What Is Stevia? Is It Safe? 8 Good Health Benefits and Side Effects

Stevia Granules (selective focus)

If you are going to make a single dietary change to boost your overall health from top to bottom, cutting out sugar is an excellent move.

If you have been thinking about reducing your sugar intake or quitting sugar altogether, you are probably searching for a replacement.

There are a number of artificial and natural sweeteners out there which you can use as an alternative, but most of the options are not all that appealing.

One natural choice which is appealing is stevia. 

Not everyone is familiar with stevia, though you may have seen it in the health food section of your grocery store. 

A decade ago stevia was relatively hard to find.  Nowadays however it is so popular that it is starting to show up even at restaurants. 

Reach for a sugar packet for your tea or coffee and you may very well find a packet of stevia right next to it. 

Is stevia a safe and healthy choice?  What is stevia?  Where do you buy it, and how do you use it to sweeten your food? 

You likely have a lot of questions. 

In this article, I will tell you all about this herb, its health benefits, and even how you can cook with it. 

First, though, let’s talk briefly about why it is so important to cut sugar out of your diet

If you are already sold on quitting sugar, just skip past the next section and start at "What is Stevia?​" to learn all about one of nature’s best sugar alternatives. 

​Stevia Infographic

stevia facts infographic

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Why Sugar Is Bad For You

Sugar danger warning sign

Is it really worth your time and effort to switch from sugar to stevia? 

You may be wondering whether the dangers of sugar are exaggerated. 

Sugar really is quite terrible for you - and does not contribute anything of value to your health.

Here are just a few reasons why you should throw out your sugar:

  • Sugar contains no essential nutrients whatsoever.  For this reason, sugar calories are ​"empty calories.​"  Worse, those empty calories contribute to obesity (12).
  • Sugar is broken down in your bloodstream into glucose and fructose.  It is easy to overload your liver with fructose, which in turn can cause your liver to get fatty (1).  In fact, this can lead to a condition called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).  This in turn can contribute to metabolic diseases (2).
  • If you eat large amounts of sugar, you can develop insulin resistance (3, 4).  If your body is resistant to insulin, it can pave the way for a number of different diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
  • It turns out that insulin may play a key role in preventing cancerous growth as well (5).  Since eating a lot of sugar can create insulin resistance, it may play a role in cancer development.  Furthermore, eating sugar can increase inflammation in your body, which may further increase your cancer risk (6).
  • When you consume sugar, it leads to a release of dopamine in your brain (7).  This can lead to a cycle of addiction (8).  You may have heard people joke, ​"I am addicted to sugar,​" but it is no joke at all.  You really can be a sugar addict.
  • Sugar can lead to an increase in your chances or developing heart disease (9, 10, 11).

KEY POINT: Now you can appreciate just what a difference it could make to your health to remove sugar from your diet.  

You will be eliminating empty calories and getting rid of an addictive substance which can lead to cancer, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and other ailments.

​Other Alternatives to Sugar

Man showing hand gesture saying "no" at the offer of sugar cubes, preferring stevia

Along with stevia, you may be curious what some of the other alternatives to sugar are.

Some of your options include the following artificial sweeteners:

  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose

… and natural sweeteners:

  • Stevia
  • Erythritol
  • Xylitol
  • Yacon syrup
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Coconut sugar

Problems with Artificial Sweeteners

There are a number of health issues with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. 

They may actually stimulate your appetite for sugary foods (13), and contribute directly to weight gain (14). 

Artificial sweeteners may also cause problems for the healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract (15). 

This in turn may lead to digestive problems and even issues with your immune system.  Aspartame is associated with depression (16) and headaches (17).

Other Natural Alternatives

What about the other natural sweeteners which I listed previously? 

Honey, maple syrup, molasses, and coconut sugar contain less fructose and more nutrition than refined sugar, but to your liver the distinction is minimal. 

So eating large amounts of these sugars will cause similar health issues.

Yacon syrup, xylitol, and erythritol are all quite innocuous and do make for good options.  Yacon syrup and xylitol even have some health benefits, just as stevia does. 

So while stevia makes a great replacement for sugar, you may also want to check into these options. 

You may find that you prefer stevia, but some people prefer the taste of yacon syrup, xylitol, or erythritol.

KEY POINT: While artificial sweeteners appear to be relatively harmless in small amounts, they do have some negative side-effects.  

