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August 23, 2023
July 24, 2024
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Stevia is an herb native to South American countries, such as Brazil, that is a naturally sweet, calorie-free, and plant-based alternative to white sugar. It is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a member of the Asteraceae family. It has a mild, sweet taste similar to sugar but not as intense. It can be used as a sugar substitute in baking, cooking, and beverages. It has been used for centuries in South America as a sweetener and medicinal herb.

In terms of taste, pure stevia is sweeter than sugar but has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is also not as soluble as sugar, so it dissolves slowly. For this reason, it is best used in recipes that are not too sweet and in drinks and beverages. Some people prefer to use stevia in combination with other sweeteners, such as agave nectar or honey.

This article will explore how stevia may impact blood sugar levels and the health benefits of including this sugar alternative in your diet. 

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Glycemic Index Table

The glycemic index for sweeteners like stevia is determined by the number of carbohydrates present in the food item. Stevia is considered calorie-free because it has less than 5 g of carbs per serving. It also has a glycemic index and a glycemic load of zero. 

The below glycemic index and glycemic load data is for 3 grams of raw stevia, which is approximately one teaspoon:¹ ²

Glycemic Index

0

Serving Size

3 g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

3 g

GL per Serving

0.00

Nutritional Facts

Stevia-based sweeteners are an excellent alternative to sugar and are becoming increasingly popular for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. Stevia-based sweeteners are generally calorie-free and contain no artificial sweeteners. 

The nutritional information below is for 3 g of raw stevia.²

Calories

0 kcal

Carbs

3 g

Protein

0 g

Fiber

0 g

Cholesterol

0 mg

Vitamins

Sodium

0 mg

Total Fat

0 g

Is Stevia Good for Weight Loss?

The intake of additional sugar in food products has been shown to contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in Americans' diets, which has been linked to weight gain.⁹ Stevia contains no sugar and no calories as opposed to table sugar which contains approximately 45 calories per tablespoon. In a study with 31 adult participants, those who ate a 290-calorie snack made with stevia ate the same amount of food at the next meal as those who ate a 500-calorie snack made with sugar.⁷ They also reported similar fullness levels, which shows that the group consuming stevia has an overall lower caloric intake while feeling the same satiety.⁷ 

While artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are safe to include in your diet, your goal should be to lower your overall sugar intake. Continue to work on decreasing your intake of processed foods and sweetened products as much as possible. Pick whole options and fresh fruits whenever possible, and increase the flavor appeal of your meals using spices and herbs instead of sweeteners!

Is Stevia Safe for People Living with Diabetes?

Research has shown that stevia sweeteners do not contain calories or carbohydrates and have no effect on blood glucose levels or insulin response.⁷  This allows people living with diabetes to enjoy different foods made with stevia without being concerned about their safety.

A review of five randomized controlled trials compared the effects of stevia on metabolic outcomes.⁸ The researchers found that stevia showed minimal to no impacts on blood glucose, insulin levels, blood pressure, and body weight. 

In one of the above trials, individuals living with type 2 diabetes reported that stevia caused significant reductions in their blood glucose and glucagon responses after a meal.⁸

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Allergies

With new research published around the impact of artificial sweeteners, including stevia, there is new information emerging about the possible safety considerations of this food. A 2016 study found that stevia increases progesterone production in sperm, leading to questions about its role as an endocrine disruptor.⁶ For those on prescription medications or with chronic health conditions, you should consult with a healthcare professional before adding stevia to your diet.

In regards to allergies, the stevia plant is in the Asteraceae family, which also contains ragweed, goldenrod, and other allergen-producing plants. If you have allergies to these types of plants, it is recommended that you avoid stevia. 

Symptoms of a stevia allergy include itchiness of the mouth, lips, or throat, swelling, and redness. In severe cases, allergic reactions can cause hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. Please consult a healthcare professional if you suspect an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to stevia.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Stevia Spike Insulin?

No, Stevia does not spike insulin. In fact, studies have shown that Stevia may actually help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Stevia is a natural sweetener that does not contain any calories or carbohydrates, which means it does not have an impact on blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is a good alternative for people with diabetes or those who are trying to manage their blood sugar levels.

Is Stevia Low Glycemic?

Yes, Stevia is low glycemic as it does not raise blood sugar levels significantly. It has a glycemic index of zero and is safe for people with diabetes.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Stevia?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat stevia as it has no effect on blood sugar levels and is considered safe for consumption.

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References

  1. The University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. USDA FoodData Central. (2022, Oct 28). Food Details - Sugar substitute, stevia, powder Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2345824/nutrients
  3. Lee, J., & Kim, J. H. (2016). Kaempferol Inhibits Pancreatic Cancer Cell Growth and Migration through the Blockade of EGFR-Related Pathway In Vitro. PloS one, 11(5), e0155264. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155264
  4. Hsieh, M. H., Chan, P., Sue, Y. M., Liu, J. C., Liang, T. H., Huang, T. Y., Tomlinson, B., Chow, M. S. S., Kao, P. F., & Chen, Y. J. (2003). Efficacy and tolerability of oral stevioside in patients with mild essential hypertension: A two-year, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Clinical Therapeutics, 25(11), 2797–2808. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0149-2918(03)80334-x
  5. Sharma, N., Mogra, R., & Upadhyay, B. (2009). Effect of stevia extract intervention on lipid profile. Studies on Ethno-Medicine, 3(2), 137–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/09735070.2009.11886351
  6. Shannon, M., Rehfeld, A., Frizzell, C., Livingstone, C., McGonagle, C., Skakkebaek, N. E., Wielogórska, E., & Connolly, L. (2016). In vitro bioassay investigations of the endocrine disrupting potential of steviol glycosides and their metabolite steviol, components of the natural sweetener Stevia. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 427, 65–72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mce.2016.03.005
  7. 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
  8. Chowdhury, A. I., Rahanur Alam, M., Raihan, M. M., Rahman, T., Islam, S., & Halima, O. (2022). Effect of stevia leaves (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) on diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of preclinical studies. Food science & nutrition, 10(9), 2868–2878. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.2904
  9. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025. 9th ed. Washington, DC: US Government Publishing Office; 2020. DietaryGuidelines.gov.

About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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