Got a sweet tooth? While cane sugar is a no-go for the ketogenic diet, there are plenty of sugar alternatives that make their way into keto recipes. Monk fruit, erythritol, and stevia are a few of the most commonly used sweeteners.
If you’re new to keto and wondering about stevia, keep reading. This post will explore stevia, the all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener that also has several health benefits.
What Is Stevia?
First, let’s cover what stevia isn’t. Stevia is not an artificial sweetener. Many artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, are linked to increased rates of cancer, so it’s understandable if you’re a bit wary about a “zero-calorie sweetener.” 
But stevia isn’t like the other artificial sweeteners because it isn’t artificial. In fact, it comes from a shrub from South America: Stevia rebaudiana.  It has been used by natives for over 200 years, but the Japanese began to use it as a sweetener in the 1970s.
All the Sweetness with Zero Calories
It sounds too good to be true, but stevia is nothing like the artificial zero-calorie sweeteners. Stevia gains its sweetness from 11 types of steviol glycosides.These compounds give stevia its unique sweetness as well as the associated health benefits. The FDA has declared stevia is safe to consume, and here’s the best part, it’s 300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar) which means you don’t even need to use a lot of it.
While munching on actual stevia leaves would rack up a few calories (even 11 grams of mint leaves contains 5 calories), it’s the way stevia is processed that keeps it calorie-free. You don’t need to eat the leaves so stevia companies create a process to get the sweetness without the leaves. 
- First, the stevia leaves are dried – much like how tea leaves are dried.
- The dried leaves are then steeped in hot water. Again, this is very similar to making tea.
- The “stevia tea” is then filtered and purified. Sometimes purified water is added, and sometimes food-grade alcohol is used instead.
- If food-grade alcohol was used, it will later be removed. There should be no trace of alcohol in the remaining product.
Is Stevia Healthy?
We know stevia is natural, we know it’s sweet, but is it healthy? It’s odd to think of a sweetener as “healthy” especially since no one would consider a cup of cane sugar to be “healthy”, but the reality is that stevia does come with some health benefits.
Here is a list of health benefits associated with stevia consumption. Stevia:
- Promotes good oral health, specifically reduced plaque levels 
- Promotes liver health 
- Supports healthy blood pressure 
- Provides antioxidant properties and can help reduce inflammation
- Helps manage blood sugar levels. It’s even used in both Brazil and Paraguay to help manage diabetes! 
Is Stevia Keto-Friendly?
Stevia is keto-friendly, which means sweet treats are not out of the question for you.
The goal of the keto diet is to shift your body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body uses fat (not sugar) for fuel. Consuming sugar and carbs (which are metabolized as sugar) can quickly take you out of ketosis. Stevia can be safely consumed on the keto diet because it won’t kick you out of ketosis. This is true for the same reason that stevia is traditionally used to help reduce insulin levels – stevia won’t raise blood sugar levels. 
Choosing Your Favorite Type of Stevia
From powdered stevia to liquid stevia, there are several types of stevia products available. While we don’t endorse a specific product, we want to make sure you’re choosing the most wholesome product. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Check the label. A high-purity stevia extract should be standardized to at least 95% glycosides, per FDA guidelines.  Avoid any product with less.
- Choose powdered, granulated or liquid stevia but skip the actual leaves or any other format.
- Avoid any stevia products that contain fillers, artificial flavors, added sugar, or sugar alcohol.
Using Stevia to Sweeten Your Desserts
Do you use stevia? Share your experience with us!
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Kathryn Trudeau is a content writer and educational professional whose work centers on health and wellness and organic living. She has a passion for nutrition and fitness. She loves matcha, running, and crocheting.