A natural sweetener is thus a much better choice, especially since several natural sweeteners actually have health benefits.  These include yacon syrup, xylitol, and stevia.

​What Is Stevia?

So now you know why it is important to reduce sugar in your diet or cut it out entirely. 

Stevia (as granular; selective focus)

For a lot of people, quitting sugar completely is easier than simply reducing it because of its addictive effect.  

Trying to eat sugar in small amounts may simply lead to cravings.  But if you can quit eating sugar altogether, you can break the addictive cycle.

You also know why artificial sweeteners are not a great alternative, and why a natural sweetener like stevia is well worth a try.

So what exactly is stevia? 

Stevia is a natural substance extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana

This plant is native to South America, where it has been used as a sweetener for over 1,500 years by the Guaraní indigenous peoples. 

It wasn’t until 1931 however that two French chemists were able to isolate the compounds which makes stevia taste sweet, called glycosides

The most potent glycocides in the Stevia leaf are called Stevioside and Rebaudioside A.  These compounds make stevia up to 200-350 times as sweet as sugar! (50)

Stevia first became popular in Japan in the 1970s.  Japan remains the leading country for stevia consumption worldwide.  Stevia accounts for around 40% of the Japanese sweeteners market. 

In the 1980s, stevia finally made its way into the US market.  Interest in stevia was muted at first. 

In 2007, Coca-Cola did a lot to push stevia into the spotlight by developing a stevia-derived sweetener called Rebiana. 

If you have seen the product Truvia for sale, that is a stevia sweetener which consists of a combination of Rebiana and erythritol. 

Rebiana is made by steeping stevia leaves in water to isolate the glycoside rebaudioside A. 

Stevia has almost no caloric content, so it is an effective way to sweeten up food and beverages without packing on the pounds. 

It also has a number of health benefits, which I shall share with you momentarily. 

KEY POINTStevia is a naturally sweet extract derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant which is native to South America.  

It has been used to sweet foods and beverages for more than a thousand years.  

Thanks to its near-zero calorie content and its health benefits, it is one of the best alternatives to sugar.

​8 Health Benefits of Stevia​​

​The following are 8 health benefits of stevia:

1.  Increase dietary fiber, protein, and an abundance of other vital nutrients. 

stevia leaf and granules in a white bowl

It is difficult to find reliable nutritional data on stevia, because many stevia supplements contain extra additives. 

The nutritional facts on the package account for these additives as well.

One study (24) states that ​"stevia is a good source of protein, ash, and crude fiber which are the essential factors for maintenance of good health.​"  

The article also mentions that these nutrients are "comparable to commonly used cereals in India.​"

Additionally, the study found that stevia’s mineral composition includes iron, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, and potassium, which "further establishes stevia as a mineral loaded ingredient required to protect the body, regulate and maintain the various metabolic processes.​"

KEY POINT: Unlike sugar, which is just empty calories, stevia contains a number of key nutrients which your body needs to function at its best.  

Stevia does not just sweeten your food, it also increases its nutritional value.

​2.  Lower your blood pressure.

It is widely known that high blood pressure is a risk factor for the development of a number of different diseases include stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.

A number of prominent human and animal studies demonstrate that stevia can reduce blood pressure (25, 26, 27).

One particularly famous study (28) separated 174 Chinese subjects into randomized groups. 

woman checking blood pressure on sofa

The placebo-controlled, double-blind study assigned subjects in one group 500 mg of stevioside (a glycoside contained in stevia which acts as a sweetener) each day while the other group took a placebo.  

Both groups took their respective pills three times daily.

Two years later, the researchers measured blood pressure against what it was at the start of the trial. 

They found that “oral stevioside significantly decreased SBP and DBP compared with placebo.”

SBP stands for "systolic blood pressure.​"  DBP stands for "diastolic blood pressure.​"

Just how substantial were the drops in each?  Here are the results for the group that took the stevioside:

  • Systolic blood pressure: dropped from 150 to 140 mmHg.
  • Diastolic blood pressure: dropped from 95 down to 89 mmHg.

Those were not the only improvements either. 

The same study found that the group taking stevioside also had a reduced risk of a heart condition called ​"left ventricular hypertrophy.​" 

This condition involves a thickening and enlargement of the walls of the left ventricle (often in response to high blood pressure).

Left ventricular hypertrophy can have a number of serious complications, including ischemic heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, and cardiac arrest. 

