Stevia: Is it the Safest Sweetener?


Stevia is often marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners as it has no calories and is derived from a natural source.

Its leaves contain sweet compounds called glycosides, which are typically extracted using one of two methods:
Soaking the leaves in hot water, filtering the liquid, and crystalizing the compounds into dry sweetener.
Using microorganisms to carry out a conversion reaction, referred to as bioconversion, which can create sweeter compounds.

Depending on the type of glycoside, the resulting extract can be anywhere from 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. Commercial sweeteners made from stevia may contain additional ingredients, including sugar alcohols and dextrose.

Benefits of Stevia

When used as a functional or therapeutic ingredient, stevia can:

  • Reduce appetite and aid in weight control.
  • Increase insulin response, resulting in lower blood glucose levels after eating, although other research suggests the sweetener may only delay and not prevent a rise in blood sugar.
  • Reduce inflammation by interfering with inflammatory signaling pathways,[10] resulting in lower levels of inflammatory markers like interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-ɑ).
  • Help reduce LDL oxidation, which in turn can lower the risk of atherosclerosis, which may be due to antioxidants present in stevia.

Whole Foods as Alternatives to Stevia

Try these tasty sugar replacements in your baked goods and snacks:

  • Dates or date pate
  • Date sugar (made from ground dried dates)
  • Pureed fruit, such as bananas
  • Sweet potato

As stevia products are highly processed—the sweetener isn’t recommended as part of a whole food, plant-based diet. Instead of reaching for stevia as a sugar substitute, try tossing some raisins in your oatmeal, grabbing an apple for a snack, or adding some berries to your lunchtime salad.

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Author: Pallabi Sinha

I am a Nutritionist with 6 years of expertise in the field. I have a knack of convincing people to switch to a healthier lifestyle.