Food Babe Investigates Stevia: Good or Bad?

This is a guest post from Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) and New York Times Best Selling author. You can read more about her take on the food industry in her second book, Feeding You Lies!


Sugar is one of the most dangerous ingredients on the market. It’s addictive, added to almost every processed food, and will make you overweight, depressed and sick if you eat too much. In fact, Americans eat close to 130 pounds of the stuff per person per year (4 times more than the recommended daily allowance), likely because it is so addictive.

That’s why it’s exciting to know there are alternative sweeteners made in nature, like “stevia,” that don’t wreak havoc on your health – or do they? That’s what I went on a quest to find out. Here’s what happened…

Stevia

What Is Stevia?

For those of you that are hearing about stevia for the first time, it is a plant that is typically grown in South America, and while its extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar, it does not raise blood insulin levels. That’s what makes it so popular.

However in 1991 the FDA refused to approve this substance for use due to pressure from makers of artificial sweeteners like Sweet n’ Low and Equal (a one billion dollar industry). But in 2008, the FDA approved the use of rebaudioside compounds that were derived from the stevia plant by Coca-Cola (Cargill) and PepsiCo – hmmm doesn’t that sound suspicious?

Not until a major food company got involved did stevia become legal, and only after it had been highly processed using a patentable chemical-laden process…so processed that Truvia (Coca-Cola’s branded product) goes through about 40 steps to process the extract from the leaf, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), and none of those ingredients sound like real food, do they?

The whole leaf stevia that you can grow in your backyard (and has been used for centuries in countries like Brazil and Paraguay) remains a non-approved food additive by the FDA. 

However, rebaudioside A (the stevia extract) that was approved by the FDA has not been used for centuries and long term human health impacts have not been studied and are still unknown. The sweetener/sugar industry wields powerful influence over what is ultimately approved at the FDA, and this is just another example where they are influencing decisions that don’t make sense.

How can a chemically derived extract be deemed safe in processed food and a plant from mother nature not?

What Kind Of  Stevia To Avoid

Truvia

The 40-step patented process used to make Truvia should make you want to steer clear of this stevia product alone, but there are two other concerning ingredients added (not only to Truvia but other stevia products as well).

First, erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar that is sometimes found in fruit, but food manufacturers don’t actually use the natural stuff. Instead they start with genetically engineered corn and then go through a complex fermentation process to come up with chemically pure erythritol. Check out the manufacturing process below:

E Manu process
Credit: Cargill
All Natural Stevia

“Natural flavors” is another ingredient added to powdered and liquid stevia products, likely due to the fact that once the stevia leaf is processed it can develop a metallic taste. Manufactured natural flavor is contributing to what David Kessler (former head of the FDA) calls a “food carnival” in your mouth. This makes it difficult to stop eating or drinking because the flavors they have synthesized will trick your mind into wanting more and more.

When companies use manufactured flavor, they are literally “hijacking” your taste buds one-by-one; that’s why I recommend putting products that contain “natural flavors” back on the shelf.

SteviaIntheRaw
PureVia
OrganicStevia

“Stevia in the Raw” sounds pure and natural, but when you look at the ingredients the first thing on the label is “dextrose” – so it’s certainly not just stevia in the raw. And Pepsi Co’s “Pure Via,” also pictured above, isn’t exactly pure either with this ingredient being first on the label, too. Dextrose is a sweetener that’s also derived from genetically engineered corn and has a long complicated manufacturing process, just like erythritol.

Even certified organic stevia can have sneaky ingredients added, like this one above which has more organic agave inulin than the stevia extract itself. Agave inulin is a highly processed fiber derivative from the blue agave plant.

Also on the ingredient list is an item you are probably familiar with from those little packets sometimes found in boxed goods – silica (pictured). It is added to improve the flow of powdery substances and is the same ingredient that helps strengthen concrete and creates glass bottles and windowpanes. It may cause irritation of the digestive tract (if eaten) and irritation of the respiratory tract (if accidentally inhaled).

While it is non-toxic and probably won’t kill you in small quantities, it’s definitely not a real food ingredient I would cook with or that I want to be putting in my body.

