Is Stevia Good For You?

Natural Sweeteners: Is Stevia Safe

There is a lot of controversy around sweeteners, especially naturally occurring alternatives to sugar, such as stevia. Stevia is an herb, and after all, all herbs are safe, right? So when I started seeing headlines attacking stevia, I knew I had to investigate. Is stevia safe?

And I really did my homework in order to get to the bottom of all this.

Putting Stevia Through the Wringer: Is Stevia Safe?

Stevia has been in the spotlight since Coca-Cola unveiled, in South America, a stevia-sugar combo dubbed Coca-Cola Life. This, quite obviously, quickly drew the attention of the natural health community. I mean, pretty much anything the Atlanta-based beverage giant does pings our radar.

Especially considering the fact that Coca-Cola has purchased a slew of “all natural” brands, including Zico, Vitamin Water, Simply Orange, Odwalla, and Honest Tea.

We have to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Do we really trust anything Coke does?
  • Do we think Coca-Cola is trying to pull a “fast one” with its new stevia drink?
  • Is Coke now safer to consume with stevia as a sweetener?

While some of these questions are a little more personal in nature, one thing is for sure: not all stevia is the same.

Natural Stevia vs. Processed Stevia

Stevia comes from the leaf of a plant and it’s a good bet that Coca-Cola isn’t using freshly ground stevia leaves in their soft drinks. For starters, the cost of that would be exorbitant and not conducive to the soft drink industry. That method would also create a storage problem, as it would be nearly impossible to keep that much stevia on hand.

For the sake of this argument, we’re going to safely assume Coke is using a highly processed version of stevia, which is more affordable and much easier to transport and store. Most of the time, synthetic versions like these contain bleach as a preservative, taste more like cane sugar than the stevia herb and are much sweeter than stevia.

Truth be told, many of the lessor brands aren’t 100 percent stevia. Their products are cut with filler sugars, such as xylitol and dextrose, which can lead to several diseases. This is why not all stevias are created equal.

The stark contrasts between chewing on a stevia leaf and pouring a white powdery substitute on your breakfast cereal are incredible. The natural plant version has been used medicinally for thousands of years while the modern processed versions are virtually untested.

Some Research Behind Stevia

When we’re talking about the natural plant form of stevia, there are hundreds of studies touting its medicinal benefits. 322 studies to be exact. It is generally accepted that stevia has the power to reverse obesity, diabetes and even certain cancers. According to research, the two main points about stevia are:

  1. The herb contains medicinal benefits for healing.
  2. White cane sugar is a primary cause of diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease, meaning people using stevia as a replacement are less likely to experience these conditions.

According to a few of the more prominent studies, stevia has the following benefits:

Reducing Breast Cancer

The journal Nutrition and Cancer published a revolutionary report that connected stevia use to reductions in breast cancer. Scientists saw that stevioside, a cancer-killing compound found in stevia leaves, increased cancer apoptosis (cell death) and limited some stress conduits in the body that promote cancer growth.

Boosting Antioxidants

A recent study out of Croatia published in the journal Food Chemistry stated that stevia worked to boost antioxidant levels when mixed with colon cancer fighting blackberry leaves.

Fighting Diabetes

The effects of stevia use in rats was documented in a recent report highlighted in the Journal of Dietary Supplements. Researchers found that lab rats that were given 250 to 500 mg a day of stevia experienced “significant” reductions in fasting blood sugar levels and saw more balanced insulin resistance.

The bottom line is that stevia, when consumed in its raw plant form, is absolutely healthy for you and an excellent sugar substitute.

The 5 Best Natural Sweeteners

While stevia has few side effects, it is an herb, and different reactions can occur. It is important to listen to your body. Some people, however, have a hard time accepting stevia’s tangy flavor. Here are the 5 best natural sweeteners:

1. Coconut Nectar

One of my all-time favorite natural sweeteners is the sap from the coconut blossom. While this is relatively new to the U.S. market, Pacific Islanders have been using it for centuries.

At room temperature, coconut nectar is similar in consistency to honey and is an excellent source of the following vitamins and minerals: amino acids, Vitamin C, and broad-spectrum B vitamins. Better yet, the sap isn’t processed.

2. Dates

There's not much to say about dates other than the fact that they are one of the greatest natural sweeteners on Earth.

3. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is highly processed – even the most natural brands – and it still ranks light years ahead of white cane sugar. When syrup is made, maple sap is boiled down. Depending on the amount of sugar used in the water, it can take 100 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Maple syrup is packed with minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. However, it is important to steer clear from Grade A maple syrup. It tends to be lighter in color and lacks the strong maple taste found in Grade B and Grade C.

4. Raw Honey

Honey is by far the healthiest natural sweetener – hands down. In fact, the health benefits of raw local honey are unbelievable. Throughout all my research, including scientific research, I have found that honey is used to prevent seasonal allergies, enhance the immune system, and fight tooth decay, acne, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome and much more. Personally, I have found that mixing raw local honey with organic ground cinnamon is a great way to fight allergies.

5. Stevia

Last, but not least is stevia. When buying stevia, look for green stevia. White stevia has been bleached and processed beyond the point of being healthy.

In reality, no sweetener is 100 percent perfect and moderation is always important. The more popular stevia becomes, the more and more press you will see, both negative and positive. It’s important to pick a good brand and always read your labels. Avoid harmful fillers and only use stevia in small amounts.

What’s your favorite stevia brand? Let us know in the comments below.

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This post currently has 43 comments.

  1. Joyce Rapp
    July 18, 2017

    Also, some honey farmers give their bees sugar water to stimulate production when there is not enough natural pollen around. So if you’re trying to avoid table sugar, honey may not be the best substitute.

      Reply
  2. Martine Bracke
    July 12, 2017

    what brand do you recommend as coconut sugar? Is organic important?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      Organic is best, yes, and we use Trader Joes along with a few other brands.

        Reply
  3. Tanya
    July 11, 2017

    I use Sweetdrops stevia. I really like it, but want to be sure it is safe. Dr. Z, what do you think of the Sweetdrops brand?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      We use Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops because it doesn’t have any fillers. This what you’re referring to? If so, we love it!

        Reply
  4. darlene
    July 10, 2017

    What is the difference between liquid stevia vs powder? Also, is there a benefit in using one over the other?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      It’s really all about preference and how pure you want it. Pure stevia is green, not white, no fillers. Liquid stevia is an extract-oftentimes mixed with glycerine. Not a bad thing, per se, but pure, powdered is best.

        Reply
  5. carol
    July 10, 2017

    Sunny Dew by Sunrider is our choice. It is in liquid form.

      Reply
  6. Judy Mahlstedt
    July 10, 2017

    Is Sweetleaf’s Sweet Drops ok?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      We LOVE that brand. Use it all the time!

        Reply
  7. Merritt Rice
    July 9, 2017

    Dr Z what is your take on monk fruit as a sweetener?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      It’s ok, but I don’t like how manufacturers always add erythritol to it…

        Reply
  8. Larry
    July 9, 2017

    I have inflammation of the nerves in my back. I have a dropped left foot, weakness and muscle loss of left leg. What would you suggest for treatment?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      Larry, you definitely need to see a good chiropractor. Essential ols can help as well.

      Praying for COMPLETE recovery!

        Reply
  9. Leanne
    July 9, 2017

    You know – once at our local farmer’s market, I bought a drink from a lovely couple – they made it by steeping fresh stevia leaves, fresh mint leaves, and adding some lemon – it was the BEST thing . . . Haven’t found any stevia extract that tasted anything like that drink. I’m considering growing some and seeing how the really fresh stuff tastes.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      You can do it! Stevia is lovely… 🙂

        Reply
  10. Liz
    July 9, 2017

    I use pure via stevia. What in your opinion are the better healthier brands

      Reply
  11. Norma
    July 9, 2017

    I use Kal stevia because it is liquid and has no after taste as some others I have tried. How does this one rate?
    Thanks so much for your info on so many topics.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      Yuck, the powdered form has maltodextrin. 🙁

        Reply
  12. Martine Bracke
    July 9, 2017

    wich brand of coconut nectar do you recommand?
    Thanks
    martine

      Reply
  13. Susan L
    July 9, 2017

    We read that Trader Joe’s Organic liquid Stevia is one of the purest. We love it and it and it leaves no aftertaste – even my husband loves it! !

