Stevia: low-calorie sugar substitute?
Foods with stevia promise calorie-free pleasure without harming teeth. But how healthy is stevia really? 5 Facts
W hen Stevia is mentioned, it is usually not the plant Stevia rebaudiana, also known as honeyweed, but only the steviol glycosides it contains. Steviolgylcosides are sweeteners, of which stevioside makes up the largest proportion in the plant.
Steviol glycosides were only approved as a sweetener for certain foods in Germany in November 2011. They are about 300 times sweeter than sugar, contain no calories and are heat stable. Is this why stevia sweeteners are healthier? Here are the facts:
1. Stevia contains no calories
Since the sweetness from stevia contains no calories, it is also recommended for diabetics. According to the German Diabetes Society, however, it is neither better nor worse than other sugar substitutes.
In this context, rumors are often spread on the Internet that stevia stimulates insulin secretion and thus leads to hypoglycemia or triggers feelings of hunger. For example, it is said that the brain receives the message from the taste receptors that something sweet is being eaten and therefore gives the command that insulin should be released. However, this is not so: several studies showed that steviol glycosides do not increase the release of insulin.
2. The substance does not have the acid-forming effect of sugar. Does not therefore cause tooth decay. On the contrary, stevia extracts may even have an inhibitory effect on the growth of caries-causing bacteria and are contained in certain toothbrush tablets. How strong this positive effect is, however, depends on what the extracts are dissolved in.
Watch out: Even though stevia itself isn't bad for your teeth, most sweets with steviol glycosides contain additional sugar, and that in turn damages your teeth. The dental association in Hesse apparently fears that the substance could act like a free pass on toothbrushing muffleheads. It therefore points out that the consumption of stevia does not make daily tooth brushing superfluous.
3. Do not exceed daily dose
An earlier study suggested that stevia could be carcinogenic and reduce male fertility. Later studies disproved the. Nevertheless, the European Food Safety Authority has set a tolerable daily intake level for steviol glycosides, meaning a daily dose that you should not exceed. This is because steviol glycosides are approved as sweeteners in Germany. The daily dose is also called the ADI value ("Acceptable Daily Intake"). Food groups that may contain steviol glycosides are subject to maximum levels to ensure that the ADI is not exceeded. Parents must nevertheless be careful that their children do not eat too many stevia products, because their low body weight makes it easier for them to exceed the maximum recommended daily dose of 4 mg of steviol glycosides per kg of body weight.
4. Sweetness from stevia is not natural
As a sweetener, steviol glycosides must meet certain prescribed purity requirements. To do this, they have to go through various chemical processes that involve aluminum salts, artificial substances, resins and alcohol, among others. So the sweetener comes from a plant, but that does not make it natural. As an additive, it must be labeled as "E960" in foodstuffs. Like all sweeteners, it must not be used in organic foods.
5. Licorice flavor does not always fit
Stevia is not only sweet, it also has a taste of its own, which is often described as similar to lactritz or somewhat bitter. Of course, this does not fit into every recipe. Unlike other sweeteners, steviol glycosides are heat resistant. Can therefore also be used for cooking. But again, what doesn't work is whipping cream and caramelizing it.
Stevia is not healthier or unhealthier than other sweeteners. For people with diabetes it can be an alternative. Since there is usually additional sugar in foods besides steviol glycosides, they often save few calories and are not good for teeth. Children should only take stevia in moderation. For adults: Stevia is a matter of taste.