How To Choose The Right Kind Of Stevia

Luckily there are ways to enjoy this sweet leaf closer to it’s natural state… because let’s be honest, the no-calorie artificial sweeteners out there are really dreadful, and no one should consume them (check this post for the low down on those). So here’s what you can do:

  1. Buy a stevia plant for your garden (luckily it’s totally legal!) or purchase the pure dried leaves online – you can grind up them up using a spice grinder (or use a mortar and pestle) for your own powdered stevia.
  2. When choosing products already sweetened with stevia, look for “whole leaf stevia” on the ingredient label. For example my favorite protein powder is made with “whole stevia leaf” instead of rebaudioside a or stevia extract.
  3. Add fresh or dried leaves directly to tea or drinks for natural sweetness (note the straight stevia leaves are only 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, vs. 200 times using the extract).
  4. Make your own liquid stevia extract (see graphic below for recipe).
    SteviaExtract
  5. If you are not up for getting a stevia plant of your own or making your own extract, remember to look for a stevia extract that is 100% pure without added ingredients (Trader Joe’s has a version in a small bottle).

And when all else fails, choose a suitable alternative and forget stevia altogether.

Lisa uses honey and pure maple syrup, and I personally prefer coconut palm sugar, since it is low glycemic (making it more diabetic friendly) and one of the most natural unprocessed forms of sugar available. It is naturally high in amino acids – has 10,000 times more potassium, 20 times more magnesium and 20 times more iron than conventional sugar. I use it all the time in my baking, from pound cake to muffins to a recent delicious cookie that is low in sugar  – check out all those recipes here!

Comments have been closed on this article, which was written by Vani Hari. If you have a question or comment you can reach her at http://FoodBabe.com.

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382 thoughts on “Food Babe Investigates Stevia: Good or Bad?”

  1. What about Sweetleaf? On its FAQ states, ‘SweetLeaf Stevia® Sweetener contains only two ingredients: natural stevia leaf extract and inulin, a soluble vegetable fiber. Inulin is a naturally occurring prebiotic that nourishes the body’s good intestinal flora, supporting good digestive health and immune function. That’s it!’ They claim it’s chemical free. If I have to buy stevia, is this one ok?

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  4. I’ve read this article several times, and went to FoodBabe’s website. What EXACTLY are her credentials for determining what is safe and what is not? Does she have a degree? Did she go to college? Has she ever been proven to be able to understand and interpret what she reads?

    What I read here and what I read on her website is an amalgam of OPINIONS. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that what she proposes as safe or unsafe as true. It’s as simple as that.

    Not unlike Jenny McCarthy, she is simply stating opinions and drawing conclusions without data, especially in this article. Somehow a “complex manufacturing process” is bad – how do you think we get clean drinking water?

    Nope, this is like a religion – find your believers and feed them your ideas…they will follow.

  5. Dextrose in Stevia in the Raw is a balance ingredient, Dextrose is also a natural product so nothing about IN THE RAW is a lie. Dextrose is such a small amount per serving it’s still diabetic safe. Stevia in the raw has helped my diet eliminate soft drinks and hasn’t hindered my weightloss one bit. I’m sold the dextrose is ok.

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  8. Thank you so much for your informative and well-research article. We just bought Stevia in the Raw today, going against my gut. We’ll just keep going with the honey and pure maple syrup.

    God bless..

  9. Hi, thanks for a great article. I was suspicious of the processing of stevia and other sugar substitutes, and by nature was very skeptical of the ones added to soda drinks although my partner loves them. I will spread the word!
    One thing though – silica is found naturally in herbs such as horses tail (mares tail) and is good for the skin and hair. So as long as it is a natural one, organic and food grade it should be ok i do believe :)

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  11. Hello!

    Thank you for your informative information about stevia.

    In my research I also came across this information about coconut palm sugar and I felt that you would want to know about this too.

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

    While it is frustrating to keep learning of more unsustainable products it does help us return to that perspective of eating the whole foods straight from the earth.

    Thank you!

    Keala

  12. You should try/research KAL pure stevia extract. There are no alcohols or artificial ingredients of any kind as far as I can tell. Not only that but it is ridiculously economical. A 3.5oz container of the powder lasts me a year or more and I use it approximately 3 times per week to make sweet tea and add to coffee. Sometimes i even use it more than that. The price is going up but a 3.5 oz container costs about $20 and lasts me a year. The conversion is 1/4 teaspoon to the cup of sugar. Anything more and the stevia becomes overwhelming. Just my two cents and I am very additive conscious with my food.

  13. I’m wondering what you think of Sweet Leaf stevia powder… several years ago I called them and they said their stevia was juiced then blown dry at 105 degrees, making it a raw food with nutritive value. Recently I noticed something interesting. I had a bottle in stored items from when I moved. The date on it was 2009. I have purchased and used it since then, and happened to notice that the serving size on the 2009 bottle was 1/8 t and my 2013 bottle said 1/4 t. Strangely, both bottles listed the same total volume and the same number of servings. This is frankly an impossibility. I’ve also noticed it doesn’t dissolve nearly as well as it used to. I called the company with questions, but only talked to a young woman claiming great confusion.

