Stevia is a hot topic these days! We know you probably have tons of questions about this popular product, so we attempted to answer them all. The most popular question people ask – is stevia safe on a keto diet?
If you want to learn about some of the ingredients that may be in your low carb muffin or keto coffee, you’ve come to the right place!
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a purified form of sweetener derived from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. It is often used as a sugar alternative. The sweetener is extracted from the plant’s leaves, and then purified for human consumption.
Stevia is often available as a fine powder or in concentrated liquid form. It’s thought to taste 200 to 300 times sweeter than traditional table sugar. This refined stevia is a common sweetener for many foods and beverages, such as coffee or low carb baked goods and desserts.
Is Stevia an Artificial Sweetener?
There is a lot of talk about natural versus artificial sweeteners. Stevia is widely considered a natural sweetener because it’s extracted from a plant. However, given that stevia is “processed” for purification (converting the leaf to the consumable powder), some may share the opinion that it is not completely natural, but does this mean stevia is not safe? Read on, and decide for yourself.
Despite this ongoing debate, in general, stevia is recognized as a natural sweetener rather than an artificial sweetener.
Stevia Nutrition Facts
The widely popular stevia sweetener is known as a non-nutritive sweetener. This means the extract has little to no calories. However, lookout for stevia in a powder form! Powdered stevia is sometimes bound to dextrose or maltodextrin, which contain carbs and therefore calories.
Stevia sweetener ingredients depend on what form and brand you buy. Commercial stevia powdered products typically have three ingredients: stevia leaf extract, silica, and inulin.
Silica keeps the stevia extract powder from clumping. Additionally, inulin is a naturally occurring vegetable fiber that promotes gut health. Some stevia products are made with “whole leaf stevia” rather than stevia extract, which is thought to be more “natural”. If you’re particular about what’s in your stevia, be sure to read the ingredient list.
With the liquid stevia extracts, some brands contain up to 20% alcohol, while other brands are completely alcohol free. Liquid versions are usually free of inulin and silica, but some have extracts such as vanilla, hazelnut, or caramel to make it a flavored calorie free sweetener. These come in handy to add flavor to your favorite cup of coffee without adding calories.
Stevia to Sugar Conversion
Stevia has a much sweeter flavor than table sugar (aka sucrose). When cooking or baking with stevia, it is helpful to have a conversion chart to be sure you do not use too much and end up with an inedible product. Here’s a handy dandy stevia conversion chart from SweatLeaf.
Xylitol vs Stevia
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is also used as a sweetener, often as a substitute for sucrose or table sugar. Sugar alcohols are often substituted because they don’t cause as many of the negative effects as regular sugar.
However, be sure to limit your consumption of sugar alcohols, as they may cause gastrointestinal discomfort if consumed in excess. As compared to stevia, xylitol contains about 10 calories and 2.5g carbs per serving (1 teaspoon). Considering the minor carbohydrate increase, xylitol has a slight effect on blood sugar in contrast to stevia, which does not.
Erythritol vs Stevia
Erythritol is another naturally occurring sugar alcohol commonly used as a sugar substitute. It is thought to be about 60 to 80% less sweet than sugar, as compared to stevia, which is about 200 to 300 times sweeter.
Interestingly enough, erythritol has a cooling sensation that can be noticed even in baked goods made with this sweetener. Both erythritol and stevia, as well as xylitol, are good sugar alternatives.
Because of the cooling effect of erythritol, you will see that Faith and I commonly use a mix of both stevia and erythritol to balance out the cooling effect.
Is Stevia Healthy?
Stevia, when substituted for sugar, is an easy way to reduce calories and carbohydrate intake in our diets. It has nearly zero carbs and zero calories, making it a helpful sugar alternative for diabetics and individuals who are seeking weight loss. Swapping this plant derived sweetener instead of table sugar may have some tangible health benefits.
It’s true that moderation is best for most things. Personally, we enjoy stevia in limited quantities and consider it safe.
Does Stevia Break a Fast?
This is a controversial topic. Stevia breaking a fast depends on what type of fast you are doing. Are you doing a water fast? Dry fast? Intermittent fasting?
Why are you fasting? To reduce caloric intake or for gut health?
If you’re just doing intermittent fasting or IF, stevia shouldn’t break your fast. Because of the low carbohydrate content of stevia, it does not spike blood sugar, thus it does not provoke an insulin response, and will not interrupt a fast.
If you’re doing a water fast or dry fast on the other hand, stevia would break a fast.
What is Stevia Extract?
Stevia extract is a purified form of sweetener derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, and is used as a sugar alternative. To extract the sweetener, the leaves are harvested from the plant, dried, and then steeped in hot water.
After this, the plant is filtered to purify it for commercial sale. Stevia extract is then sold in the form of a fine powder or as a concentrated liquid.
Does Stevia Raise Blood Sugar?
Since stevia sweeteners contain virtually zero calories and carbohydrates, they have no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. This can be a game changer for individuals who struggle with diabetes.
Using stevia or other carb-free/low carb sweeteners to replace sugar can help diabetics enjoy sweet foods while keeping their blood sugar in check.
Is Stevia Paleo?
It depends. Most stevia sweeteners are considered natural, which means that someone on a paleo diet can use them. However, someone who is practicing a paleo diet very strictly might avoid most commercially sold stevia extracts, as they may contain ingredients that are not directly plant derived. The best stevia sweetener for a paleo diet is “pure stevia powder”, which contains no added ingredients.
Stevia and Lyme Disease
There has been lots of talk on the internet about stevia as a cure for Lyme disease. Scientists are conducting studies on this theory. So far, nothing has been confirmed that proves stevia can cure Lyme disease, but the research is exciting!
Delicious Stevia Recipes
Stevia is a good sugar substitute for just about any recipe. Use it in recipes for baked goods, smoothies, coffee, and even making your own sugar-free barbeque sauce. Linked below are several recipes for stevia-sweetened foods.
- Healthy Snickers Protein Bars (Low Carb)
- Keto Edible Sugar Cookie Dough Fat Bombs
- Instant Pot Keto Cinnamon Rolls
- Rose Latte Recipe with Vanilla
- Sugar Free Brigadeiro Recipe (Fudgy Brazilian Chocolate Truffles)
We consider stevia safe for our personal consumption, but that is a decision everyone has to make. Do you consider stevia safe? Let us know in the comments below!
Tips for Keto Success
Save Money and Jumpstart Keto
If you found this post and you’re ready to start a keto diet, check out our 5 Day Budget Keto Meal Plan to get into ketosis fast! You’ll get 5 days worth of recipes and eat for under $5 per day!
4 Week Keto Meal Plan
For something a little longer term, you might be interested in our 4 week keto meal prep course. It comes with 4 weeks of keto meal plans (1200, 1500, and 1800 calorie levels), weekly keto grocery lists, 40 keto recipe ebook, how to meal prep ebook, videos, and more!
Keto Recipe Inspiration
Or if you’ve been doing keto for a while and just need a little help with inspiration, we’ve got you covered! Check out our low carb and keto recipe collection.