What is Stevia?
- An herbal plant with many species that have leaves that are sweet, many times sweeter than sugar.
- In the same family as Ragweed, so if you have a ragweed allergy, stay away from Stevia
- It has been used in different cultures around the world for centuries as a sweetener and for its health benefits.
- It contains zero calories.
- It’s leaves contain two glycosides that make it taste sweet:
- Stevioside which has the bitter aftertaste and
- Rebaudioside that tastes less bitter
Different Stevia Products
Green Leaf Stevia
- The least processed of the stevia products. The leaves are simply dried and ground into a powder.
- It is 30-40 times sweeter than sugar so you don’t need much!
- Contains both Stevioside and Rebaudioside and so there are health benefits for weight loss, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, blood pressure and cancer.
- Use in moderation!
Stevia Extracts and Tinctures
- Some brands use only Rebaudioside to make the stevia less bitter, so there may not be health benefits.
- This is likely a better option than other sweeteners but we don’t have much information yet on it’s health effects.
- It is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
- Also be aware that some extracts contain alcohol.
- Use in moderation!
Highly Processed Stevia Products
- Typically pure white powders.
- This includes products like Truvia, which goes through extensive processing to extract Rebaudioside and uses chemical solvents that are toxic to the liver and carcinogenic. It is also combined with another sweetener, Erythritol, that can cause digestive discomfort and is typically genetically modified. In fact Truvia is less than 1% stevia.
- Other brands like Pure Via are also highly processed and contain other sweeteners like dextrose.
- 200-400 times sweeter than sugar.
So why do I suggest using even pure green leaf stevia or extracts and tinctures in moderation only?
I thought you said there were health benefits, you say! Well here’s why…
I feel that one of the main benefits of removing or substantially reducing sugar in the diet is that our palate changes. We get used to and start to enjoy food without a lot of added sweeteners. Highly sweetened food starts to taste too sweet and we don’t enjoy it or crave it. When we eat and drink highly sweetened foods our appetite for them increases. Keeping sweeteners minimal is a huge help to our health.
Another issue to be aware of is that there are mixed studies on the impacts of stevia on our sex hormones. Some show that there are no impacts although some show that if used in large quantities stevia could have contraceptive effects. You may want to avoid stevia if you are experiencing hormonal balance problems or trying for a pregnancy.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences and if you’d like any help then please let me know.