    Any idea what’s up with Sweet Leaf?

  14. Thank you so much!!! I could not figure out why My “bake-able blend stevia” was not sweet. Because its NOT stevia!!! Thank you so much

  15. Thank you so much for this post. I added Truvia to my herbal tea last night and woke up feeling terrible. I am sensitive to sugar and am always searching for a safe sweetener (fruit is not working for me right now). I had suspected for some time that the erythritol in stevia products was making me feel ill (I only have it very rarely and each time it has the same effect), but after reading your post I now know why. I will search out a pure form of Stevia and try it. Thanks again!

  16. Awesome post, I have been looking for a substitute of sugar and everyone is talking about Truvia, and stevia. However, I need to understand the implications of this products since I know companies process so much our food that it becomes something else. Something dreadful.

    I have been looking for ways to cook organic strawberry jam, I don’t want to add other fruits to the jam like some vegans (I am not a vegan just want to keep clear from sugar) I will give Stevia a try but also, I think I will go local and try Mexican Piloncillo. I bet it will make an awesome strawberry jam.

  17. Usually buy whole stevia. Concerned when I looked at stevia labels. Intrincally steer away from refined products. Looking for stevia tea accidentally hit on side effects of stevia. Found your article which answered a lot of questions and a website that has me veryinterested because I am trying to change my lifestyle and eat more healthy. I use some raw honey because it has helped my allergies and have used some whole stevia. Otherwise I am trying to stay away from sweetners altogether. I do like stevia tea mixed with other tead at times.

  18. i wanted to start using stevia but concerned about the effect on my high blood pressure becasue I had heard that it can raise blood pressure. My doctor told me that the bigger issue is it lowering blood pressure – someone on medication for HBP may end up having it lowered too much with medicine & stevia. However, she recommended I not use it as I am severely allergic to ragweed and the stevia plant is in the same family as ragweed. I’ve seen some websites mention this but not all, however so far I have not taken the chance.

  19. Great article. I have been using Stevia products for years and it is indeed frustrating to learn that products are not always what they appear. I use the Whole Foods brand liquid and for now I’ll keep doing so. In the big scheme of things the added sugar alcohols are sort of a “little rock” for me and I try to focus on the “big rocks”. Thanks for all you do!

  20. Chris Heermans, BSN, R.N.

    In Texas, Dr. Jairo Olivares with Texas Oncology: 972-272-3417. He may know of a like minded oncologist. See a good nutritionist. Do not touch sugar! Need to get more alkaline most likely. So many things happening here! Also know that grains are probably not a good thing as well as anything meats, etc. outside of pastured organic grass fed beef–small portions occasionally only—-wild caught fish and org. chickens. Not doing yourself any favors with dairy–don”t need it. Eat tons of green veggies, never microwaved. Really, an excellent nurtitionist is who you need to see. Exercise is monstrous too!Have to oxygenate your body daily as Ca cells die in the presence of oxygen. Prayers for you, friend!

  21. I am so upset about the Stevia information. I thought I was doing the right thing by buying it. I also purchased Florida Crystals Organic Cance Sugar. Is that also bad? Last year I had uterine cancer, and I am trying so hard to eat well. The chemicals and additives in our foods is killing us all, and I am scared to eat ANYTHING anymore! Please, someone, tell me what I can do to save myself. The cancer may be back, and I want to rid myself of toxins and heal myself without the use of horrible chemo and radiation. I don’t believe in that. It has killed several members of my family and many of my friends. Someone – please help me!

    1. Hi Jackie…try sweet leaf, it is pure stevia leaf, no additives and comes in individual packets. I just realized the brand I had been purchasing had dextrose added to the stevia… Probably better than sugar though.
      I wish you well in your battle to remain healthy.

    2. Jackie, check out wheatbelly.com and mariamindbodyhealth.com

      They are both in line with what Chris is saying about no grains, wheat, dairy and especially sugar. Although this was a complete 100% change for me, I have never felt better in my entire life and I just turned 64. Peace and Prayers.

  22. My mom has been buying !00% pure stevia extract in liquid form for about 10 years now from our local health food store. And I couldn’t agree more with this article in terms of questioning Stevia from Pepsi Co. & Coke — why does big business have to ruin everything?

