The stevia plant or Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, originates from South America and has leaves that are 300 times sweeter than regular sugar. For more than 1,500 years, the Guaraní natives of South America, particularly Brazil and Paraguay have used the succulent benefits of stevia leaf to sweeten their medicines and teas. Due to its increase in popularity over the last century, it’s being imported into the United States more rapidly than ever before

Stevia is one of my favorite all-natural sweeteners. I grew stevia as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Paraguay from 1995 to 1997. I even helped farmers export stevia plants to Japan and the U.S. 

Recently, stevia has been the center of a controversial discussion. Many celebrate stevia as a safe, healthy alternative to sugar, highlighting the many benefits of stevia leaf. Others argue that stevia is harmful and should be avoided. So much contradicting information and opinions have left many questioning whether stevia is good or bad.

In this article, I’ll explain stevia leaf benefits and how this sweetener could help reduce your sugar intake. I’ll also clear up some of the misconceptions that may have you asking, is stevia good for you?

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What is Stevia Leaf?

Stevia leaf is a plant belonging to the chrysanthemum family, a subgroup of the Asteraceae or ragweed family. The leaves of the plant get their sweetness from substances called glycosides, which are molecules that contain sugar bonded to another compound.

Research shows stevia is a healthy alternative because it does not accumulate in the body but rather passes through during metabolization. Unlike other sugar alternatives, stevia contains zero calories and does not impact your blood sugar levels. It’s even 300 times sweeter than regular sugar.

Stevia has recently gained popularity, often marketed as a natural alternative to sweeteners and sugar. Products such as soft drinks, candy, and baked goods use stevia instead of sugar. 1  However, some brands, use Truvia and Pure Via which are synthetic and contain sugar alcohols, and other additives.

While natural stevia is a good option, processed and synthetic sweeteners don’t have the same stevia leaf benefits. In fact, many of them contain potentially harmful additives. Therefore, seeking products that use 100% natural stevia is critical. 

What’s the Difference Between Natural Stevia and Synthetic Sugar Substitutes?

Aspartame, erythritol, and sucralose are harmful synthetic sweeteners commonly used as sugar substitutes. Recently, the New York Times published and article explaining the possible link between Aspartame causing cancer in humans. 2

  • Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener often used in diet sodas and other low-calorie or sugar-free products. Studies link aspartame to serious health problems, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, stroke, and dementia. 3 It has also been associated with other health risks, such as gut dysbiosis, mood disorders, headaches, and migraines. 
  • Erythritol is a sugar alcohol often used in low-carb and keto products. Research links erythritol to heart attack, stroke, and death. 4
  • Sucralose is a zero-calorie sweetener used in sugar-free products. Studies link sucralose to leukemia, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, liver inflammation, metabolic dysfunction, and other illnesses.

Certain stevia products on grocery store shelves, such as Truvia, Pure Via, and Stevia in the Raw are made from a highly refined stevia leaf extract called rebaudioside A (Reb-A), often containing synthetic substitutes. Meanwhile, sugar is linked to health risks such as obesity, diabetes, poor gut health, and heart disease. In pure form, stevia leaf can be a great, natural sweetener without the health risks associated with sugar or synthetic substitutes. 

Now that you understand the differences and what to look out for, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of natural stevia leaf.

Stevia Leaf Benefits

5 Health Benefits of Stevia Leaf - Infographic - Amy Myers MD®

A string of outdated studies may have you wondering is stevia good for you? Let’s explore the primary stevia leaf benefits one at a time. 

Helps Maintains Blood Sugar Levels

Stevia leaf can help maintain blood sugar levels, making it the ideal sweetener for patients with diabetes. One study revealed that dried stevia leaf powder lowered blood sugar levels in people with diabetes during fasting or after meals. 5

Helps Improve Cholesterol Levels

Another stevia leaf benefit is that it helps improve cholesterol levels. Research shows that stevia leaf may contribute to lower total cholesterol, harmful LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Study participants consumed 20 milliliters of stevia extract daily for one month. The results revealed stevia leaf lowered the unhealthy cholesterol and raised the beneficial HDL cholesterol with no negative side effects. 

Supports Weight Loss

One tablespoon of sugar contains about 45 calories. As I previously mentioned, stevia leaf is non-nutritive or non-caloric, meaning it has zero calories as well as a low energy and carbohydrate profile. This means that stevia may support weight loss by reducing your caloric intake. Furthermore, stevia leaf has also been found to potentially suppress appetite or cravings. 6 

Exhibits Antimicrobial Properties

A study evaluated the antimicrobial activity of ethanol and water extract of Stevia rebaudiana. Researchers compared Stevia rebaudiana against four bacterial strains and one fungal strain. They concluded that stevia contains antibacterial activity, suggesting that stevia could be a valuable source of new antimicrobial compounds. 7

Support Healthy Inflammatory Response

Stevia leaf also supports a healthy inflammatory response. Research suggests stevia has been found helpful in decreasing inflammation and immunomodulation. Switching to stevia can empower your health journey, especially if you have inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, or allergies. In addition, stevia can also reduce inflammation in the colon and protect against colitis.

Natural Sugar Substitute 

Consuming excess sugar can have a negative impact on your health. High added-sugar consumption has been associated with higher risks of diabetes, poor gut health, autoimmune conditions, and even gout. Obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, asthma, tooth decay, depression, and early death are all risks that sugar magnifies. 

Best Natural Sweetener for AIP Diet

Sugar is especially risky if you have an autoimmune condition. When following the AIP or an elimination diet, it is a must to avoid sugar. Stevia leaf complies with the AIP diet, as it contains no grains, legumes, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nightshades, or additives. Stevia is my favorite natural sweetener and a great natural alternative to sugar. 

Stevia and Leaky Gut

Added sugars, such as sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, are detrimental to your overall gut health. Your gut has a delicate balance of both good and bad bacteria. When you consume too much sugar, it can alter your gut microbiota. This disruption may feed yeasts and bad bacteria, increasing your risk of gut conditions such as leaky gut, Candida overgrowth, and SIBO. 

Conversely, stevia leaf has no known negative effects on your intestinal flora. It also has antimicrobial properties that may help protect the gut from infections. For a sweet, soothing, and refreshing drink, you can mix Leaky Gut Revive® Strawberry Lemonade, naturally sweetened with pure stevia leaf, into water, a smoothie, or craft a cooler.

Stevia Sweetened Protein Bars & Powders

Many protein bars and powders on the market use sugar or synthetic sweeteners such as Pure Via. I recommend avoiding protein bars and powders containing sugar or artificial sweeteners and opting for natural products with stevia leaf. 

The Myers Way® Paleo Protein Double Chocolate and Paleo Protein Vanilla Bean are both sweetened with natural stevia leaf. I’ve even crafted the perfect on-the-go protein snacks for a convenient sweet tooth cure.

The Final Word on Stevia Leaf

In short, sugar can negatively impact your immune system, cause an inflammatory response, contribute to poor gut health, cause weight gain, and hinder your overall health and well-being. I recommend limiting your sugar intake and opting for a natural substitute such as stevia leaf.
Removing sugar from your diet and replacing it with stevia may help manage cholesterol, facilitate weight loss, and reduce further gut health damage. That’s why I include natural stevia leaf in many of my products, such as the Myers Way® Paleo Protein Double Chocolate, and Leaky Gut Revive® Strawberry Lemonade. If you’re eliminating all sugars and sweeteners from your diet, I also offer unflavored products without any natural stevia leaf.