Stevia is best known for its ability to sweeten dishes without adding calories. But this natural sweetener also brings some health benefits too.
The dried leaves of the stevia plant are used to make stevia leaf powder, and this is what is widely used as a sugar replacement. It is calorie-free and sugar-free to enable food manufacturers to reduce the calorie load of their products, without losing the sweetness.
Stevia leaf powder can be added to drinks – one teaspoon of stevia powder is roughly equivalent to one cup of sugar, so very little is needed to achieve the sweetness required.
It can also be used in baked goods, however, it’s worth noting that unlike sugar, stevia leaf powder doesn’t caramelise or brown. For baking, a special stevia baking blend is often used, as it has been specially formulated for use in the kitchen.
Stevia leaf powder could also help lower blood sugar levels and insulin levels for diabetics. Some research has suggested it can be used for blood sugar control, by lowering blood sugar levels after meals in type 2 diabetics, and improving glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.
It may also help reduce inflammation, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Stevia leaf powder does have a slightly bitter after-taste, so many manufacturers choose to blend it with other sweeteners or ingredients so they can gain all the benefits without impacting the flavour of their products.
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