    I wouldn’t rule out using Stevia altogether though, which was implied by using honey and maple syrup — both have higher glycemic levels than Stevia does. I wish the article had encouraged more or shared more on where to find 100% pure stevia (usually liquid form) at places like health food stores, whole foods, etc.

  23. Silica is different than silica gel dessicant. Silica is actually important for humans and our food supply is extremely depleted of the silica it contained before modern farming ruined the soil. Most of us are deficient. Silica as a food additive is likely in the form of diatomaceous earth which is great for the digestive tract killing parasites and Candida and also lowering cholesterol. However it is unlikely that the amount of silica in sweeteners is enough to outweigh the negatives of these products.

  24. Dear Ms. Hari, Is the Stevia plant available at nurseries, or grown from a seed, also available at nurseries?
    When baking you use pure honey?
    Thank you for the information.
    From reading so much regarding food this week, I’m afraid to eat !
    I certainly look at ingredients and where the food is from now.
    sincerely,
    Penny Russell

    1. Hi! I grow my own stevia and use it for sweetening teas, but have had a hard time finding recipes for baking with stevia. Do you know any websites or books that feature recipes with real stevia, not stevia sweeteners?

    2. Hi Penny! I’m not sure which area you live in, but the nursery One Green World sells stevia starts. I’ve had my plant for about three years and it’s still thriving! I prune it back hard and bring it inside in the winter.

  25. Ive read that xylitol is produced from tree bark and corn husks: using the same chemical extraction process.

    Doesn’t that make it as bad as stevia? Or regular sugar?

  26. Have you found any descent powdered alternatives? I suppose that pulverizing a plant leaf will require and selling it on store shelves will require some kind of preservative, and additives to offset the effect/taste of the preservative. For me, it would nice to find an alternative to sugar that doesn’t benefit the corn industry.

  27. Ms Elizabeth Irene Hickman

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm?gclid=CIzO3Lvy7rcCFSjZQgodwjAAqQ

    “Coconuts or Coconut Sugar – A Coconut Tree Cannot Produce Both!

    As retailers in the U.S. and elsewhere also cash in on this new demand, sadly, the other side of the story is not being told. What no one is warning consumers about is that coconut palm trees cannot produce both coconuts and coconut palm sugar! When the sap used to make coconut palm sugar is collected from the coconut palm tree, from the flower bud that will eventually form a coconut, that tree can no longer produce coconuts! Think about that for a minute. No coconuts = no coconut oil, no dried coconut, no coconut flour. Is coconut sugar worth giving up these other valued products that come from the coconut?? Some claim that if a coconut palm tree is producing coconut sugar, which means that it cannot produce coconuts at the same time, that it can still be converted back to producing coconuts at a later time. However, in Marianita’s experience in growing up in a coconut producing community, she has never seen this happen, and we have not seen any studies that have been conducted published anywhere to back up this claim.”

  28. I use the brand Now Better Stevia and the ingredients listed are:
    “Certified organic stevia extract powder (stevia rebaudiana) (leaf)”
    What are your thoughts on this?

  29. I heart that coconut sugar is good for you but to make it the plant/tree has to die. If we keep harvesting it, the price of coconut oil and water will get outrageous in price. Do you know if there is truth to that?

  30. Thank you for the article on stevia, I found it very interesting, and I won’t be buying it again! I was intrigued about coconut palm sugar after you mentioned it so I did some research… I felt I ha to comment with my findings, it’s not good… The gi rating of coconut palm sugar is in question. One article saying its mostly fructose, and another saying its mostly sucrose – well how do we know who is telling the truth? Finally I came across an article by a health food company addressing the issue of ‘why we don’t sell coconut palm sugar’ really worried me – its a highly unsustainable product! Because of people suddenly buying lots of this stuff, there’s been a spike in the market. Lots of coconut growers have switched over to coconut palm sugar production, as its more lucrative. However, once a tree has been used to make coconut palm sugar, the production of the actual coconuts goes down by 50% after just 6 months. The demand for this product may wipe out coconuts altogether or at least mean that only rich people will be able to afford coconut products. Please please don’t encourage people to use this stuff, the health benefits are not necessarily true, and it seems that the glycemic rating of regular palm sugar is just the same. If you want to add more potassium to your diet, eat some potassium rich food and get more benefits! It is arguably better to eat regular unrefined sugar in moderation than to go for palm sugar as its got the same amount of carbohydrate etc! I love coconut and was excited to try coconut palm sugar but now I definitely won’t be buying any…

  31. I am using Stevita – liquid extract. it says on label ‘freshly pressed from the leaves, not reconstituted’ and lists distilled water & grapefruit seed extract as the only other ingredients. Thoughts on this?

