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Do You Use Sugar or Stevia?

For many decades now, we’ve known that refined sugar is unhealthy. This doesn’t stop people from using it in large quantities. Food companies often add refined sugar even to foods that don’t actually need any sugar to be added. Many artificial sweeteners have been produced, but as it turns out, nearly all of them are even less healthy than refined sugar and some are hazardous. Stevia is a natural sweetener that has great advantages. Do you use sugar or stevia?

In this discussion, we won’t be looking at artificial sweeteners since none of them are safe, even though they are on the market. Sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and saccharin are artificial sweeteners that are unsafe, but they are far from the only ones that are in use. 

First, let’s look at refined sugar. Refined sugar is sucrose and it normally comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, after a refinement process. Although the refinement process isn’t natural,  refined sugar is still natural.

A teaspoon of refined sugar has a glycemic load index of 3, which is low. However, it has 15 calories, all from carbohydrates, and it contains no vitamins or minerals. This means that the calories are ’empty’. Refined sugar contains nothing but calories and sweetness. Most people also consume far more than 1 teaspoon per day.

Stevia comes from a plant and it is also natural. Stevia also contains no vitamins or minerals, officially. However, it has no calories and a glycemic load index of 0. The glycemic load index can’t be any lower.

Stevia is 50-400 times sweeter than sugar (depending on the source of the information). However, this means that a small amount can be extremely sweet. The products that are sold as stevia, such as Stevia in the Raw, contain maltodextrin or dextrose. This is often thought of as corn sugar. I specifically mentioned Stevia in the Raw because that is the brand that I most often use.

Dextrose isn’t added just so the company can make more money. Ironically, it is added to control the sweetness. If it wasn’t added, a tiny amount of stevia could be overpoweringly sweet. In fact, it can be so sweet that it is bitter, so dextrose is added. Nutritionally, there is very little difference because the amount of dextrose is limited. A teaspoon of Stevia in the Raw still has less than 1 calorie. Some stevia products can still be a little bitter because they are so sweet.

The addition is good in another way. A few drops of pure stevia extract has the amount of sweetness found in a cup of sugar. In recipes that require sugar by the cupful, the sugar also provides bulk. If pure stevia was used, something else would be needed to make up for the lost bulk provided by sugar.

It should be noted that some people can have a reaction to stevia, just like any other consumable. That happens to include sugar and all artificial sweeteners.

  • Question of

    Do you usually use sugar or stevia?

    • Sugar
    • Stevia
    • Both
    • Neither
    • I use artificial sweeteners
    • I’ve never tried stevia but want to
  • Question of

    Were you aware that there are health hazards associated with all artificial sweeteners commonly sold in stores?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I don’t worry about it at all

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Written by Rex Trulove

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14 Comments

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    • Splenda is almost entirely dextrose/maltodextrin and it is the most widely used artificial sweetener in the US. It has 3.3 calories per packet, though FDA regulations allow it to be labeled as “0 calories”. It can cause a spike in blood sugar, though.

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  1. I use sugar but I have used Stevia and other artificial sweeteners. I just prefer the taste of sugar. Since my dad was a diabetic I’m just careful about not including too much sugar in my diet. My health is pretty good so I must be doing something right.

    1
    • I often make treats for people in our congregation who are diabetics. That might be such things as zucchini bread. When I make those treats, I use stevia, rather than sugar. In flavor, once zucchini bread is done, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference in flavor.

      I’ve grown stevia in my garden. Unfortunately, I haven’t this year.

      1

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