This means that eating stevia regularly may help to prevent a number of deadly disease processes. 

KEY POINT: Multiple studies have demonstrated that stevia can help reduce blood pressure.  

It may also prevent the risk of developing left ventricular hypertrophy, a heart condition with potentially serious complications.  

​3.  Control blood glucose levels.

man testing blood sugar levels

For patients who have a hard time controlling their blood glucose levels, stevia may help to keep blood sugar stable.

One study (29) showed that taking stevioside can reduce high blood sugar by around 18%.

Another study (30) compared the effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose (standard table sugar). 

Compared to aspartame and sugar, stevia reduced blood sugar levels as well as insulin levels. 

Speaking of insulin, additional studies (31, 32) have demonstrated that stevia can actually boost your body’s insulin production. 

This increases your sensitivity to insulin.

As insulin is responsible for regulating your blood sugar levels, this is likely how stevioside regulates blood glucose. 

There is one more added benefit of eating stevia if you are trying to manage your blood sugar, and that is that you are using it as a sugar replacement.

Sugar, like all other carbohydrates, can spike your blood sugar.

The less sugar you are eating (and the fewer total carbohydrates), the more stable your blood sugar will be.

KEY POINT: Patients who need help controlling their blood glucose can benefit from eating stevia regularly.  

Because stevia appears to increase insulin sensitivity, it can help regulate blood sugar.

​4.  Combat diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition which is characterized by high blood glucose.  This is tied directly to insulin resistance (33).

This animal study found that stevia extracts could reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic rats (34).

This implies that stevia can not only be used to prevent the development of diabetes by promoting insulin sensitivity, but can also be used to treat high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

Also, stevia may support the pancreas beta cells to release more insulin when needed (43, 44)

This in turn may slow the progression of the disease and help control symptoms.

KEY POINT: Diabetes is a serious health condition which is linked to insulin resistance and which is characterized by high blood sugar.  

Because stevia can help reduce blood glucose while boosting insulin sensitivity, it can help to prevent and treat diabetes.

​5.  Prevent heart disease.

Woman forming heart shape with hands

Studies indicate (35, 45) that stevia may help to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.

High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with heart disease (36)​, while higher HDL levels are associated with reduced risk of heart disease (46, 47, 48, 49)

So by reducing oxidized LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol, it is possible to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.  

This is an effective means of protecting your health now and over the long term. 

KEY POINT: ​Research indicates that stevia may be able to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol, which leads to a reduced risk of heart disease.

​6.  Reduce inflammation.

While the benefits of stevia for heart health and diabetes prevention are the best-known, researchers have also found evidence that stevia may help to stave off inflammation (37).

Chronic inflammation has been implicated in the development of many diseases, including coronary artery disease (38), Alzheimer’s (39), and arthritis (40). 

Taking stevia regularly may help to reduce inflammation throughout your body.

This may help to slow or prevent the progression of many diseases, and may help to counteract the aging process (41).

KEY POINT: There are studies indicating that stevia may be able to reduce inflammation.  

This can lead to benefits throughout the body, counteracting everything from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis.

​7.  Prevent cancer. 

ribbon in hand to signify cancer

Scientists still have many questions about the causes of cancer and still do not fully understand its progression.

Recent research demonstrates that inflammation ​"is a critical component of tumor progression​" (42). 

It is common for cancers to spawn in areas of the body which are subject to irritation, infection and inflammation, especially on a chronic basis.

There is mounting evidence that stevia may be able to combat cancer (37). 

Since stevia seems to have anti-inflammatory properties, that may explain the mechanism through which this appears to work. 

KEY POINT: Cancer is one of the most pervasive and deadly diseases of our times, and scientists are far from understanding how to effectively prevent and cure it.  

Early scientific research does point toward stevioside and related compounds as possessing tumor-fighting properties.  

While stevia is not a cancer cure, anything which can help your body to fight it helps.

8.  Avoid the adverse health effects of sugar.

Just to review, here are some of the negative health effects of sugar:

  • Sugar contribute to obesity without providing you with any nutritional value.
  • Eating too much sugar can lead to liver disease as well as metabolic syndrome.
  • Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn may cause diabetes.
  • Sugar can increase your chances of developing heart disease.
  • Eating a lot of sugar increases inflammation in your body.  This may increase your risk of cancer and other illnesses while accelerating the aging process.
  • Sugar triggers an addictive cycle.