  32. Jackie Madacki

    I use KAL pure stevia. It is a white powder, but there are absolutely no other ingredients in it. No other sweeteners, and no silicone. And it tastes better than any other stevia I have tried. I would not use Truvia or any other kind you can buy in the supermarket.

  33. I was using the processed brand name stevia extracts and just felt something was wrong. you can buy plain powdered stevia leaf online. where the only ingredient is “stevia leaf”

  34. Great article and good writing, but please learn the difference between “its” and “it’s”.

      1. Still left one in the “How To Choose The Right Kind Of Stevia” section (“Luckily there are ways to enjoy this sweet leaf closer to it’s natural state…” should be “its natural state”), but I appreciate the effort. :-)

    1. Seriously Robert, you took the time to point out a typo? Maybe you should read your reply again? The use of the word “but” makes your statement of appreciation appear negative. The proper use would be “however I appreciate the effort” which makes your reply come across as positive. SMH!

      1. Yes, Gina, I did, to be helpful. I’m not interested in being a cheerleader. I’m interested in sharing this article with other people who would find this information useful, but most people I know wouldn’t consider its details trustworthy if it’s marred by multiple, simple grammar/punctuation mistakes.

        By the way, you’re using the word “typo” incorrectly. One mistake might be a typo, but there were originally at least 3 incorrect uses of ‘its/it’s” before Jason was kind enough to correct them.

      2. Really Robert? Get a life. This website informs people on how to live a healthier lifestyle. It’s not grammar school.

      3. I have a life, Jane. I unlike you ignorant cows, mine includes delighting in the English language instead of celebrating mediocrity and stupidity.

      4. “I unlike you ignorant cows”? That didn’t even make a little bit of sense. Looks like nothing you say is credible now either.

      5. Robert, since you are so concerned about grammar, your statement: I unlike you ignorant cows, mine includes delighting in the English language instead of celebrating mediocrity and stupidity, would be more accurate as follows: I, unlike you ignorant cows, delight in the English language. So, get it right or hang up your righteous grammar hat.

      6. Keep reading before offering your worthless opinion, you moron. I said WEEKS ago that my phone blew that post, and that the corrected one follows. Way to keep up.

      7. I have a life, Jane, and unlike yours, mine includes delighting in the English language instead of wallowing in ignorance and contributing to its demise.

      8. Yeah, those of us who don’t settle for the mediocre crap embraced by the simple-minded are used to their even simpler-minded insults. You can imagine how much your opinion matters, I’m sure. I would hope, anyway.

      9. Yes, Robert, you are correct. Calling someone an ignorant cow surely does fall into the category of a simple-minded insult. We may also consider that you are double posting your insulting blabber twice, in two different wordings, which could indeed constitute mediocracy. By the way, Food Babe happens to speak English as her second language, as those who follow her blog would know. Maybe you should just lay off, and go post your nonsense elsewhere. It seems to me that you would rather delight in the fine art of douche-baggery rather than that of the English language. Please feel free to note any corrections to my post you deem fit. Or you could just go away.

      10. The first post was from my phone, which quite frankly blew it. I should’ve known better than to post from my actual computer. Apologies for any confusion there.

        None of my douche-baggery is aimed at the blogger, nor even at her husband who was kind enough to make some corrections in response to my initial post. It’s aimed at you and your whole mediocre bunch who seem perfectly willing to accept the downward spiral of our once-great nation through what’s becoming the worst public education system on the planet, and who, by defending it, accelerate it. Go enjoy some more NBC ‘reality’ programming with the rest of the mindless; it’ll all be over soon anyway. Well done.

      11. Well, Robert, FYI, I do believe that the public education system is not what it could or should be, which is why I choose to homeschool my child. I make my own laundry soap, dish soap, home cleaning products, try not to use chemical-laden items, and try to eat organically/locally. We do not have cable, therefore, we don’t watch tv. We are a creative bunch who would rather spend our time sewing, knitting, reading, and learning about ways to stay healthy in our toxic world. I am sure that many of the folks who follow this blog have similar lifestyles as this. Pretty mediocre, huh?

        Just a refresher, all of this conversation over you being just a little bit too picky about an apostrophe? Maybe you should try some meditation and yoga. You seem like a pretty angry fellow. Lighten up. Hope you have a fantastic weekend!!

