Ever hear of stevia? It’s just about everywhere these days! From diet beverages to low-cal baked goods and everything in between, the beloved sugar substitute is quite popular due to its ability to sweeten foods without adding any calories.
That said, what many people aren’t aware of is that stevia comes with a handful of unfavorable side effects.
Do the side effects outweigh the benefits? Let’s find out!
But First, What Exactly Is Stevia Anyway?
Over 200 years ago, a green flowering plant with leaves that had an incredibly sweet taste was found in the jungles of South America. It wasn’t until 1905 that this shrub belonging to the sunflower or Asteraceae family was dubbed Stevia rebaudiana (a.k.a “sweet leaf”).
Over time, the extract made from the sweet leaves became known as the popular sweetener stevia.
Stevia extracts are manufactured industrially by many companies all over the globe and are sold under monikers like PureVia, Truvia, and Rebiana. Now, the exact chemical makeup of compounds developed always tends to vary a little bit from company to company, but they all contain molecules called steviol glycosides.
What are steviol glycosides?
In a nutshell, steviol glycosides are what give the versatile plant its incredibly sweet taste, and they are much sweeter than traditional table sugar (a.k.a. sucrose), which is why fans of the sweetener can use a very small amount and still reach the level of sweetness that they’re after.
For instance, you can easily swap one cup of table sugar — which is around 775 whopping calories — for one teaspoon of liquid stevia extract when baking and still reach the same level of sweetness but without all the extra calories.
Hold Up — Is Stevia Really a Zero Calorie Sweetener?
Believe it or not, despite being extremely sweet, stevia is a calorie-free sweetener.
Well, technically, it does contain a calorie or two — glycosides are sugar molecules, after all — but here’s the thing: your body isn’t able to fully digest them like it does other foods.
You see, unlike good ol’ table sugar which gets broken down into fructose and glucose before your bloodstream absorbs it, steviol glycosides go all the way through the small intestine pretty much intact. In fact, it’s not until they hit your large intestine that they are fully digested, but rather than going directly into your bloodstream (which would then “count” as calories), the stevia sugars are quickly gobbled up by the tiny good bacteria living in your body.
So, is stevia calorie-free? No. However, since your body doesn’t actually absorb the sweetener, technically, it’s a zero-calorie food product.
What Are the Side Effects of Stevia?
Now that you understand what stevia is, let’s check out a few of the most common side effects.
Side Effect #1: It May Lead To Hypoglycemia
Did you know that a diet rich in sugar happens to be the cause of a vast range of health concerns, including obesity and type 2 diabetes? That’s why it’s always advisable to skip the sugar whenever possible. Sure, alternative sweeteners can help, but they do come with a few drawbacks.
While stevia initially can help control your blood sugar levels by reducing the amount of sugar in your body, using too much of the stuff can actually take your body to the other extreme and cause your blood sugar to drop too low, which is called hypoglycemia. That said, if you’re one of the 34.2 million Americans who are diabetic, you may really want to try to avoid incorporating stevia in your diet (unless, of course, your doc says it’s OK).
Side Effect #2: It May Affect Hormone Production
Here’s a scary thought — while more research is needed, recent studies have shown that stevia might interfere with hormones produced and regulated by the endocrine system. Your endocrine system covers all the glands in your body that are responsible for producing and secreting hormones.
When your endocrine system is out of whack, everything from your mood and energy levels to your skin and weight can be affected. Remember grade school when you went through puberty and experienced a rollercoaster of symptoms like moodiness, weight gain, and acne? Yeah, that’s basically what you can expect when something disrupts your endocrine system. No, thank you!
Side Effect #3: May Cause Tummy Trouble
For many individuals, it really doesn’t take much for an upset stomach to roll around. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms that are often irritating, painful, and sometimes even a little embarrassing. Because of this, many people are careful about what they eat, and this can include nixing certain things from their diet, such as stevia.
Stevia products contain added sugar alcohols, which are notorious for causing uncomfortable symptoms in those who are very sensitive to the chemicals. Although being super sensitive to sugar alcohol is pretty rare, some of the symptoms can include:
If you notice any of these symptoms after consuming stevia, it might be a good idea to swap to a different sweetener, like monk fruit!
A Final Word
So, what are the common stevia side effects?
At the end of the day, everyone is unique, so how your friend reacts to stevia may differ slightly from how you react. That said, some of the most common reported side effects of using stevia include:
May lead to glycemia
May affect hormone production
May cause tummy issues
Wondering if there’s a better sweetener out there? While each sweeter has its pros and cons, there is one that has emerged from the shadows as the ultimate sugar substitute: monk fruit.
Known for containing absolutely no calories, carbs, or fat, monk fruit sweetener is truly a game-changer. Not only do the mogrosides in the beloved fruit have antioxidant characteristics which help protect your cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals, but monk fruit sweetener is also safer for diabetics because it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels.
Here at Proper Wild, we only use the best ingredients in our clean all-day energy shots, that’s why we combine monk fruit extract with organic caffeine from green tea to provide you with a plant-based drink you can feel good about.
Whether you’re in need of a little afternoon pick-me-up or are looking for a pre-workout boost, you can count on us to get you there. Try our clean all-day energy shots today and experience sweet, sweet all-day focus and productivity!