When you start replacing sugar in your food and beverages with stevia, you decrease all of these adverse health effects.  That on its own is a huge benefit. 

Even if stevia had no other benefits aside from being totally harmless, that alone would be worth it.

​People​ on a low-carb lifestyle can benefit from using stevia ​to sweeten their food instead of sugar.

KEY POINT: Sugar is bad for you, and you should do what you can to reduce your intake.  

As a delicious and nutritious replacement for sugar, stevia helps you to do just that. 


Potential Side Effects: Is Stevia Safe to Use?

Man looking through a magnifying glass

Anytime you are thinking about adding a new herbal extract to your diet, it is always wise to investigate its safety.

A number of studies and reviews have been conducted on stevia to determine whether it is safe for ongoing human consumption.

On the whole, these studies have been extremely positive (18):

  • This study concluded that stevia is "safe when used as a sweetener."  It is suited for both diabetics and PKU patients, as well as for obese persons intending to lose weight by avoiding sugar supplements in the diet.  No allergic reactions to it seem to exist (19).
  • Another review not only concluded that stevia is safe, but that it also might lower blood pressure in hypertensive patients (20).

The only potential side effect with stevia involves a decrease in fertility (21, 22, 23).

This problem has thus far only cropped up in animal studies.  The doses of stevia given to the animals were also incredibly high. 

For this reason, these findings likely are not applicable to humans.

KEY POINT: Stevia has been studied extensively.  There appear to be no adverse health effects in humans.  This makes stevia a safe, natural alternative to sugar.

What Does Stevia Taste Like?

Stevia has a very distinctive taste and a somewhat unusual profile in that it is simultaneously extremely sweet and very bitter. 

It tastes quite different from sugar.  While it is difficult to describe the flavor of stevia, there are some people who liken it to the flavor of licorice. 

This comparison is quite limited however; many people have an aversion to licorice, and may still enjoy stevia. 

Some people like the taste of stevia while others do not.  

The bitter aftertaste turns a lot of people off - but to some degree you can avoid it simply by using stevia in only very small amounts.

Since stevia is around ​200-350 times as sweet as sugar, a tiny bit goes a long way toward sweetening food or beverages.

If you do not like the bitter taste of stevia, try shopping around and testing out different brands. 

You will find some variation from one brand to the next.  Even if you do not like the first stevia brand you try, you may enjoy another one. 

KEY POINT: Stevia tastes both sweet and bitter, with the bitterness particularly prominent on the aftertaste.  Some brands are more bitter than others.

​How to Shop for Quality Stevia

​Now that you understand what stevia is and what its benefits for your health are, you may feel like you are ready to run to the supermarket and shop. 

There are a lot more stevia products on the shelves these days than there used to be, but that does not necessarily make your shopping all that much easier. 

Highly Processed Stevia Products May Contain Fillers

stevia with dextrose in ingredients

A lot of these products contain additives.  Some are harmless, while others may be fillers you want to avoid.

When you are shopping for stevia, always turn the bottle or box over and look at the ingredients list. 

Here are some common fillers you may find:

Maltodextrin.  

This is a very common additive which is usually made using corn, potatoes, or rice.

It adds to the sweetness and improves the texture, preventing clumping (for example, when you add stevia to your coffee).  

Be aware that a lot of corn is genetically modified, so if you buy stevia with maltodextrin, you should look for a non-GMO product. 

Dextrose.  

This is another common filler, typically made using either fruits, honey, or corn sugar.  

Even though it is labeled as calorie-free, it does contain calories, but the amount is quite diminutive.  It is chemically closer to sugar than maltodextrin.  

So you may want to avoid it if you are steering clear of sugar.  If you do purchase stevia with dextrose, make sure to buy non-GMO.

​Erythritol.  

You already know a bit about this sweetener, which is a corn-based sugar alcohol.

Its sweet flavor is not as far off from sugar as stevia’s, which is why it is often included in stevia supplements.  

It does cause some people digestive discomfort, but most people tolerate it with no issues, and may prefer its flavor over pure stevia.

Inulin.

While its name may be unfamiliar to many shoppers, this is a fairly harmless vegetable additive.  

Some people do report that products with inulin give them bloating, gas, and other digestive side-effects, however, so if you notice this happens with you with your stevia, inulin may be the culprit.

Xylitol.  