      12. I’m just so devastated by the bad reviews of you ignorant little people, you just have no idea. Seriously. You don’t. Hope you all get bone cancer! :-)

      13. I agree with you, Robert. It’s the latest fad to insult anyone interested in grammar and punctuation. This is part of the dumbing down of Amerika. The texting mania hasn’t helped.

        Have you noticed that subtitle captions on TV use the term “gonna” instead of “going to”. Even on UK movies!! LOL
        Cheers!

      14. Absolutely, Jo. It’s pathetic. And while this blog post only had a few common errors, the mindless sentiments of “Who cares, it’s just the English language!” throughout the responses by these sheep further demonstrates the problem. Very sad, especially when it’s the only language 95% of them will ever know, even though they consider bilingual Mexican Americans 2nd rate citizens. But that’s what you get when you combine rampant pride with unadulterated stupidity.

  35. Hi! I am very interesting in your recommendation for someone who is pre-diabetic. My hubby has been using Stevia as it seemed to be the safest alternative for sweetening his coffee but now you are making me question that. We thought we were making the right choice staying away from the aspartame and others. Switching to stevia has helped him enormously over sugar and he is no longer showing issues with his levels. Thank you!

    1. Anytime you use a sugar, it’s going to be high in carbs- that’s what carbs are. One gram of carbs is roughly 4 calories, the math is easy.

  36. I’m crying into my coffee right now…I have been religiously squirting NuNaturals Vanilla Alcohol Free Stevia into my coffee for YEARS now…Please tell me this one is ok!!!!

  37. Thank you for your thorough analysis! As a result of your research and what I have learned about steveia from websites like WebMD I have decided to not use stevia in my diet. I encourage anyone taking prescription medication research stevia further. I had no idea that stevia is actually used in some prescription medications(e.g. some blood pressure medications!), is contraindicated while taking some prescription medications and has some medically significant side effects to consider!

    Again, Thank you!

  38. Wow, good to know! I use that stuff all the time. Thankfully, I’m on a 21 day sugar detox right now, I think it’ll do wonders!

  39. I threw out my bag of Stevia as soon as I read this! I do use the drops, is that OK?
    Also, have you checked out this new product that I heard about at our Health Food Store call: Sweeten Me? Can you tell me about it and if it’s bad or good?

  40. Man, you get food companies involved in marketing and selling a marvelous plant as is, directly from Mother Nature… and they just change it and ruin it. As always.

  41. I really want to start trying to eat a healthier diet especially for my ASD son who also has adhd and Tourette’s. The biggest problem I have is that I really just cannot STAND maple syrup. I find it disgusting and the kids don’t like it either. I’m trying to find an alternative especially for pancakes and also for coffee. Can’t imagine giving up coffee and although the kids do like honey, I am not a fan. I’m not so sure the coconut stuff would work for the coffee either, it sounds kind of gross. I’m not generally so picky, it just happens that I don’t really care for those three things. I cut out sugar quite a while ago and always use Splenda in my coffee. I know it’s supposed to be really bad for you but haven’t been able to find an alternative that I can stomach. Any ideas? Is it possible to make my own syrup for pancakes? And what else could I use for my coffee? Thanks

  42. This is an interesting discussion. I use dried whole leaf stevia or powdered whole leaf stevia in my tea. I am trying to wean myself off sweetening my tea at all.

    I was curious about coconut palm sugar since I had not heard of that before. The link I am including speaks about the dangers of coconut palm growers giving up whole coconut production in favor of the quick profits from coconut sugar production.

    All the coconut products we love, flour, oil, dried, etc. come from the whole coconut which will not grow after you suck the sap from the tree and the flowers. Consequently, this makes all other coconut products more difficult to come by and therefore more expensive. Worth judging for yourself how much you need that coconut sugar when there are already healthy alternatives easily available.

    http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/coconut_palm_sugar.htm

  43. Really enjoyed the research and thoroughness of this post. I’m curious, what do you think about Sweet Leaf/Sweet Drops brand? That’s what I use and I’ve always considered it healthy. The ingredients are, Inulin souluble vegetable fiber, stevia leaf extract. Packet says it’s chemical-free, allergen-free, gluten free, non-gmo. I use it to sweeten stuff for my kids so I hope it’s not on the “bad” list?

  44. For several years I have been using Sweet Leaf stevia in place of all sugar. It is much sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. Plus, it does not contain any artificial ingredients, chemicals, or those nasty fake sweeteners. I love my Sweet Leaf!