      Reply
  14. Kristin
    July 9, 2017

    I am a whole foods girl and love using honey, maple syrup, dates and coconut nectar, but our daughter is on a Ketogenic diet for seizures so she can’t have any natural whole sweeteners. We use white organic pure stevia which I read runs in the “veins” of the plant and is extracted and dried. We also use xylitol and some Erythritol for baking, although, I would rather not. She’s 12 and loves to bake and make sweets. Are there any other more natural sweeteners that are low carb?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      Those are the main ones. Monk Fruit w/erythritol as well.

        Reply
  15. gin
    July 9, 2017

    Just a minor correction to the info above about maple syrup. We have our own maple syrup and have been doing it for a while. Maple sap is boiled, not melted. The only sugar is the content of the sugar found naturally in the sap. Nothing is added, except for a few drops of olive oil as a defoamer in thousands of gallons of sap. On average, it takes 50 gal. or less to make one gal. of syrup. You are correct in that the darker the syrup the better for you.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 9, 2017

      Great, thanks for the clarification, Gin! 🙂

        Reply
  16. Iris
    July 9, 2017

    Thanks for this article. I have a question is raw honey safe for baking? I’m aware that heat kills some nutrients in many food itmes.

    Thanks,
    Iris

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 9, 2017

      Yes, it’s very safe. The heat will kill some of the enzymes, but it’s still light-years ahead of white sugar. 🙂

        Reply
  17. Kathi
    July 9, 2017

    All of your sweetener choices in this list are detrimental to diabetics (except stevia) because of their mid to high levels of fructose.

    Some of us diabetics also seem to have trouble with stevia. It also tends to cause blood sugar fluctuations for many of us.

    Because of this, I changed to rice malt syrup several years ago. While I can’t consume lots of it, as a sweetener in many recipes where a sweetener is necessary for the success of the recipe, I have had much better luck with fewer complications.

    So what’s your opinion on this sweetener?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 19, 2017

      Hi Kathi,

      Thanks the comment. This article was not written for diabetics so I appreciate your perspective. I’m not a diabetes expert and I don’t have a lot of experience in rice malt syrup. Sorry. 🙂

        Reply
  18. Jacqueline
    July 9, 2017

    I was excited when Stevia first arrived on the market, especially after all of the hype and the fact that it was illegal to import it. Unfortunately, I don’t like Stevia. I reminds me of black licorice, another flavor I don’t like. Yech!

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 9, 2017

      Definitely an acquired taste for sure, which is why I like the naturally flavored versions like vanilla creme – yum!

        Reply
  19. Susan Howard
    July 9, 2017

    What are some reputable brands of green stevia?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      July 9, 2017

      I like to get it at the bulk section of my local healthy food store /co-op.

      It’s super easy to grow, dry and powder as well. 🙂

        Reply
      • cheryl a bark
        July 9, 2017

        Do you know of any websites that sell a good brand of stevia? I live in a very small town (we have a very small health food store) and drive an hour to a bigger nicer store, so ordering online is a much better option when I can.

          Reply
      • Vicki
        July 11, 2017

        What is the best way to dry stevia? And do you just use the leaf?

          Reply
        • Dr. Z
          July 19, 2017

          Yes on the leaf. You can use a dehydrator.

            Reply
      • Joyce Rapp
        July 18, 2017

        I have grown and dried stevia. It’s hard to mix into a liquid because it’s so dry. That’s why I have been buying stevia.

          Reply
  20. Mae
    July 9, 2017

    I use liquid stevia by MutriMedix which I purchase from my Lyme specialist. Often I find when using to sweeten foods just a few drops are all that’s needed. I’m also using this stevia to dissolve biofilms in my treatment for Lyme.

    I love manuka honey or all honey for that matter but concerned as it’s still sugar even though an excellent one. Everything in moderation as they say.

    Thank you so much for all you do. You have helped me in so many ways with your articles and we share our love for essential oils!

      Reply
    • Mae
      July 9, 2017

      Typo…should be NutriMedix!

        Reply
  21. Nancy Blrdsoe
    July 9, 2017

    I grow stevia, dry the leaves and grind them to powder for smoothies. For my coffee and tea I use Trader Joe’s liquid. I sometimes use fresh crushed leaves in iced tea in the summer.

      Reply

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