As mentioned previously, this is another natural sweetener.  Like erythritol, it is a sugar-alcohol, this time made from birch.  

Like stevia, it is very safe and even has some benefits for your health.  

Some people report that it causes them some digestive discomfort, but most people have no problem with it.

Glycerin.  

This liquid is harvested from vegetables and fruits and is alcohol-free.  You may have found it before listed on the container for alcohol-free vanilla extract.  

It serves much the same purpose in liquid stevia.  It is considered a very safe additive.

Natural flavors.

stevia with inulin

This is incredibly vague, and may refer to any of a huge umbrella of ingredients.  Some may be innocuous, others may be unhealthy.

Cellulose powder.  

This is a type of refined plant fiber or wood pulp, infamous for its inclusion in certain shredded cheese products.  

Cellulose is typically added to foods for two reasons.  The first is that it may improve the texture, the second is that it adds in cheap filler, augmenting volume.

While many people do not like the idea of pulverized wood chips in their food, cellulose powder is quite harmless.

Lactose.  

This is a form of milk sugar.  While it is generally harmless, some people are allergic to it.  If you are, you will want to avoid stevia products which contain it.

Silica.  

Silica is listed as an ingredient in some stevia products.  This is the same stuff that comes in those little gel desiccant packages.  

It is not toxic in small quantities, but it is not a real food either.

You can see that the majority of these fillers and additives are not all that terrible for you, but you also can see why you may want to avoid many of them.

Perhaps a bigger concern is how processed some stevia products are. 

Take Truvia for example.  Specifically, look at Coca-Cola’s patent for it.  This is an incredibly long and drawn-out process involving dozens of steps and exposure to solvents such as acetone and butanol. 

So if you are shopping for a high-quality pure stevia product, you will want to avoid highly processed products like Truvia or PureVia.

For a bit of perspective, it is useful to know that both Truvia and PureVia’s manufacturers have reportedly settled class action lawsuits concerning the marketing of their products as ​"natural.​" 

In both cases, the settlement paid was apparently in excess of $1 million.

KEY POINT: Many highly processed stevia products contain extra additives.  

While the vast majority of those additive are not all that toxic, they still may introduce unwanted sugars and fillers to your stevia.  

From a legal standpoint, it is also hard to defend these products as "natural" owing to the processing they are subjected to.

​Healthier Alternatives: Extracts and Green Leaf Stevia

Portion of Stevia leaf powder

If you hunt around, you can find some much healthier stevia products which actually contain 100% pure stevia and/or minimal additives.

There are two main types of pure stevia products on the market:

  • Extracts
  • Green leaf stevia

What is the difference? 

A lot of stevia extract products may only contain part of the leaf.  This is done to avoid the bitter sections and retain a sweeter flavor.  

The rebaudioside will be present, but the stevioside may or may not be.  The amount of processing done may vary, so one extract may not be the same as another.

Are stevia extracts good for you?  They are certainly a better choice than the highly processed stevia products, since they do not contain unwanted additives.

But there are still some questions about how they have been processed, and it is hard to be certain of the nutritional content.

So there is a chance you will miss out on some of the benefits of full-leaf stevia products as discussed in the research studies which I linked out to in the benefits section.

Your best option from a nutritional standpoint is green leaf stevia.

What is green leaf stevia?  It is simply another name for full-leaf stevia. 

It is so-called because the powder is a green color, whereas with most other forms of stevia, the powder is white.

Unlike many stevia extracts, green leaf stevia contains the entire leaf of the plant, which has been dried and crushed. 

This is the traditional natural form of stevia.  It is more bitter than most other stevia products on the market, and less sweet as well - but still significantly sweeter than sugar. 

If you use green leaf stevia, you can be assured that you are getting the full nutritional value of stevia.

KEY POINT: Stevia extracts and green leaf stevia are both better options than highly processed stevia.  

Completely pure extracts and green leaf powders are free of fillers​ - but the green leaf variety is subjected to less processing and contains more nutrition.

​Liquid vs. Powder Stevia

liquid stevia drops in a bottle

You will notice when you are shopping that stevia comes in two forms: liquid and powder.

Which is best?  Neither, really. 

It seems like there is more information available on the powdered forms in terms of processing, but there are apparently some pure liquid products on the market as well.

How do you choose what to use?  It is down to personal preference. 

Some people prefer the powdered form, while others find the liquid easier to use.  

​Liquid stevia may contain alcohol ​while powder stevia may contain inulin fiber.