  45. Wish I could get into stevia, but I just can’t. It tastes weird. Even 100% extracts have a bitter taste that my palate rejects.

  46. chocolatechip69

    I saw a few commenters mentioning Kal stevia brand and I have to agree that it is indeed pure stevia extract in a powder form without any additives. I’ve been buying it for the past few years and one small bottle lasts for months and months. The scoops very tiny, but you would be amazed at just how sweet that small amount can make your food/drink.

    The texture is a bit sticky which tells me they didn’t add anything to create an appearance of “real sugar”.

  47. Coconut sugar and agave sweetener have too much fructose, instead of being used as energy fructose is sent straight to the liver and stored as fat that’s why it’s great for diabetics and doesn’t show in blood tests………

  48. We use KAL brand of stevia yet I am trying to reduce my consumption. Some health experts indicate that the sweet taste tricks the body into reacting the same as it would to sugar.

    1. No coconut flavor that Ive noticed and Ive been using it for years. Not very sweet, so depending on your taste you might feel like youre using a lot. Its less sweet than turbinado or raw sugar. I mix it with maple sugar and turbinado

  49. Nice article, but you don’t really answer the original question — is Stevia good or bad for you? It seems like there’s not yet enough research to answer this. I do appreciate you pointing out the different types of products available, though.

  50. And the moral of the story is: Chances are, if the FDA has approved it, it’s probably poisonous. I rememeber back when all the health food stores I’d go into would have the stevia products with the sweeteners and it was illegal (shhhh, don’t tell anybody) As bad as any sugar in you blood stream is, it’s better than any of the supposedly healthy substitutes. Just consume raw honey or maple syrup in small doses once in a while. As long as you keep your overall carb intake to below 25% of your calories and those calories are a reasonable quantity, you’ll be alright.

  51. Great article but I would ask that you be more specific when you say sugar. What you are talking about is refined sugar, concentrated pure sucrose. This is very important information. For example, two large apples contain more “sugar” than a 12oz can of soda. That said those sugars in the compared food and beverage are not the same thing. The apples contain fiber, minerals and unaltered sugars such as fructose.

    The negative and addictive effects of refining and concentrating sugar is what you are comparing stevia against. So many people think that all sugar is the same and therefore to be avoided or limited when unrefined sugars are essential to many healthy foods. Secondly, this creates misinformed fear towards other natural unrefined sweeteners that can be safely used and contain many beneficial nutrients and minerals.

    Overal great article.

  52. I too, would be curious of your findings on the Sweet Leaf brand stevia powder. I used it for about a year in my coffee, before giving up coffee altogether.

  53. I find Stevia too sweet and avoided it until a foodie friend recommended liquid Stevia by Kal. I try to keep my sugar intake pretty low so only consume in baked goods or use honey. Are you familiar with it? Also, what are you thoughts about processed honey versus raw honey? I read processed honey is acidic so have been using raw honey.

  54. Thanks for clearing this up- I have been skeptical of Truvia! I’m wondering if you’ve done any research on Whey Low? Someone gave me a bag & it makes all sorts of claims, just wondering what the “skinny” is!!

  55. Thank you for this post. I am curious to know what you think about Kal Stevia? I hear a lot about this in the fitness world. Love your website!!

  56. Thank you so much for posting this & doing the research on Stevia & Truvia! I have been very conflicted about it and you answered alot of my concerns. I try to stay away from artificial sweeteners of any kind and many of my friends keep telling me to try it. My reservations proved to be accurate based on your research. How is it any better for our bodies if it is chemically altered too. The biggest problem I have found is finding a protein supplement that is “clean” and does not contain Stevia or Truvia. I gave in & tried one – About Time Protein – only to experience horrible stomach cramping a few hours after taking it. I would d/c the protein shakes for a few days & my stomach & colon would settle back down. I really think it is from the Stevia in it. I am not used to it & I think it really bothers my system. Anyhow, I truly appreciate your hard work & dedication. It is so helpful and good to know someone is looking out for our health!

  57. Well we have been using honey for years..its really the best sweetener, but we have also used xylitol…it has changed my boys teeth exams. Certain dentists have for years, given suckers that contain the sweetener because it does whack the bacteria that causes cavities..it is very sweet stuff..a product called xlear is also made for nasal problems and has some effect on inner ear problems….you have to investigate it..since you are the foodbabe..

