Sugar is currently public enemy number one. It is blamed for much of our bad eating, accused of being overly addictive, and added to all the wrong things. It’s also considered responsible for a lot of diabetes, obesity, brain fog, and insulin insensitivity. It causes inflammation and may well contribute to the formation of disease.
That’s large because sugar is absorbed so readily as a source of energy by the body. When we consume sugar, it enters the blood as glucose and is then immediately absorbed where it begins to circulate around our bodies.
This in turn causes the release of insulin, which tells the body to use that sugar. If we are highly active, then this might give us a boost of energy. Unfortunately, most of us are not highly active at the time we eat sugar. So instead, the sugar is stored as fat around the body and this causes weight gain. The brain is spiked with serotonin and we get a momentary ‘high’ which makes the substance so addictive.
What’s more, is that once this has happened, we’re then left with no useable energy and we have a sudden energy trough and low mood. And if the sugar isn’t absorbed in all – because gradually we lose the ability to use sugar – it will remain in the blood and start to cause nerve damage and inflammation as it builds up.
And this is why alternatives like stevia are so popular. But is stevia all that safe? Is it really any better? Let’s find out. Here are 12 myths and truths about stevia!
1. Truth: Stevia is calorie-free
One of the reasons that people avoid sugar like the plague today, is that it is high in calories. Sugar is added to so much of our food and that in turn means that energy and calories have been added. This in turn means that our unhealthy snacks are all the more likely to end up making their way to our hips.
Stevia is calorie-free and that means you can enjoy it without the guilt!
2. Myth: Stevia will not spike insulin
There is no evidence to suggest that stevia will leave your inulin be. Stevia is may in fact ‘fool’ the body into thinking you have consumed sugar, which in turn could trigger the same release of insulin. Only this time, there would be no additional glucose in the body to absorb and as such, you might end up feeling more tired and in fact more desperate to consume other sources of actual sugar.
3. Truth: Stevia is natural
Stevia is indeed natural, in that it comes from a plant called… the stevia… no surprise there! It has been consumed for over 200 years across South America and for that reason, we have a lot of reason to believe it’s probably safe. That and a lot of people much prefer consuming foods that are natural and that we could potentially have come across on our own in the wild.
4. Myth: All foods containing stevia must also be natural
Here is the catch though: just because stevia is natural, that doesn’t mean that all foods containing the substance are natural. And in fact, stevia can go through a variety of different processes in order to reach our cupboards and many of these are arguably not all that natural!
So for these reasons, it’s worth taking the promises your food products are offering with a pinch of salt. And a pinch of sugar?
5. Truth: It’s super sweet
One of the big advantages of stevia and of other sweeteners like it is that it is actually sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). In fact, stevia is thought to be an impressive 400 times sweeter than table sugar.
What this means is that you can use for smaller amounts and get the exact same benefits in terms of flavor. That means that even though there may be some negatives about stevia, many of them will be less noticeable anyway because you’re consuming 1/400th of the amount.
6. Myth: It tastes like sugar
So far it seems that even if stevia isn’t perfect, it’s better than sugar. It’s zero-calorie and you need far less of it. So why doesn’t all our cooking use stevia? And likewise, why don’t companies add stevia to their energy drinks and chocolate bars instead of much more unhealthy sweeteners like aspartame? There’s a simple reason: stevia isn’t all that much like sugar.
In fact, stevia has a somewhat different taste which some people actively dislike. You’ll certainly know if someone has added stevia to your coffee instead of sugar, so you need to try out your recipes before you dish them up for dinner!
7. Truth: It doesn’t harm your gut flora
As a rule, bacteria like sugar. This is why sugar is bad for our teeth and it’s one of the many reasons it is bad for us in general. But not all bacteria are bad. In fact, the ‘gut flora’ that lives in our stomachs is very good for us and is responsible for helping us to digest food, for producing beneficial hormones and more.
When we switch to certain sugar substitutes such as Splenda, it is thought that this can actually harm that beneficial bacteria. The good news though, is that Stevia has no such ill effect.
8. Myth: It is nutritious
While Stevia may be calorie-free and while it may have some other benefits, it’s not exactly nutritious. While there are some flavorings and spices out there that contain various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and more, the benefits from stevia come more from the bad things it doesn’t do rather than the good things that it does do! This isn’t empty calories though, seeing as it’s no calories!
9. Truth: It may block inflammation
That said, some studies have suggested some potential benefits of the sweetener. For instance, stevia has been shown to have some benefit when it comes to preventing inflammation. Inflammation can be caused by a range of things, including infection, allergic reaction, injury, and more.
What many people don’t realize is that it’s possible for us to have low levels of inflammation affecting us at all times and this can potentially lead to a range of additional problems – including brain fog, high blood pressure, tiredness, and potentially even depression.
If it’s true that stevia blocks inflammation, then it could help us to feel better on a daily basis!
10. Myth: It is the best sweetener
Look, the ‘best sweetener’ is definitely a matter of taste among other things. It also depends on what you mean by best. Lowest calorie? Sweetest? Safest?
If we’re talking purely in terms of health, then some people would argue that stevia is the best. But you can also make a strong case for something like cinnamon. Cinnamon is completely natural, it tastes great (though quite different), it is versatile and it has even been shown to lower blood sugar and to improve insulin sensitivity.
This means that you can use cinnamon to combat issues caused by sugar and in many ways, that makes it the best substitute.