Diabetes, a chronic health condition, is rising worldwide. In 2017, it was estimated that 1 in every 11 adults had diabetes, which is an increase of 10 million diagnoses since 2015.
If you are one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with diabetes or you have been told that you are exhibiting symptoms of pre-diabetes, your doctor has surely informed you that making changes to your diet and choosing foods that are good for your health are important for managing your condition. Your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and taking the medications that you have been prescribe are all things that can make a major difference in your overall health and well being.
One of the most important dietary changes you can make is reducing the amount of sugars and carbohydrates you are ingesting. Does that mean that you should completely eliminate sweets from your diet? No! Thanks to stevia, a low-calorie, non-nutritive sweetener, you can significantly lower your intake of sugar and carbohydrates, as well as your caloric intake. That means that you can still enjoy sweetness while still managing your blood sugar levels and diabetes.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is actually a plant that has a very sweet taste to it. This plant has been used as a natural sweetener for hundreds of years. It’s native to the South American countries of Brazil and Paraguay, now this plant is grown in the Asian countries of China and Japan. It’s used as both as a non-nutritive, low-calorie sweetener. It provides both anti-diabetic and anti-oxidant properties and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe alternative sweetening agent for diabetics.
Research has found that stevia contains eight different glycosides, including:
- Dulcoside A
- Rebaudioside A
- Rebaudioside C
- Rebaudioside D
- Rebaudioside E
- Rebaudioside F
Natural sugar and artificial sweetening products can increase glucose levels, making it difficult to control diabetes. Stevia, on the other hand, can actually repress blood glucose and therefore drastically boost a diabetic’s tolerance to glucose. Stevia is also considered a natural sweetener, as it is made from the leaves of the stevia plant, which means that you don’t have to worry about ingesting artificial ingredients, as long as you are using an all-natural brand.
The Benefits of Stevia for Diabetics
Stevia has been found to provide a number of benefits for diabetics. Several scientific studies have revealed that this natural sweetener has the ability to:
- Enhance the effect of insulin on the membranes of the body’s cells
- Improve the production of insulin in diabetics
- Evens out blood glucose levels
- Counteracts the effects of type 2 diabetes
Additionally, since there are so few calories in each serving of stevia, it is considered a no calorie sweetener. It also much sweeter than traditional sugar, which means that you have to use significantly less in order to achieve the same type of sweetness.
Other Benefits of Stevia
In addition to providing notable health benefits for patients with diabetes, stevia has also been found to offer a number of other advantages.
Traditional sugar can contribute significantly to weight gain. Since stevia doesn’t contain any sugar and very little, if any calories, it can help manage your weight. In other words, you can still enjoy sweet foods and beverages without having to worry about gaining weight like you would if you were consuming traditional sugar.
Reduced Blood Pressure
It has been found that some of the glycosides in stevia can aide in blood vessel dilation, which can help to reduce blood pressure.
Reduce the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer
Stevia offers several antioxidants, as well as sterols, such as kaempferol. Research has found that kaempferol can significantly decrease the chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
Stevia is manufactured by several companies and manufactured under several brand names, including:
- Pure Via
- Sun Crystals
- Sweet Leaf
Stevia itself is all natural; however, the above-mentioned brands tend to be very processed and other ingredients and additives may be mixed into them. For instance, the Truvia brand of stevia undergoes 40 different steps during its processing and sugar alcohol erythritol is added to it. Therefore, there is a chance that these manufactured brands of stevia may have some impact on your health.
To avoid potential complications, if you are going to use stevia as an alternative sweetener, it is recommended that you either purchase the plant in its natural form or grow it useful and use the leaves from the plant as a sweetening agent.
Why Stevia is a Better Option than Artificial Sweeteners
Many artificial sweeteners are advertised as being free of sugar and beneficial for diabetics; however, studies have found that these sweeteners are actually a detriment to diabetes.
The body reacts differently to artificial sweeteners than traditional sugar. It can disrupt “learned taste”, which can actually send signals to the brain that tells it to eat more foods, particularly foods that are sweet. This can have a negative effect on diabetes, as it can lead to weight gain, which has been found to be detrimental to diabetes patients.
Additionally, while they are advertised to lower your blood sugar levels, artificial sweeteners can actually raise them.