Stevia is the best sugar substitute if you want to improve your diet and reduce your intake of empty calories. But if you’re not familiar with stevia, you might wonder what it is and how you can use it.
To help, here’s everything you need to know about stevia benefits, concerns, and how to best use this natural sweetener to your advantage.
What is Stevia?
Stevia’s scientific name is Stevia rebaudiana. It’s a plant species native to areas of Brazil and Paraguay and commonly grown for its sweet leaves, which are used for sweetener products sold under the “stevia” name. It’s also known for the names sweet leaf, candyleaf, and sugarleaf.
Stevia is not new. People around the world have used stevia leaves for thousands of years. But when modern technology allowed us to extract two main substances, rebaudioside A (also known as Reb A) and stevioside, from the stevia plant leaves in the mid- to late-20th century, stevia became much more common in commercial food products.
Is Stevia Safe to Consume?
Pure stevia and most stevia products have been determined as safe.
Stevia was banned as a food additive in 1987 by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but that was reversed in 1995 when it was ruled as safe. And in 2008, the stevia compound Reb A was given the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status.
The Biggest Health Benefits of Stevia
The most popular reason for using stevia is its various benefits over sugar:
- Compounds of the stevia plant are 250-300 times sweeter than sugar, meaning it only takes a little to get the same sweetness from sugar.
- Pure stevia also not only has no effect on blood sugar, it may have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
- In addition, stevia benefits us as a non-nutritive substance, meaning it contributes virtually no empty calories like sugar.
Stevia also a popular sweetener with those following a low-carb diet, as it doesn’t contribute carbohydrates or sugar. Also, the fact that it was basically no calories makes it a great substitute for those looking to lose weight and/or decrease their sugar or overall caloric intake.
For these reasons, stevia can be a wonderful natural, sugar-free sweetener for drinks like coffee and tea, oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, and other food products.
Other Possible Stevia Benefits
The fact that stevia makes a great no-calorie sugar substitute is reason enough for most people to use it. There are a few other possible health-related stevia benefits, although research is still inconclusive.
In a 2010 laboratory study of 31 participants—19 with healthy BMIs and 12 categorized as obese—researchers gave each person a “preload” drink containing stevia, aspartame, or sucrose before lunch and dinner meals. The study found stevia significantly lowered glucose and insulin levels compared to sucrose (table sugar) .
The participants also reported no difference in satiety levels even though the stevia preload was lower in calories than the sucrose one. They also didn’t compensate by eating more at other meals.
More research is needed on how stevia affects blood sugar and insulin. But it’s often recommended as a healthier sweetener option for those needing to reduce their sugar intake.
In a 2009 study, participants consumed 400 milliliters of stevia extract each day for a month. The results showed the stevia had a positive effect on lipid profiles . Researchers concluded the stevia extract was effective at lowering elevated serum cholesterol levels, LDL “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
The most compelling reason to-date for swapping stevia for sugar is to increase sugar and empty calorie intake. That alone is beneficial as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
How to Choose the Best Stevia
You can buy stevia in its pure form as pure stevia extract, or there are other products like Truvia or Stevia in the Raw that are blended with other sweetener alternatives like erythritol or dextrose.
The best type of stevia product to choose depends on how you want to use it:
- Stevia drops work great for teas, coffees, and other beverages. If you want a particular flavor, such as for a latte, the Sweet Leaf brand has various flavor options including hazelnut, vanilla creme, and English toffee great as beverage syrup alternatives.
- Stevia packets or spoonable stevia are also good for adding to beverages.
- For baking, Stevia in the Raw and Pyure are good blends that can usually be used cup-for-cup in place of sugar.
However you use stevia, it can be a great natural sweetener option without contributing sugar or calories. Try it out for yourself by shopping our various Stevia products here!
Disclaimer: Statements made have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.