Stevia Compared to Honey
Stevia the native plant of South America has been used for centuries as a sweetener by the Guarani Indian tribes. Stevia was discovered in the modern world in 1887 by an Italian botanist and since 1908 has been commercially cultivated for mass production and use. The leaves of the Stevia plant contain glycosides known as stevioside which gives Stevia its sweetening qualities. Stevia apart from being used as a sweetener is also used as an anti-bacterial to treat minor infections. Stevia is also anti-hypertensive and anti-glycemic hence is safe for use by diabetics and individuals suffering from elevated blood pressure.
Honey is a natural sweetener hence is often considered safe but when compared to Stevia, honey has many drawbacks.
Sugar replacements are often used to keep the calorie count in check. Hence sweeteners are often judged based on the number of calories it contributes to the body. While a spoonful of sugar contains nearly 20 calories, a spoonful of honey contains more calories than that, while Stevia is a non caloric sweetener.
The glycemic index measures the effects of different foods on the blood glucose levels. High ranking foods cause a major change in the blood glucose level while low ranking foods cause minor changes to the glucose levels. Typically sweet foods cause spikes in the glucose levels hence sweeteners like sugar and especially honey are ranked high on the glycemic index. Honey has a ranking of 87 on the glycemic index.
Stevia on the other hand is a non caloric sweetener meaning that it has no effect on the blood glucose levels hence is not only a low ranking sweetener, Stevia is ranked zero on the glycemic index. For diabetics eating low ranking foods is essential to keep their sugar levels in check hence Stevia is the best available sweetener for them.
Honey is high on the carbohydrate content hence adds fat to the body while Stevia does not contain any carbohydrates since it is composed of glycosides. Both honey and Stevia have their own set of nutrients ranging from essential minerals like sodium, potassium, magnesium to vitamin A, B and C.
Honey except for the calories it adds is generally perceived as a safe sweetener. But honey cannot be administered to infants as it causes a harmful type of food poisoning known as botulism.
Stevia has also been regarded as a ‘generally safe’ sweetener by the FDA but many studies have proved otherwise. Crude extracts of Stevia have been found to cause impaired kidney function while affecting the urinary flow and emission of sodium from the body.
Stevia also interferes with the diabetes and blood pressure medications to cause sudden spikes in glucose levels and blood pressure levels often leading to hypoglycemia and hypotension. Initial use of Stevia also causes nausea and bloating. Stevia has also been found to cause body aches and numbness requiring assistance in daily activities.
Stevia compared to honey is a relatively newly found sweetener and hence more research needs to be done before fully ascertaining its safety but presently unlike honey Stevia definitely has more than just sweetening qualities.