Stevia vs Sugar: Is Stevia Good for You?
Stevia has become increasingly popular in recent years as a sugar substitute. But is it actually good for you? There are many conflicting opinions on this topic, with some touting the benefits of stevia and others warning against its potential risks. In this article, we'll explore what stevia is, how it compares to sugar, and its potential benefits.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. The indigenous populations on the continent have been using the leaves of the stevia plant as sweeteners for hundreds of years.
The leaves contain compounds called steviol glycosides, which give stevia its sweet taste. And speaking of sweet taste, stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. This means you need much less of it to achieve the same level of sweetness, which is useful on both a caloric and environmental scale.
Is Stevia an Artificial Sweetener?
Stevia is often referred to as a "natural" sweetener, but this label can be somewhat misleading. While stevia comes from a plant, the process of extracting and refining the steviol glycosides involves some level of processing.
To produce stevia extract, you have to harvest and dry the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Then steep them in water or an alcohol solution to extract the steviol glycosides. The resulting liquid is then filtered and purified to remove any impurities and concentrate the steviol glycosides.
The purification process typically involves using solvents like methanol or ethanol to extract and isolate the steviol glycosides. These solvents are then removed through evaporation, which leaves behind a purified extract that you can use as a sweetener.1
Some critics argue that the use of solvents means stevia isn't exactly a "natural sweetener"—it's actually an "artificial sweetener". They also suggest that some stevia products on the market aren't 100% stevia. Some contain other ingredients like erythritol or dextrose to help improve the taste or texture.
However, supporters of stevia argue that it's still a more natural alternative to other artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. After all, the process of refining and purifying stevia extract is not all that different from the processing techniques used to extract other natural compounds like caffeine or cocoa butter.
Stevia Nutrition Facts
Natural or not, one of the main reasons people choose stevia as a sugar substitute is because it has zero calories. Sugar is high in calories and provides very little nutritional value. But stevia is calorie-free and doesn't cause spikes in blood sugar levels. In fact, some studies have suggested that stevia may even have potential health benefits beyond its role as a sweetener.
Is Stevia Bad for You?
Unlike sugar, stevia contains zero calories and has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels, making it a great option for people looking to reduce their sugar intake or manage conditions like diabetes.
And if you're looking for the sweet taste of sugar minus the negative health consequences, then stevia could be a good alternative. According to some research, too much added sugar can increase your risk of various health problems like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.2
Studies have also suggested that stevia may have extra health benefits beyond its role as a sugar substitute. For example, stevia may help improve insulin sensitivity. This is important for managing blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. It may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, although we need more research to confirm this.3
Stevia vs. Sugar
Stevia and sugar are both sweeteners, but they differ enormously when it comes to their nutritional value and impact on health. Let's break down the key differences:
Calories: One of the main differences is that stevia is non-nutritive and calorie-free, while sugar contains a significant amount of calories. This makes stevia a great option if you're looking to reduce your calorie intake or manage your weight.
Glycemic Index: In addition to being calorie-free, stevia also has a lower glycemic index than sugar. The glycemic index measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. High glycemic foods like sugar are often linked to a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Stevia, on the other hand, has a negligible effect on blood sugar levels, making it a safer option for those looking to manage their blood sugar levels.
Metabolism: Another important difference between stevia and sugar is how your body metabolizes them. When you consume sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose, which you use for energy or store as fat. But over time, excess sugar consumption can lead to insulin resistance, a condition in which your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of insulin and blood sugar levels rise.
Stevia is not metabolized in the same way as sugar and does not accumulate in the body as sugar does. Stevia travels straight to your colon where it gets broken down into steviol glucuronide. Eventually, this steviol glucuronide ends up in the kidneys, where it's released as urine.3 Thus, stevia is never stored in your body, which means that it does not have the same negative effects on health as sugar.
The Takeaway: So, Is Stevia Healthier Than Sugar?
While stevia has its potential benefits—and is certainly a better choice than sugar in terms of calorie content and blood sugar impact—it's important to remember that it's not a magic bullet. As with any sweetener, it's important to use stevia in moderation and in combination with a healthy, balanced diet.
So if you’re looking to reduce your sugar intake, stevia can be a great substitute. And there’s no better way to try it than in a delicious can of OLIPOP. Thanks to the sweet power of stevia, OLIPOP contains 95% less sugar than the leading soda brand. Pick your favorite flavor and give us a try today!
Barregren, T. (2020, May 29). How stevia extract is produced from stevia leaf. Bayn Solutions. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.baynsolutions.com/en/how-stevia-extract-is-produced-from-stevia-leaf/1117328
How Much Is Too Much? (2018, December 8). University of California San Francisco SugarScience. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.ZFPFkz3MLYj
Anton, S. D., Martin, C. K., Han, H., Coulon, S. M., Cefalu, W. T., Geiselman, P. J., & Williamson, D. A. (2010). Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite, 55(1), 37–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2010.03.009
- Stevia is a natural, calorie-free sweetener extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, and it's up to 200 times sweeter than sugar.
- Stevia is a viable option compared to sugar for those looking to manage their weight and blood sugar levels since it's low in calories and has a negligible effect on blood sugar.
- OLIPOP uses stevia to reduce the amount of sugar in every can, making it the perfect choice for the health-conscious drinker.
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