia leaves in their intact form has not been known for their effects on the kidneys, heart and blood vessels, so they are not necessarily safe. So, choose sweetener products from stevia leaves that are already registered with BPOM and have clear distribution permits.

For diabetics, sweeteners from stevia leaves can indeed help prevent blood sugar levels from rising due to the low levels of carbohydrates and calories in it. Even so, diabetics still need to be extra careful in reading the content or composition of the stevia product that will be used.

Choose products that are pure and without other sweeteners, such as dextrose or maltodextrin. Both are carbohydrates that can increase blood sugar levels.

You also need to be careful if the stevia extract product contains a mixture of erythritol or sugar alcohols. Consuming sugar alcohols can increase the risk of digestive disorders, such as flatulence or diarrhea.

Tips for Safe Consuming Stevia Leaves

Natural sweetener products from stevia leaves can be found in the form of powdered stevia and liquid stevia. To be safe, here are some things you need to pay attention to before using stevia leaves:

1. Try it first

“Alternative sweetener to sugar,” this nickname is true, but some people find stevia bitter or taste like menthol. If this is your first time using stevia to replace sugar, you can use it a little at a time, OK?

For example, you can add a little stevia sugar to your favorite drink or drink, like coffee, tea or oatmeal, and give it a try. If it suits the taste, then add according to taste.

2. Use with caution in certain medical conditions

People with low blood pressure need to be careful when using this natural sweetener from stevia leaves. You see, several studies state that the active substance content in stevia leaves has a vasodilator effect (widens blood vessels). This effect can lower blood pressure which can be dangerous for people with hypotension.

In addition, although it is recommended for use by diabetics, if it is used too often, it is not balanced with consumption of healthy and nutritious food, especially if it is accompanied by anti-diabetic drugs, the use of natural sweeteners from stevia leaves can increase the risk of hypoglycemia low blood sugar.

Likewise with pregnant and lactating women who are sensitive to sugar alcohols. Pregnant women are advised to choose stevia products that do not contain erythritol. If necessary, consult with your doctor first before choosing a stevia product as a sugar substitute when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

3. Use sparingly

Keep in mind that stevia leaves have a higher level of sweetness than sucrose or regular sugar. For comparison, 1 teaspoon of regular sugar is equivalent to half a pack of sachets of stevia product or five drops of liquid stevia.

That is, using just a little is enough to give a sweet taste to the food or drink you consume. So, to make the dosage clearer, you can read the label of the stevia product you bought.

4. Keep adequate calorie intake

Sweetness is often confused with calories, but the two are different things. Some sweet foods can indeed be high in calories, but stevia is different. Even though it has a sweet taste, stevia is low in calories, so you still have to eat other foods to meet your calorie needs.

Even though it can be used as a natural sweetener instead of sugar and is said to be safe for diabetics, still use it sparingly and don't overdo it. If in doubt and still want to know more about alternatives to other sugar substitutes, you can consult directly with your doctor.

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