This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the popular stevia sugar substitute! This post includes what stevia is made of, health benefits, and recipes to make with it.
One of the more popular keto-friendly sugar substitutes is stevia. If you do any kind of low-carb baking, chances are you will come across a recipe that uses stevia.
This sweetener is actually derived from a plant, so it’s one of the more natural substitutes that you can use.
I recently put together a comprehensive guide on all of the low-carb sweeteners and substitutes that are best to consume while on the keto diet. So, I wanted to dig a little deeper into some of those sweetener options and started out with monk fruit extract. Now, I’m looking at stevia sweeteners!
In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know before you use this sweetener in your everyday meal plan.
Stevia Sugar Substitute: Everything You Need To Know
How familiar are you with stevia? If you are anything like I was before I wrote this article, chances are you have heard of it but don’t know much beyond that.
The bottom line is that this is a safe substitute for cane sugar! Even though it is safe, there are still some things you should know about possible side effects (if you eat too much) and how to use it.
What Is Stevia?
The stevia sugar substitute comes from the stevia rebaudiana plant that grows in Central and South America.
As proven by many studies, it is a safe calorie-free sugar substitute. In fact, this plant has been used for medicinal and food purposes for hundreds of years!
I need to point out something that is very important. The sweet substances in the stevia leaves are on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are called steviol glycosides and studies have proved how safe they are for us to consume.
This is not the same thing as the whole stevia leaves and crude leaf extracts. Those two things are not allowed to be sold as sweeteners in the U.S. because there haven’t been enough studies on them to prove they are safe.
How Sweet Is Stevia?
You’ll use a lot less stevia than sugar in your recipes. Stevia sweeteners are 200-350 times sweeter than sugar.
How Is Stevia Made?
Stevia sweeteners are made by extracting the steviol glycosides from the leaves of the stevia plant. Then, it is purified to remove the bitter taste that remains.
This sweet extract has no calories because it is not absorbed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. According to Food Insight, “When they reach the colon, gut microbes cleave off the glucose molecules and use them as an energy source. The remaining steviol backbone is then absorbed via the portal vein, metabolized by the liver, and excreted in urine.”.
Stevia Sweetener: Health Benefits
Lots of people use sugar substitutes like stevia because they think that consuming fewer calories will help them lose more weight.
Unfortunately, the studies so far have not proved a relation between stevia and weight loss. It is true that eating less sugar will help you lose more weight. The studies just don’t have proof about stevia sweeteners specifically.
One proven benefit of stevia is that it can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar. One study showed that stevia sweeteners helped significantly lower insulin and glucose levels!
It can also help you lower cholesterol. In another study, stevia lowered total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides with no negative side effects. It also increased the HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels too.
Fun fact: Stevia sweetener is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties!
Stevia Sugar Substitute: Side Effects
Most of the side effects listed for stevia are associated with eating the whole stevia leaf or a crude stevia extract.
Stevia sweeteners are generally recognized as safe. The only real concerns are for brands that mix the stevia sweetener with dextrose or maltodextrin since those are starches and could increase your calories and carb amounts.
There was also a study in 2019 that showed a connection between stevia sweeteners and disruption in the beneficial intestinal flora. This is why some people claim that if they eat too much of it, they feel bloated or nauseous. This isn’t super common, but it is worth noting.
The last thing isn’t really a side effect, but I did want to point it out. Some people claim that stevia sweeteners have an odd aftertaste. Some people describe it as tasting like licorice, or even a little bitter.
Frequently Asked Questions About Stevia Sweeteners
Here are some questions I have gotten from readers about stevia…
Is stevia safe to use on a low-carb ketogenic diet?
Yes, stevia sweeteners are safe to use on a low-carb ketogenic diet. This ingredient is used in lots of sweeteners, so make sure you choose a brand that doesn’t have maltodextrin – that will be better for you.
Are stevia sweeteners safe for children?
Yes, foods that include stevia sweeteners are safe for children to consume. It also doesn’t contribute to cavities either.
A word of caution though – there are limited studies in children, so the American Academy of Pediatrics does not have an official statement on how much is safe for kids to eat!
Are stevia sweeteners safe for pregnant women?
Yes, both pregnant and breastfeeding women can safely consume stevia sugar substitutes. That being said, no published research has studied any possible side effects of it; however, studies in animals show no adverse reactions.
The Best Brands Of Stevia Sweeteners
You’ll find a lot of brands that sell stevia sweeteners. These are my favorites and the ones I use the most!
- My all-time favorite stevia sweetener is Truvia. It has the best taste and is easy to use in keto baking.
- Splenda Naturals is a stevia sweetener that is mixed with erythritol, so it is keto-friendly.
- SweetLeaf is also keto-friendly because it has no carbs and no added ingredients that will affect your blood sugar.
Best Recipes That Use Stevia Sugar Substitute
The best recipes for stevia sweeteners are going to be low-carb desserts. Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Keto Meringue Cookies have a really sweet taste without any added carbs.
- Homemade Chocolate Chips can be used in anything from pancakes to cookies.
- Sugar-Free Chocolate is a really fun treat to make at home.
- Blueberry Fruit Leather is a shelf-stable snack you can take hiking.
- Keto Whipped Cream is an amazing dip for fruit, or as a frosting for cake.