  58. Really enjoyed the research and thoroughness of this blog. I’m curious, what do you think about Sweet Leaf/Sweet Drops brand? That’s what I use and I’ve always considered it healthy. :-)

  59. Just throwing this out there. My kids’ favorite summer treat is a stevia leaf and a mint leaf rolled together and chewed. Natural breath mint / gum. Sweeter than any candy, and I can consider it a green veggie, right? Especially helpful after the handful of chives they ate from the other side of the garden ;)

  60. I was wondering on the trader joes big bottle of the stevia powder? I have been using that one for years? in the brown bottle for $7 or so bucks. The only other ingredient is lactose it says on it.

  61. Hey Food Babe! I made the switch to Stevia a few months ago, although I’ve known about it for probably 10+ years. The one I’m using I’ve been getting at Sprouts in the supplements section (NOT the sugar section with all the crappy ones), it is in liquid eye dropper form, and the ingredients as listed are:

    Stevia Leaf Extract (Stevia rebaudiana) 300mg/ml
    Vegetable Glycerin
    Deionized Water

    The serving size is 5 drops.

    Is this stevia legit?

  62. Most of the other ingredients in the commercial stevia-derived products are added to provide bulk. Being 200 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) means that to get the equivalent amount of sweetening you would use 200 times less of the stevia extract. Have you ever tried to measure a two-hundredth of a teaspoon? Unless you’re using laboratory grade measuring equipment, it would be quite difficult. Also, to be technical, erythritol is NOT a sugar, it is a “sugar alcohol,” as is xylitol and any of the other sweeteners whose names end in “-ol.” The dextrose mentioned in the article is a naturally occurring sugar–its other name is glucose. Calling it dextrose distinguishes it from its stereoisomer, levulose, which is not found naturally in living things, although synthetic methods of producing glucose tend to produce equal quantities of both isomers.

  63. What do you think about Xylitol? I know they make it from GMO corn too, but I use the one made out of Birsh tree.

  64. Hi Vani,

    I would like to know more about the ingrediant carrageenan? sp?
    I’ve been told it is harmful and causes seizures in children as well as other neurological disturbances. Are you familiar with this?
    Thank you.

  65. I have a question about the Trader Joe’s version of Stevia Packets. I just noticed the package says it is Trader Darwin’s, not Joes…??? And it lists the ingrediants as; Rice Maltodextrin, stevia rebaudiana extract, (stevioside) and silica. This is a powder form in individual packets. Is the liquid from Trader Joes better for you because it has no silica? Thanks for your reply and a great site! Keep up the great work!

  66. Critical Reader

    To all those who are wondering why many (every?) stevia product has additional ingredients: the purified extracts are about 250 times sweeter than sugar. A pure extract would be difficult to dose, and therefore it is diluted with something like inulin, lactose, erythritol, etc.

  67. Sweet Leaf Stevia has been my one and only since it came out in the mid-90s. Love it and it doesn’t have any of that nasty stuff in it. If you can’t grown your own, support the good guys :-)

  68. Trader Joe’s Stevia extract (powered form) list a Lactose (milk) as other ingredient . Good or bad for you?

  69. Patent Attorney

    Just wanted to point out that the linked reference is not a patent, it is a published patent application. Also, as previous commentators noted, the actual process does not appear to be 40 steps – rather, there are 40 claims (which are the numbered sentences at the end of the application that define the invention).

  70. i have been skeptical of the stevia products that are available at the grocery store for the exact reasons you posted… there is more than stevia extract listed in the ingredients list. thanks for posting this and explaining what those other ingredients are. i look forward to growing my own :)

  71. I think you need to be more specific in your first sentence. You are talking about refined, white, table sugar. But the word “Sugar” technically means a whole category of foods. The maple syrup and honey you mention at the end of your post are both sugars. As is the “palm sugar” you mention. Otherwise a good job of shining a light on the fact that the label “Stevia” has started to be applied to some heavily processed foods that may or may not bear any resemblance to actual stevia.

  72. Great post. A bunch of friends of mine who like to stay away from highly processed foods have been using stevia and I was always skeptical of it’s validity as truly a natural food. At it’s marketed & sold, it’s still an “extract”. I had no idea how nasty the process is.
    Man, the FDA is a joke. Natural product: DENIED. Heavily processed version of same product: APPROVED. Just plain dumb.

    1. Yes! Thank you for posting this link! What are your thoughts Vani? I am not a big fan of the coconut sugar craze!

    2. Thank you for posting also..I think the environmental consequences of our food choices should be as important as the choices themselves..

  73. I also want to know about agave sweetener as I love it’s flavor and use it a lot. It’s become my substitute sweetener.

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