For Sugar-Free September, I set out guidelines that prohibited all added sugars, including added natural sugars like dried fruit and fruit juice. I also chose to eliminate Stevia. Extracted from a plant, Stevia is a natural and zero calories sweetener that can be used in granular or liquid form, and can be substituted for refined sugar in just about everything. So why did I eliminate Stevia for Sugar-Free September?
Current evidence tells us that Stevia looks pretty ideal when it comes to sweeteners. While older studies were a bit disconcerting, based on the most recent studies, Stevia doesn’t increase appetite or mess with insulin resistance, Stevia doesn’t damage DNA, and despite some concerns, Stevia doesn’t cause infertility (phew!). But it might be a bit of a problem for people with low blood pressure.
That said, while the science seems to indicate that Stevia is safe, based on my review, there are surprisingly few human studies out there, so I think we should still exercise some caution, and not overdo it on this seemingly miraculous sweetener.
I didn’t cut out these natural added sugars because they’re “bad”. I think they’re great alternatives to refined sugar. Since Stevia is no-cal, it’s also a great option for people who are trying to eat a lower calorie diet. I personally cut out these natural added sugars, including Stevia, because I wanted Sugar-Free September to help me foster some new habits. I wanted to turn to carrot sticks for my afternoon snack, not a Stevia-sweetened muffin. A lot of the foods we tend to sweeten are otherwise high calorie, low nutrient foods, so I decided that I’d be better off without them. For one month, anyway.
Unrelated to its health effects, I haven’t found that Stevia works that well as a sugar-replacement in lots of applications and using too much can result in an awful metallic taste. I prefer honey, maple syrup or dates as a natural sweetener.
After Sugar-Free September, I’m thinking about Only Natural October (ok, brutal name…ideas?). This means that instead of diving face first into a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I’m going to limit my added sugars to natural added sugars. Compared to avoiding all added sugars, trying to eat only foods sweetened with natural added sugars could be a habit that I carry on beyond this one-month experiment.
Around the web:
Some tips for choosing the right kind of Stevia
Interested in trying Stevia yourself? Find it here