Sugar is the enemy of the keto diet. While trying to maintain a state of ketosis, you need to keep your carb count incredibly low. In fact, most keto dieters consume 30 grams or less of net carbs per day.
Cutting out the sugar isn’t always easy.
Luckily, you can substitute it with sweeteners. Stevia is a sweetener that a lot of people confuse with Splenda. While both products are designed to provide a low-carb alternative to sugar, they are completely different.
Splenda is an artificial sweetener made from real sugar and stevia is a natural sweetener made from a plant extract. If you need to sweeten your foods or drinks while on the keto diet, stevia may offer the solution.
The Basics: How Is Stevia Made?
Stevia is a natural product. It comes from a plant that is native to Brazil and Paraguay. The leaves are dried and crushed to create a powder that can be used as a natural sweetener.
While stevia is now a popular sweetener that can be found online and in health food stores, it has been used for hundreds of years to sweeten foods and drinks. People would also chew on the leaves as a simple, sweet treat.
The leaves from the stevia bush were also used for medical purposes. People would crush the leaves to create healing ointments for burns or medicines for digestive issues.
When sold as a natural sweetener, stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It may even help with hypertension and obesity. However, more studies are needed to explore the potential health benefits.
Is Stevia Keto-Friendly?
Stevia is keto friendly when used in moderation.
Most people use about two teaspoons of stevia when sweetening their drinks. These two teaspoons contain just under one gram of carbohydrates.
While stevia should not derail your keto meal plan, you should use caution. It’s easy to lose track of just how much stevia you use.
If you use it several times throughout the day, you may start adding unnecessary carbs to your diet. Consuming too much of any sugar, including the sugar found in natural sweeteners, may increase your risk of health problems, promote tooth decay, and ruin your keto diet.
It’s best used as an occasional treat when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. It also provides a healthier option compared to most artificial sweeteners.
Stevia is FDA-approved for food consumption and has been thoroughly tested for potentially negative health effects. However, some people claim that stevia upsets their stomachs.
There are anecdotal reports of gastrointestinal distress such as bloating and gas. These issues aren’t widely reported. Luckily, you can avoid them by not using too much stevia.
The only real issue that you should worry about is giving in to your cravings. If you use a sweetener to curb sugar cravings, you may never get over your cravings.
It’s completely normal to crave sugary foods and drinks when you cut sugar out of your diet. Most people tend to get over these cravings within a few weeks. It’s the transition period that is often difficult for new keto dieters to get through.
Alternatives to Stevia
Along with stevia, there are a few other products that you can use as sugar substitutes. Monk fruit, Splenda, Erythritol, Swerve, and various other sweeteners contain some of the sweetness of sugar without the carbs and calories.
Monk fruit and stevia sweeteners are extracted from plants. However, monk fruit may contain more antioxidants, which may provide a few added health benefits. The antioxidants found in monk fruit may fight inflammation, bacteria, and infections.
If monk fruit contains more health benefits, why do people still use Stevia? Stevia is typically much cheaper compared to monk fruit.
There are also a few artificial sweeteners. Splenda and other sucralose-based sweeteners contain the same calories and carbs as stevia and monk fruit, which means that you can safely use them while on the keto diet. However, they may contain their own potential for gastrointestinal discomfort.
Conclusion: Should You Use Stevia on the Keto Diet?
The keto diet requires you to keep track of everything that you eat and drink. You need to watch your macronutrient intake, especially the carbs closely. If you include too many carbs, you’re merely following a low-carb diet instead of the keto diet.
Related: Net carbs
Stevia offers an alternative to sugar. It is a natural sweetener that is several hundred times sweeter than sugar. It also contains almost no carbs or calories. You can safely add it to your food and drinks without throwing your keto diet meal plan out of whack.
The only issue that you may need to worry about is the amount of the sweetener that you use. It should only be used in moderation.
A sweetener is not a magic solution for keeping sugar in your life. It’s a healthy substitute for an occasional treat.