You may also discover that one product lasts you longer than the other and provides a better value.  You will have to shop around and experiment to decide.

KEY POINT: Stevia comes in liquid and powdered forms.  As long as you purchase a pure, high-quality product without fillers, either is a healthy choice.

Beware of Stevia’s Bitterness

When you are putting stevia in a drink or cooking with it, one important thing to keep in mind is the fact that stevia is very bitter. 

If you purchase powdered stevia, you will notice that the scoop included with the product is very tiny. 

This is because you only need a miniscule amount to sweeten your food or drink; remember, stevia is around 200-350 times as sweet as sugar.

But if you use more than that amount, that bitterness will really come through and your beverage will be undrinkable.

I usually find that one of those tiny scoops of stevia is all I need to sweeten a mug of tea or coffee

Any more than that and the drink is too sweet and too bitter.  Sometimes even that is too much, and I only use half.

KEY POINT: Stevia is very bitter and simultaneously very sweet.  If you use more than a tiny bit, it will overwhelm the other flavors in your food or drinks.  

​How To Bake With Stevia

As you might guess, stevia can pose some difficulties when it comes to baking. 

There are recipes written specifically for baking with stevia, but the vast bulk of dessert recipes involve sugar. 

If you want to make your favorite sugar-based desserts using stevia instead, you will need to solve two problems:

  1. Figure out how much stevia you need to replicate the same amount of sweetness.
  2. Find a way to make up for the lost volume of the sugar.

Here are some guidelines for your conversions:

  • 1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to approximately 1/16th teaspoon of powdered stevia or 2-4 drops of liquid stevia.
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar is equal to approximately ¼ teaspoon of powdered stevia or 6-9 drops of liquid stevia.
  • 1 cup of sugar is equal to approximately 1 teaspoon of powdered stevia or 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia.
Unhealthy sugar on a wooden table together with natural sweetener stevia in powder, dried and fresh form

Now again, these are just general guidelines.  Depending on how sweet you like your food, you may need to increase or decrease the amount of stevia in your conversions. 

Some people seem more sensitive to the sweet and bitter flavors in stevia than others. 

I have seen recommendations for example that you replace ½ cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of stevia. 

Different brands have different conversion charts posted on their websites as well. 

​Remember, the concentration of sweetness in stevia can also vary from brand to brand.

​You can now see the problem with the lost bulk.  If you replace a cup of sugar with a teaspoon of stevia, a lot of volume is lost.

So your next challenge is to find something healthy you can use to replace it with. 

This can be a little complicated.  Your first thought might be to use something like honey, molasses, or maple syrup. 

The problem with these choices is that they are also very sweet.  So combined with your stevia, they will likely be far too sweet.  Plus, they are still very sugary. 

But there are a number of choices for bulk filler when you are baking with stevia.

Some common options include:

  • Applesauce (which is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so)
  • Yogurt (the unsweetened variety)
  • Fruit juice (this may be a bit too sweet for some tastes)
  • Fruit puree
  • Egg whites
  • Milk
  • Water

If you do opt for fruit juice, applesauce, or another bulk filler which adds sweetness to your recipe, you will probably want to reduce the amount of stevia you are using. 

None of this is easy.  It will take experimentation, dedication, and an open mind.  You will need to be patient and allow yourself to make mistakes. 

​Over time, you will find recipes that you like, and you will learn tricks which work for you.  

You will identify fillers which you enjoy, and you will be able to balance out both volume and sweetness for the perfect flavor. 

What Are Stevia ​"Baking Blends?​"

There is one more thing you should be aware of which adds to the complexity and confusion of baking with stevia, and that is the existence of ​"baking blends​" or "baking bags.​"

You already know that some forms of stevia have fillers added.  Many brands market so-called ​"baking blends​" with lots of fillers.

truvia baking blend bag

A good example is Truvia Baking Blend, which contains both stevia and sugar. 

This is obviously not a ​"pure​" sugar-free solution.  It is simply a sugar-based sweetener with fewer calories.

Another example is Stevia In The Raw® Baker’s Bag.  This mixture includes stevia along with ample amounts of maltodextrin. 

You will recall earlier that I mentioned maltodextrin as a popular stevia additive.  It adds bulk while diluting sweetness.  

These baker’s bags are intended as cup-by-cup replacements for sugar - but unlike Truvia’s baking blend, they contain no sugar. 

