3 Things You Need To Know About Stevia

by Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Last Updated: October 2, 2020

Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener (NNS) that is significantly sweeter than sugar. The stevia product is derived from Stevia rebaudiana, a whole plant leaf found in nature. Stevia and similar products found in your local grocery store are different from the plant found in nature, as store-bought products often contain other natural flavors and sweeteners. Examples of these liquid, powder, or granulated products are Truvia (stevia + sugar alcohol) or Stevia In The Raw (stevia + dextrose or maltodextrin). The goal of coupling these ingredients is to reduce the sweetness, as stevia is so intensely sweet - between 200 and 350 times sweeter than sugar - that it is not practical to package the tiny volume of stevia without using a bulking agent. A bulking agent is simply an additional food ingredient that adds volume to a product.

Here are some reasons to consider this non-nutritive sweetener in place of added sugar.
  1. Zero calorie.
    If you are looking to manage your weight or blood sugar, stevia may be a product worth considering. Table sugar, or sucrose, contains 4 calories per gram, which can add up quickly, as things like coffee beverages, cereal, and desserts contain a lot of added sugar. Stevia, on the other hand, has no calories. Remember, a diet high in added sugar can result in weight gain and obesity because added sugar doesn’t provide fiber and lacks the vitamins and minerals our body needs. Fiber is important because it helps keep us feeling fuller for longer. The fuller we are, the less we eat. It also slows digestion which can assist with decreasing spikes in blood sugar. A 2018 study shows that using stevia can aid in the reduction of weight, blood sugar, and even ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).
  2. Safe & natural.
    The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women limit their added sugar intake to 25 grams or less per day, and men limit their added sugar consumption to 36 grams of added sugar or less per day. Stevia can be a great alternative to these ‘empty’ calories, and it can safely be used in things like desserts, beverages, and water enhancements. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) deems stevia products as generally recognized as safe (“GRAS”) when consumed in moderation. The ADI, or acceptable daily intake, for stevia is 4 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Additionally, the ADI is less than one hundred times the threshold amount recognized as safe, so there should be no concerns about overconsuming stevia. Typically, stevia is consumed in portion sizes that range from a pinch, as to sweeten a cup of hot tea, or a teaspoon, as a substitute for a cup of sugar in baking. When considering this as a natural alternative to sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, or acesulfame potassium, stevia is a more natural product, as it is derived from a plant. Click here to learn more information on the body’s metabolism of stevia.
  3. Everything in moderation.
    During the 10 plus years stevia has been used in the U.S., no health concerns have been raised regarding its consumption. Remember, all food fits in moderation, including foods containing stevia. By including whole foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy as staples in your meals, you can establish a well-rounded and balanced diet.

Choosing stevia can be beneficial when looking to replace calories from added sugars in your diet. When examining a product’s ingredient list for added sugars or sweeteners, know that stevia can be listed as one of the following: stevia leaf extract, rebiana, stevioside, rebaudioside A, or rebaudioside D, among others.

Schedule a Telenutrition visit to discuss how you can moderate your sugar or sweetener intake to help achieve your personal nutrition goals.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany is a compassionate dietitian with experience in nutrition throughout her lifespan along with empowering those with diabetes and heart disease to use food as medicine. A believer in total body wellness, she has a decade of experience as a licensed massage therapist. With a passion for healthy living, she practices hot yoga, enjoys most any fitness activities, stays active in the community, and loves spending time with her family.