Should you reach for table sugar or should you go for a substitute like stevia? If you are among the growing number of people who are becoming more and more concerned about the kind of sweet additives in their diet, you may have considered using sugar substitutes such as stevia as an alternative to table sugar.
But what exactly is stevia and how is it different from ordinary table sugar? Are there health concerns you should know about? Let this helpful information assist you in identifying where you stand in the stevia vs. sugar debate.
Stevia or Sugar – 5 Points to Consider:
Both stevia and sugar are naturally derived sweetening agents. This means that both of them are organic compounds, which are extracted from plants. Table or granulated sugar commonly used for food preparation is mostly derived from sugarcane, a giant grass that has been growing in the tropical climates of Asia since ancient times.
Stevia, on the other hand, is derived from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana. It is a shrub native to the South American region but is now grown in other regions such as Asia (most notably in China, India, and Japan).
While sugar is more widely used as a sweetener, stevia is a lot sweeter than sugar. Stevia is considered to be 30 times sweeter in its unprocessed form while its processed or purified extract is said to be 200 to 300 times sweeter than refined sugar. When preparing food, it is commonly thought that a stevia to sugar conversion equivalence is 1 teaspoon powdered or liquid stevia for every 1 cup of table sugar.
On the other hand, sugar does not have a bitter aftertaste that is characteristic of substitutes or sweeteners like stevia. Stevia users describe its bitter aftertaste as mild, easily masked by blending in other sweet ingredients such as honey.
In the stevia vs. sugar debate, sugar wins a point hands down in terms of availability. Since sugar is the most widely used sweetener in the world and in human history, its availability in the market is unmatched.
One can source sugar almost everywhere. There are various types of sugar available, which cater to everyone from those who want their sugar white or brown to those who want it raw or refined. Because of its availability and versatility, sugar is generally cheaper compared to other natural and artificial sweeteners.
Stevia is still not as widely available as common table sugar. Nevertheless, it is steadily growing in availability and usage especially in South America, Europe, North America, Australia, China, South Korea and other countries in the Pacific Rim. The availability of stevia as a prepackaged substitute for sugar and synthetic sweeteners has risen steadily in the past decade.
It is also now being used as a sugar substitute in various products such as sugar-free gums, yogurts, diet sodas, confectioneries, and processed food products available in the market.
- Caloric Content
Stevia is an appealing alternative to many people because of its low caloric property. Its unrefined, liquid extract, usually sold in health stores, contains almost no calories. Even in its refined form, there are almost no calories derived from stevia.
One packet of refined stevia has a mere 5 calories and only 1 gram of carbohydrates, whereas a standard packet of refined sugar offers 30 calories and 8 grams of carbohydrates. Multiply the outcome of this stevia to sugar conversion by the amount of sugar a person consumes in a day and that person’s daily caloric and carbohydrate intake levels reduce drastically with stevia.
The effects of sugar on a person’s health have been well documented. A diet high in sugar (and the carbohydrates it contains) is widely known to lead to obesity and insulin resistance or diabetes.
Stevia has been generally recognized as safe by the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration since 2008. Studies have shown that using stevia may decrease hypertension and blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the risk of a person developing metabolic syndrome. In addition to its health benefits, there has been no evidence of any adverse effects from consuming stevia.
So when you find yourself at a crossroads with your health, you may want to incorporate in your diet substitutes like stevia as a natural, good-tasting and, best of all, healthy alternative to sugar. This way, you do not have to forget about your sweet tooth after all.
Category: What is Stevia