Should you use baking blends or avoid them?  It is totally up to you. 

They certainly can make it easier to prepare your favorite sugar-based recipes with stevia as a replacement, but you do not have to do this.  

You can always use applesauce, yogurt, egg whites, or one of the other fillers I mentioned previously along with pure stevia extract.

You just will have to do the conversions yourself.

If you do decide to purchase baking blends, make sure that they are non-GMO and preferably contain no sugar.

If you decide to avoid baking blends, here is how you can figure out what you need to make a sugar-free version of a sugar-based recipe:

  1. Start by doing the conversion between sugar and pure stevia to find out what you need to replicate the sweetness.
  2. Figure out the missing bulk and replace it.

So say a recipe calls for a cup of sugar.  That is equivalent in sweetness to around 1 teaspoon of stevia powder. 

1 cup = 48 teaspoons.

48 teaspoons – 1 teaspoon = 47 teaspoons you need to make up for with a bulk filler of your choice (like yogurt).

Finally, one thing to know about the stevia recipes you find online is that they are often quite vague about the form of stevia they are calling for. 

Oftentimes you need to use context clues to figure out if they are referring to stevia extract or some kind of baking blend. 

So depending on the type of stevia you are using, you may need to make modifications. 

KEY POINTWhile sweetening drinks with stevia is fairly simple, baking with it is not​ - especially when you are trying to adapt recipes that call for sugar.  

You need to replace the sweetness and the lost bulk, which means either using stevia baking bags or a combination of pure stevia and a filler like applesauce or egg whites.

​Simple Stevia Recipes​

​By now there is a chance you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed.  So instead of leaving you hanging, I want to share a few simple stevia recipes with you! 

That way you can start cooking with stevia right away without having to hunt all over the web for recipes.

1.  Shortbread with Stevia

stevia shortbread

You ​will ​need:

  • 6 packets of stevia (or equivalent)
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup spelt or whole wheat flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix your flour and stevia in a large bowl.
  3. Soften the butter and stir it in.  Keep mixing until you achieve a crumbly but cohesive texture.
  4. Line a sheet pan with a cookie sheet or spray it so that your cookies will not stick while baking.
  5. Press the dough into balls and then flatten them onto the sheet pan.  The dough will crack around the edges; this is normal.
  6. Place the cookies in the oven and bake them for 10 minutes.  Remove them before they begin to brown.
  7. Wait for your cookies to cool, and then serve.

This delicious recipe uses only a few simple ingredients, so it is a great place to start when you are learning how to bake with stevia! 

Since it is an original stevia baking recipe and not a modification of a sugar recipe, no replacement fillers are needed.

2.  Chocolate Mousse with Stevia

stevia chocolate mousse

You ​will ​n​​​​​eed:

  • ¼ tsp stevia powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee (if desired)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 ounce bar of sugar-free chocolate

Directions:

  1. Start by whipping up the whipping cream until you get whipped cream.  Put it in the fridge.
  2. Next, set up a double boiler.  In case you are not in the know, this simply means that you stack two fitted saucepans.  You fill the bottom one with water and set it to boil.  Steam rises to heat the other pot.
  3. If you decide to use coffee in your recipe (you can skip this if you want), make half a cup.  You want it to be extra strong.
  4. After the water boils in the double boiler, reduce it to a simmer.
  5. Now, add your butter, chocolate, and coffee to the double boiler.
  6. Stir the mixture until it is all melted homogenously together.
  7. Remove the bowl from the double boiler so that the mixture can cool down.
  8. Separate the egg yolks and whites.  Beat the yolks and then stir them into the chocolate.
  9. Beat the egg whites and fold them in gradually along with the whipped cream.  Alternate between the two.
  10. Refrigerate your homemade stevia chocolate mousse overnight before you enjoy it.

Mousse is tricky to get right, not so much because of the stevia but because of the complexities involving the eggs and the texture. 

Many chefs seem to use simple variations on these instructions, so you may want to experiment and see what yields the best results.  

When do you add the stevia?  

The original recipe doesn’t say, but I have seen some chefs add it to the whipped cream, while others wait and add it to the eggs.  Many add it to both. 

3.  Cream Cheese Pancakes

pancakes made with stevia

This is a low-carb recipe which uses only a few ingredients, and makes for a delicious breakfast treat.

You ​will need:

  • 1 packet of stevia (or the equivalent in scoops or drops)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces of softened cream cheese

Directions:

  1. ​Start by combining all of the ingredients in a blender and mixing them until you get a smooth batter.  You can also mix the ingredients by hand.
  2. Wait a couple of minutes while the bubbles settle.
  3. Heat a saucepan over medium.
  4. Pour batter onto the pan and wait for it to turn a golden brown color.  Once it reaches that stage, flip it over.  Cook until the other side achieves the same hue.  Then remove it and put it on your plate.  Do the same with the rest of the batter until you have completed all the pancakes.

Note that these pancakes come out thin, like crepes. 

4.  Stevia Low Calorie Brownies

Fresh Homemade chocolate brownie using stevia as ingredient

These chocolate brownies are just 37 calories, and require no sugar.

You ​will ​need:

  • ½ cup stevia baker’s blend (if you use straight-up stevia, remember to do your conversions, use much less, and then fill in the remaining bulk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Pinch of salt

If you are not trying to keep the calories as low as possible, you can replace the nonfat Greek yogurt with standard Greek yogurt, and you can also replace the skim milk with whole milk.

Directions:

  1. ​Pour all the ingredients into a blender.
  2. Blend them until the mixture achieves a smooth consistency.
  3. Pour the mixture into your baking dish (make sure to grease the dish first so that the brownies will not stick).
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Take the brownies out and check to make sure they are done.  Let them sit so they cool down.
  6. After they are cool, cut them and serve.

This is a delightfully simple recipe, perfect for beginners.

5.  Sugar-Free Lemon Bars

Lemon bars made using stevia baking blend

You ​will ​need:

Crust

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 4 tbsp butter (cut them into 1 inch pieces)
  • ¼ cup baker’s blend stevia (or the equivalent in drops or extract - if you use pure stevia, remember to use only a little and replace the rest with a filler)

Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup baker’s blend stevia (or the equivalent)
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Zest from 2 lemons

Directions:

  1. ​Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or rub it down with olive oil.
  3. Mix the flour with the stevia baking blend (or equivalent) and butter in a food processor.  Wait until you achieve a coarse meal texture.
  4. Pour this mixture into your pan.  Press it down firmly and evenly so that it layers the bottom.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  When it takes on a light golden brown color, it is finished.
  6. While you are baking the crust, you can start preparing the filling.  Pour the eggs into a medium saucepan with the stevia and beat the mixture together.
  7. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest.
  8. Whisk the mixture for 10 seconds.
  9. Add the butter and cook the mixture over medium.  Stir and wait for it to thicken until it achieves a consistency similar to sauce.  This should take 4-6 minutes.
  10. Once the crust and filling are both ready, pour the filling immediately over the crust (while the crust is still hot).
  11. Put it back in the oven immediately.  Bake until the filling takes on a shiny look and becomes somewhat but not completely firm.
  12. Wait for your dessert to cool and then cut the bars into whatever size you prefer.

Traditionally, lemon bars are dusted with confectioner’s sugar, but you can skip this step if you are avoiding sugar completely. 

Either way, you will be eating a healthier dessert.

KEY POINT: There are many delicious stevia recipes out there, and you can also modify your favorite sugar-based recipes as you start learning how to cook with stevia.  

But you need to take care with measurements and conversions, since many recipes are unclear about what type of stevia they are using.

​Conclusion: Stevia is a Healthy Replacement for Sugar and a Wonderful Addition to Your Diet

Obesity, heart disease, liver disease, inflammation, diabetes … all of these have been linked with sugar, and all are excellent reasons to reduce your sugar intake or replace sugar in your diet entirely.

Stevia is a healthy, natural sweetener with a long history of use behind it.  It is well-tolerated and no ill effects are associated with it. 

Unlike sugar, which is just empty calories, it can provide you with a number of health benefits, including lower blood pressure and stable glucose levels. 

Shopping for quality stevia and learning how to bake with it does take time and effort, and in the beginning, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.

But once you find a brand you like and you start learning the tricks for cooking, you will discover that you can enjoy all the sweet foods and drinks you love without the calories and adverse health effects of sugar.

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1 Comment on "What Is Stevia? Is It Safe? 8 Good Health Benefits and Side Effects"

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That was some really good information about Stevia. I have heard about it but never tried. I think I should give it a try.
I try jaggery as a substitute and though it adds calories, it gives nutrients like iron and minerals to the body.

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