Stevia is a natural sweetener that is associated with various health benefits. But it has some potential drawbacks.
Stevia is a popular alternative to sugar, particularly used by people who have diabetes or poor blood sugar control. As it is extracted from the leaves of a plant, stevia is essentially calorie- and carb-free. Stevia has been linked to several health benefits, including weight loss, blood sugar management, and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease, when used as a replacement for regular sugar. However, it has some potential drawbacks. Get to know more about the benefits and downsides of using stevia as a sugar substitute from the experts.
“Studies have shown that stevia is reasonably safe. But still, most diabetologists do not recommend routine use of stevia as patients usually get acquainted with the sweetness and they tend to take sweeter substances when stevia is not available. So, stevia use should be minimized and avoid using it on a regular basis,” stated Dr. Dilip Gude, Consultant Physician, and Diabetologist.
Use stevia in moderation
Too much consumption of sugar or other sweeteners can give you tummy trouble, but stevia can be a good option, said Dr. Pritam Moon, consultant physician, and Diabetologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, Mumbai.
He continued, “Stevia is a natural sweetener that is associated with various health benefits like lower blood sugar levels. Thus, it can be helpful for diabetic patients. Yes, that’s right! Stevia has fewer calories when compared to other sweeteners or sugar and will help in weight management. If you are on a weight-loss mission, then stevia is a good option for you. You can certainly make stevia a part of your diet as it is safe to consume and help those with diabetes and obesity.”
But it is always a good idea to ask an expert before using it.
“When you start using it, have it in moderation that is in the quantity suggested by the expert. Going overboard on it can lead to side effects like low blood pressure. So, be alert while using it,” Dr. Moon cautioned.
Why do you want to substitute stevia for sugar?
Dr. Kajal Pandya Yeptho, Chief Dietician, said that she personally would not advise the use of stevia unless the reason for substituting it with sugar is known.
“Both stevia and sugar are taste enhancers. Sugar gives empty calories and stevia gives no calories. But the reason for replacing stevia for sugar is to be understood and in which food items as the associated food items will also provide calories. I personally would not advise unless the reason for substitution is known.”
Some facts about stevia
Stevia is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The leaves contain steviol glycoside molecules, which give stevia its sweet taste. The glycosides are known to be 250 300 times sweeter than regular sugar. Stevia sweeteners are made by extracting the glycosides from the leaves.
With stevia sweeteners, very small amounts are needed to sweeten food or drinks. But you can also find many stevia products that contain additional ingredients, such as fillers, sugar alcohols, other sweeteners, and natural flavors. So, it is advisable to read the label and choose products that only contain 100 percent stevia extract.
Dr. Pritam Moon
Consultant Physician, and Diabetologist
Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, Mumbai.