Plant-Based Nutrition

The Facts Behind Stevia: Is Stevia Safe or Not?

is stevia safe

Is stevia safe? Even though it’s fairly new, there’s so much opposing information about stevia. Read more to get the facts straight and learn for yourself.

Sugar has recently gotten a bad rap and for good reasons. It is highly addictive, and too much of it can cause some major health problems (diabetes and obesity to name a few). Not to mention, it is high in calories, is responsible for blood sugar spikes and seems to be in everything these days! The hunt for healthier alternatives is ongoing, but we may have found one with stevia.

It’s easy to be skeptical about stevia. After all, it’s only been available to the United States since the mid-90s. Not a whole lot is known about this natural sweetener, and contradicting research can be found with just a simple search on Google.

If you’re still unsure about the sweet sugar substitute, you will soon find out just how great it actually is.

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What is Stevia?

First off, it’s important to know exactly what stevia is and where it comes from. It’s often lumped together with other sweeteners like Splenda or Sweet n’ Low, but it is actually quite different.

Unlike its artificial friends, stevia comes from the stevia rebaudiana plant. It’s a plant that is primarily grown in Brazil and Paraguay.

Natives of those countries have been sweetening their drinks and foods with the stevia plant for centuries.

Of course, the leaves are what farmers are most interested in. They contain a glucose compound called rebaudioside A, which is actually 200 to 300 times sweeter than your common table sugar. A little definitely goes a long way with this sweetener.

Today, you can find stevia in many different forms:

  • The leaf itself has a licorice taste to it and provides a sweet option for teas and other drinks.
  • Powder extracts are considerably sweeter than the leaves and are commonly used in place of sugar.
  • Liquid extracts are made from either boiling or steeping the leaves and are made into syrups and other liquids used for food.

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3 Benefits of Stevia

You now know where it comes from and how it’s made, but still, is stevia safe? You’d be surprised at just how much stevia’s been found to benefit our health.

1. Stevia Is Healthy for the Environment

Believe it or not, but the stevia plant actually takes less land to grow than sugar crops. Because it is much sweeter than other sweeteners, it only requires one-fifth of the land that sugar requires to produce the same amount of sweetness.

To add to that, less water is needed to grow stevia. The crop doesn’t do well in overly watered land. This means farmers have more land and water to grow other crops.

2. Dietary Benefits

Unlike regular sugar, our bodies don’t easily absorb stevia. Doesn’t sound very healthy, right? Well, studies show that various types of sugar found in our foods make up 16 percent of the total calories found in the average American diet. 16 percent!

Since our bodies don’t absorb stevia easily, it actually creates a few benefits for you. Stevia won’t add those extra calories or carbs to your diet like sugar does.

It also has little to no effect on your glucose levels, which means your blood sugar won’t rise like it does with regular sugar. This keeps your body from having to make extra insulin to keep your blood sugar under control.

It’s a great alternative sweetener for people with diabetes for this very reason.

3. Stevia Is Healthy for Children and Those Who Are Pregnant

Children and those of you who are expecting little ones should not be afraid of using stevia. The US Food and Drug Administration has stated that high purity stevia extract has been approved as safe to eat.

Of course, like any other type of food, moderation is always the best policy to follow.

Concerns of SteviaStevia Benefits

Is stevia safe then? A lot of research and health organizations across the world say yes, but that doesn’t mean that there are still some concerns to be aware of. Most of these concerns come from the fact that stevia’s still relatively new.

Allergies

Stevia is part of the Asteraceae family of plants. People who are allergic to ragweed, marigolds, or daisies may want to steer clear of the sweetener.

Although allergic reactions to stevia are rare, people with allergies to these other plants may experience a hard time breathing, swallowing, or break out in hives.

Since our bodies don’t absorb stevia well, though, many researchers and doctors state that it is hypoallergenic. This means you shouldn’t experience any issues during digestion.

Can Stevia Be Addictive? 

People who are addicted to sugar may try to replace their addiction with stevia. Since it is calorie-free, people may think that they can eat as much of the sweetener as they want without any negative effect.

Like all foods, though, as long as you eat stevia in moderation, you shouldn’t experience any sort of addiction.

A lot of people steer clear of sugar because of how bad it can be and choose stevia to stay healthy. If you are someone who is health conscious, you should have no problem keeping your stevia consumption at a healthy level.

Approved Forms of Stevia

As you already know, stevia comes in many different forms. The FDA has only approved high purity stevia extract as safe to eat. That means the plant itself or any other form isn’t backed by them.

This doesn’t necessarily stem from the fact that eating the plant is bad for you. People from stevia’s homeland have been putting it in their food for a long time. Most of the lack of the approval comes from a lack of research and information on the sweet plant and not because they have found it harmful.

Other Additives

When stevia was first introduced to the US, it took the country by storm, and the alternative sweetener market boomed. Many companies jumped on board and started producing many different types of stevia sweetener.

Not all stevia products are the same, though. Some companies will add other sweeteners and fillers to their stevia.

As long as you look for brands that offer 100 percent organic stevia extract, you should be fine. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • NuNaturals White Stevia Powder is completely organic and well within the guidelines of FDA approval.
  • Now Foods Organic Better Stevia Powder comes in many types of stevia powder, but they do have a completely organic option that you can enjoy.
  • Sweetleaf Stevia Powder also comes in a liquid form and is a favorite among many for its award-winning taste and multitude of uses.

A Sweet, Sweet Ending

stevia plant

So ultimately then, is stevia safe? I think you will agree that it is. With all the health benefits and practical uses in cooking, stevia is a great choice to eating healthier.

Stick with the organic, highly purified extracts and you should have no problem enjoying a different way to sweeten your foods and drinks. Substitute it for sugar in all of your baking or add it to a fruit drink without any guilt.

IdealRaw protein is another reason to love stevia. Now you have a protein shake without all of the extra sugars and calories but full of high-quality plant-based sources, among the best on the market today. And with IdealRaw being USDA certified organic, you can trust what you are putting into your body.

You’ll also get 15g of protein per serving with all of the added vitamins and minerals that come from a plant-based shake. Just one more reason to love what nature provides for us.

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Lisa Danielson

Lisa Danielson

Vegan Nutritionist

Major advocate for all things green and vegetarian. With the nickname “Veggie Lisa”, I am here to help you love veggies as much as I do! With my tips and tricks for preparing delicious veggies, you’ll never think plants are boring again.


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