We recently discussed the health risks of artificial sweeteners and showed how their side effects are not so sweet for your health (or waistline). However, there is one natural, calorie-free sweetener that breaks the rule and can actually, in moderation, be a good sugar alternative.

Stevia is a natural herb with a sweet aftertaste. It’s calorie-free, which makes it a great option for those of us who want to lose weight but have a terrible sweet tooth. It is naturally very sweet and considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it doesn’t interfere with insulin and blood sugar levels like sugar and artificial sweeteners would.

Studies have shown that stevia leaf is a safe sweetener to be used for diabetics and it effectively lowered insulin levels following a meal, leading to less fat storage. The active compounds in stevia have also been shown to lower bad, LDL, cholesterol when administered to research groups.

It’s important to know that not all stevia is created equal. Green leaf stevia (available in herb form) and 100% Pure stevia extract are the least processed of them all, whereas liquid and powdered stevia (such as Truvia) will do your body much more harm than good. Processed stevia contains only the sweet part of the herb and removes the other slightly bitter part with the health benefits. In some cases, up to 40 different chemicals are added to yield the final (not so natural) product. The only products which should be in your stevia line-up are Reb A and Stevioside. Remember, the less ingredients the better and make sure you avoid the following additives in your stevia products:

  • Maltodextrin,
  • Dextrose
  • Cellulose
  • Erythritol

Like any sweetener, stevia should be consumed in moderation. Just because it is natural and calorie-free, this does not mean that you can consume unlimited amounts of it with every snack or meal. The purpose of stevia should be to help you overcome your sugar dependence, not to fuel it further.