How does Stevia compare to other sugar alternatives despite having no calories? Here is some background information on stevia as well as some points to think about before switching from sugar.
Stevia: What Is It?
The first thing you should know about stevia, or “rebiana,” is that it doesn’t have a brand name as Equal, Sweet’N Low, or other artificial sweeteners do. According to Carol Aguirre, a qualified, registered dietitian/nutritionist at Nutrition Connections in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “it’s a broad word for all sweeteners derived from the Stevia Rebaudiana bush, a herbal plant that’s abundant in Asia and South America.” To give the plant its sweet flavour, stevia leaves contain substances known as steviol glycosides, including stevioside and rebaudioside A.
Trivia, PureVia, SweetLeaf, and Stevia in the Raw are just a few of the brand names used to market stevia in the United States. Stevia earthomaya, which is categorized as a non-nutritive sweetener, offers consumers a sweet taste with less calories than sugar. It can be found in a variety of dairy products, sports drinks, sodas, desktop packets, liquid drops, dissolvable tablets, and baking mixtures.
Sugar vs. Stevia
The primary benefit of using stevia is that it has little calories, which is in addition to the fact that it originates from plant leaves rather than a lab. Pure stevia extract has no calories, while one package of stevia has less than 5 calories and 1 gramme of carbs, or the equal of 2 tablespoons of sugar. What does sugar look like? In any case, 2 tablespoons have 30 calories and 8 grammes of carbs. Although this might not seem like much, according to Aguirre, “people frequently use more than 2 tablespoons of sugar, so the calories can mount up rapidly.” She mentions that many scientists think sugar intake is a significant factor in the rise of obesity and numerous chronic illnesses like diabetes in the United States.
Another benefit is that the body does not entirely absorb stevia. Neal Malik, a licenced dietitian nutritionist and chair of the Department of Nutrition and Basic Sciences at Bastyr University in California, notes that those who want to lose weight and control their blood sugar may therefore choose stevia to sugar.
Taste-wise, the stevia plant’s raw leaves are about 40 times sweeter than sugar, and the powdered sweetener made from them is up to 200–300 times sweeter. However, some people dislike the stevia plant’s distinctively bitter aftertaste because the chemical components in it interact with both the sweet and bitter receptors on your tongue. According to Aguirre, who cites a recent study that examined the different components of stevia to determine why certain compounds were perceived as more bitter, many beverages sweetened with stevia extracts mix in other sweeteners, such as erythritol, aspartame, or regular sugar, to offset the bitter taste.
The results will enable future stevia-derived sweetener development to concentrate on the plant’s sweetest, least bitter components. But, she continues, “others are aiming to grow the sweetest possible version of the stevia plant itself,” while some researchers spend time determining the tastiest chemical components in stevia.
Stevia has demonstrated to be just as adaptable as sugar. The steviol glycosides included in the stevia plant are relatively stable substances, allowing for a wide range of applications, according to Malik. Drinks like iced tea and coffee can be sweetened with stevia. Additionally, several food producers have started including it in their dairy goods.
With a few restrictions, stevia can replace sugar in baked goods because it is a concentrated source of sweetness. To start with, you’ll need to use a conversion table to figure out the right quantity. You might also need to experiment with the recipe to get the right texture because sugar gives baked goods bulk. Aguirre advises adding a bulking ingredient, like egg whites, applesauce, or yoghurt. Both Aguirre and Malik emphasise that you should keep in mind that stevia won’t turn brown like sugar does. You might think about using a stevia and regular sugar baking blend. While promising to bake, brown, and mix like ordinary sugar, this dramatically reduces the calorie content.
Benefits of Stevia
To tackle obesity, diabetes, and all heart disease risk factors, the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association have granted a cautious OK to the use of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar. According to AHA and ADA experts, using non-nutritive sweeteners wisely may help us consume less calories by reducing the amount of added sugars in our diet. Consequently, cutting calories can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your chance of developing obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and lower your cholesterol.
Researchers from the United Kingdom and Belgium have discovered that stevia activates a protein called TRPM5, linked to taste perception, in experiments that explicitly examine stevia’s involvement in lowering illness risk. The release of the hormone insulin after eating is influenced by the protein as well. These discoveries might result in brand-new Type 2 diabetes therapies. To rate the efficacy of stevia for both reducing diabetes risk and effectiveness, further data are required.
The anti-cancer properties of stevia have also been studied. One 2012 study linked stevia use to a decrease in breast cancer.
Another demonstrated a considerable rise in antioxidant levels when stevia was added to naturally occurring colon cancer-preventing combinations, such as blackberry leaf. But once more, additional study is required to support these results.
Side Effects of Stevia
Stevia and its related chemicals have been classified as “generally recognised as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At the moment, a safe dose is thought to be 4 milligrammes per kilogramme of body weight each day.
This indicates that, at this moment, there isn’t enough scientific data to demonstrate that consuming stevia may be damaging to health in the short- or long-term, as Malik explains. However, he notes that research on animals have shown that high dosages of stevia may cause genetic abnormalities. However, because there is insufficient data, it is still unclear how using stevia in big doses may affect people.
Although stevia is thought to be safe for diabetics, Aguirre warns that some varieties do contain maltodextrin, which is made from starch, and dextrose, a type of glucose. According to her, these substances include only a few more calories and carbs. The carb count may also be somewhat increased by sugar alcohols. Bottom line: Your blood sugar may not be affected if you occasionally take stevia products. However, the carbs build up if you consume them throughout the day.
Your stomach can be impacted as well. Including stevia, non-nutritive sweeteners may alter the healthy gut flora, according to a 2015 study. The same study offered the possibility that non-nutritive sweeteners could cause glucose intolerance. Additionally, some people may experience bloating and diarrhoea when using stevia products formulated with sugar alcohols.
Since there is insufficient trustworthy evidence about the safety of taking stevia, it is best to be safe and avoid use if you are pregnant or nursing.
Last but not least, stevia with some drugs may not get along. Stevia may have a similar impact as a water tablet or “diuretic,” experts tell those who take lithium. Stevia consumption could impair your body’s ability to eliminate lithium. Theoretically, this might have negative repercussions that are severe. If you use lithium, discuss it with your doctor. If you often consume stevia, your dose may need to be adjusted.
Be careful if you are taking diabetes meds as well. According to some studies, stevia may help persons with Type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels. Theoretically, stevia could interact with diabetic medications to induce dangerously low blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, not all studies have demonstrated that stevia decreases blood sugar.
Therefore, it is unclear whether or not this potential connection warrants worry. If you use stevia, keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels until further information is available, and let your doctor know if you think the dosage of your diabetic medication needs to be adjusted. A natural sweetener may also cause your blood pressure to drop too low if you’re taking medicine to lower it. Once more, tell your doctor about any worries you have.
The Best Stevia to Use
There are many different kinds of stevia products available, and many of them include chemicals and fillers. Always read the ingredient list as a consumer. The majority of stevia products include one or more additions to improve flavour, add volume, or make the powder more fluid. Fillers and additions include, for instance: