Keto-approved sweeteners are very trendy right now, and there is a lot of controversy and confusion swirling around this hot topic. You might see the option of monk fruit in my recipes for the occasional sweetener, but stevia is certainly a runner-up in the world of sugar alternatives.
Is Stevia keto friendly? When it comes to keto sweeteners, it’s not as black and white as you might think which is why you are probably here reading this article! While stevia and other zero-calorie, natural sweeteners are touted as having no impact on blood sugar and insulin, that isn’t true for every single one of us. We all respond to foods, especially sweeteners, differently so the short answer to the question of whether stevia is keto and Can You Have Stevia On The Keto Diet? : “it depends.”
What I want you to know is that just because something has “zero calories” or is “sugar-free” doesn’t necessarily mean it will do you any favors in becoming fat adapted and metabolically flexible, and might even hinder your progress. As always it comes down to the quality of the food, how it is processed and how your system receives it.
Today we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of using stevia on a low-carb diet, and you can decide if it has a place in your keto lifestyle. Since we are all biochemically diverse and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there is also no “right” or “wrong” answer to this question.
Where Does Stevia Come From?
Unlike most sugar substitutes out there that are artificial, green leaf stevia comes 100% from nature and has zero calories. It is native to South America and has been used both as a sweetener and medicinally for centuries. The stevia plant is part of the Asteraceae family of plants, which is related to ragweed and the daisy.
The two primary compounds in stevia that give it its sweet taste are Rebaudioside A and Stevioside. Interestingly, stevioside is the compound that is responsible for many of stevia’s health benefits. While certain types of stevia are native to areas of the United States, especially Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, the Stevia rebaudiana species mainly grows in Brazil and Paraguay, where it has been used for centuries.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Stevia?
Before we get to the pros and cons of using stevia in your keto diet, let’s take a look at some of the research behind its benefits, as this can help you to understand what all of the hype is about.
Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts you at much higher risk for heart attack and stroke, and studies have shown that taking supplemental doses of stevioside can help to lower blood pressure. Simply using real stevia as an occasional sweetener for your coffee or in baking probably doesn’t have any major impact on lowering blood pressure, but it definitely can’t hurt.
Stable Blood Sugar Levels
Unlike white sugar and many sugar alternatives (even honey and maple syrup, which is superior to refined sugar), stevia actually works to stabilize your blood sugar levels instead of spiking them in some people. In fact, stevioside is used in treatment for type 2 diabetics, and studies have found that the use of stevia helps to lower blood sugar levels immediately after a meal. This is thought to be partially due to the fact that stevia works to improve insulin sensitivity.
Boost Weight Loss
Green leaf stevia is naturally zero calories, therefore making it a superior sweetener for any sort of weight-loss diet. There is also discussion that stevia might help to curb cravings due to its potential blood sugar balancing effects, but that brings me to my next point: the role of any sweetener in a keto diet.
The Sweetener Trap And Keto
Similarly to fruit, even non-caloric, keto-approved sweeteners like stevia that don’t have much effect on blood sugar levels still can prompt the body to produce a rise in insulin or can keep you craving sweet tastes overall. Especially if you are new to keto and still working on shifting from a sugar burner to a fat burner, you might be better off avoiding them. For me, one of the ultimate goals of a keto lifestyle is to lower your overall need for sweetness by being satiated by healthy fats, which has the incredibly beneficial long-term benefit of lowered insulin levels.
In other words, the goal I would bet most of you have for committing to a keto lifestyle is to rely less and less on sweetness as a centerpiece of your diet. Undoubtedly, some sweeteners are far healthier and less damaging than others, but all sweet tastes are likely to perpetuate further cravings for sugars and carbohydrates.
Similarly to artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, any sweet taste will act upon sweet taste receptors on your tongue and trigger similar reward pathways, and this can easily lead to being “trapped” in the cycle of sugar and carb cravings. Instead of nipping those cravings in the bud, it’s possible that you are instead coddling and allowing them to continue, especially if you are still working toward metabolic flexibility.
Unfortunately, not all stevia is created equal.
As stevia becomes increasingly popular, more and more products have emerged that include stevia, but also include other, far less desirable ingredients. The most popular of these products is one called Truvia, which is owned jointly and was developed by Coca Cola and Cargill. This product is a combination of erythritol, rebaudioside A and natural flavors. Unfortunately, Truvia is marketed as “stevia-based,” but it really is not natural stevia, so be careful of this confusion and always read labels. Remember that stevioside is the compound that provides most of stevia’s health benefits, not rebaudioside A.
The other main types of stevia include stevia extracts, which are about 200 times sweeter than sugar but are also made up of mainly rebaudioside, not stevioside.
If interested, what should you try? Green leaf stevia is simply the stevia leaf that has been ground into a powder, and is about 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, and offers the most health benefits by a long shot.
So What’s The Verdict? Can You Have Stevia On Keto?
The verdict is, you guessed it: whether or not stevia has a place in your keto diet plan depends on your body and its needs. Thankfully, it’s easy to do a little self-experimentation to find out. If you’ve been doing keto for a while yet still experience a lot of sugar and carb cravings, take a close look at your intake of keto-approved sweeteners, like stevia. Consider cutting them out completely for a month and see if this helps you benefit more from the keto lifestyle, It could just make all of the difference.
Another important point is sustainability. Whether you want to stay keto for the long run or simply want to follow any low carb diet model, you’re bound to want a treat every now and then. Once you feel you are well fat-adapted and metabolically flexible, having a treat made with stevia is probably no big deal, and certainly worlds better than eating a donut packed full of refined sugar.
Thankfully, a keto diet over time naturally decreases your urge for added sweetness, and the natural sweetness of whole foods begins to satisfy. At this point, my hope is that together we experience the big picture of health and where stevia fits in. Ultimately, we want to increase our intake of good fats, and decrease our reliance on all sweeteners, even the less harmful kinds like quality stevia. Choose your occasional indulgences wisely, particularly when eating out on a keto diet, and when you do, pure, green leaf stevia can definitely fit into the picture!