Stevia: the Sugar substitute

Its been a dream for most people to eat whatever they want and still not gain weight! Well in that case, Stevia is your dream come true. Double the sweetness minus the calories. Indulge in your sweet tooth all you want.

Have you’ll ever thought about where stevia comes from?

Originally, its from a woody shrub, a plant called Stevia Rebaudiana. There are above 200 species of Stevia, but this one is the sweetest. It is non-nutritive, non-toxic, high potency sweetener which is almost 300 times sweeter than sucrose (aka sugars).

Why is it a low calorie sweetener?

Stevia leaves contain Stevioside and Rebaudioside. It has been shown that human body doesn’t absorb stevioside by the oral route and the digestive enzymes cannot degrade stevioside in its steviol form. Only the colon microbes are able to metabolize it into steviol and glucose. Glucose formed by this process gets used up by the bacteria present in the gut rather than getting absorbed in the blood stream. And most of the steviol gets excreted from the body in urine or feaces.



Inspite of no calories, there is some amount of nutritional value to Stevia. Stevia leaves provide 2.7 kcal/g energy with fat content at 1.9-4.34g/100g , carbohydrate whihc is 52-64.06g /100gms and protein at 10.0-18.0g/100g.

Can Diabetics consume Stevia?

Yes, Absolutely! In stevia leaves, the main source of energy is carbohydrates due to the presence of poly and fructo-oligosaccharides which regulates the metabolism of lipid and reduces the sugar level in blood. Consuming Stevia doesn’t induce a glycaemic response, on the contrary, it promotes glucose uptake by enhancing insulin sensitivity. Enough of the detailed medicinal mumbo jumbo.

The main thing to note here is the consumption of stevia has positive metabolic outcomes for patients with Diabetes Mellitus.


Well the list of Nature’s help to us doesn’t end here. Apart from being a low calorie sweetener, it also acts as an anti-oxidant due to the flavonoids & polyphenols. It can potentially reduce the free radical load which is implicated in diseases like diabetes, cancer, neural disorders, arthritis and aging.

It also Protects the Heart!!

Stevia Rebaudiana helps in decreasing cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis, thus reducing total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL levels; and by elevating HDL Cholesterol (the good one). Stevia leaves also help the arteries relax and prevents the build-up of calcium on the artery walls thus regulating blood pressure and being cardio-protective.

There are many other properties of Stevia. It has an antitumor effect, protects your kidneys and liver. It also has Antifungal and Antibacterial effects. Are you already thinking of using this as a go to sweetner?

Take a moment. Let’s first figure the most authentic source of this medicinal, non-caloric herb & sweetener.

I wouldn’t use anything other than something that is naturally occuring as a sugar substitute. Recently an interaction with my friend motivated me to check all the zero-calorie sugar substitutes. There are many artificial sweeteners out there. Are they all by-products of Stevia or Stevia compounds? not necessarily.

Many popular zero calorie sweeteners like Sugar free or Splenda have Sucralose which is a highly chemically processed form of sugar, to reduce calories and enhance the sweetness. Sucralose can sometimes be even sweeter than stevia. Easier to manufacture and sell in bulk.

Some of them have additives like maltodextrine, lactose, sucrose along with sucralose. Studies have found that these can cause spikes in blood sugar post consumption. Certain research studies in Mice have assocaited consuming sucralose with cancer. Cooking with Sucralose may create potential carcinogens.

So looks like STEVIA in its pure form is our best bet. How do we find it?

Well, you will find dry stevia leaves or you might find them in the processed form as small pellets, powdered or as liquid. In the processed ones, compounds named Steviol Glycoside, Rebaudioside, FOS & Stevia leaf Extracts are ok. Checking the ingredients will give you a fair idea of what to invest your money and health in.

What is the Recommended Daily Intake?

According to the FDA, the acceptable daily intake for stevia glycosides is 4 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight. Meaning a 50kg person could consume upto 200mg of stevia. Which is way more than what will be actually required. Remember it is almost 300 times sweeter than normal sugar.

Replacing sugars with stevia doesn’t mean you get a rain check. It is still beneficial to limit the intake of stevia to minimal.


Sweetness is a something your taste buds convey to your brain. Everytime you eat something sweet, your brain registers that level of sweetness. Once your brain registers that level, it becomes your new normal; meaning that you will require to add more of it for enhanced taste. The more sweetness you get used to, the more your body will require. And considering stevia is extremely sweet, consuming it in large quantities might alter your taste sensation forcing you to consume more of it. SO KEEP YOUR SWEET TOOTH IN CHECK.




  1. DOI:10.19080/CRDOJ.2020.13.555867
  3. DOI: 10.3390/nu12010029
  4. DOI:10.1186/s13287-020-01753-0

Published by hemaliphysio

Ortho & Sports Physio, The Movement Analyst

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