For decades, the general public has been taught that fat in food was the worst thing you could consume. So people sought out fat-free food products, from sour cream and yogurt to meat, dairy, sweets, and everything in between.
The problem, however, is that food without fat doesn’t taste good. So food manufacturers pump these products full of refined sugar instead.
In recent years, many health professionals have sounded the alarm that sugar is the real killer. This has led to a rise in sugar-free sweeteners.
Erythritol vs stevia; one of these sweeteners is in almost everyone’s home, and the other is virtually unknown to consumers. But both are great ways to replace refined sugar from your diet.
Keep reading below to discover which sweetener you should choose and why.
What Is Stevia?
Unlike other popular sugar replacements, stevia is a natural sweetener. It’s not artificial, as the stevia rebaudiana plant is found naturally in places like Brazil and Paraguay.
The active compounds of the plant are found in the leaves and are far sweeter than sugar. The good news about Stevia is that it’s a calorie-free sweetener. Our bodies don’t metabolize the compounds found in the sweetener, meaning you aren’t going to pack on the calories when you pack in the stevia.
If you’re used to refined sugar in your food, sweets, and beverages, then stevia might take some getting used to. The sweetness is a bit less pronounced at first.
Rather than getting all the sweetness upfront, it’s slower to notice but lasts much longer than the taste of refined sugar. And it has a noticeable aftertaste that some people consider unpleasant. This too may take some getting used to.
In the US, stevia extract is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) and is used extensively in food and beverage products. Stevia leaf, and other forms of extract, however, are not approved for food use by the FDA.
Europe has allowed the use of stevia in food processing since 2011 while Asian countries like Japan have been using it for decades. It’s now grown all over the world, with China being one of the leading exporters of stevia products.
In the native growing regions of South America, stevia leaves have been used for thousands of years, renowned for their sweetness. Local peoples have used them to sweeten teas or to consume directly. They also use it as a form of medicine.
Pros and Cons of Stevia
So why should you start using stevia as a sweetener? What are the benefits of stevia that set it apart from sugar and other types of sweeteners?
Benefits of Stevia
Stevia is very sweet. Gram for gram, it’s far sweeter than refined sugar, so a little goes a long way when using stevia extract.
The sweetness is extremely noticeable, although it tastes much different from refined sugar. The sweetness lasts a long time in the mouth, making it enjoyable once you get used to it.
The biggest benefit, however, is that it is all-natural and calorie-free. Usually, natural sweeteners come with calories.
One tablespoon of honey, for example, contains about 64 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrates. It’s made up of glucose and fructose, making this a heavy sweetener. Though it does come with natural vitamins and minerals, especially if it’s darker honey.
A tablespoon of maple syrup contains about 53 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates. So it’s a little better than honey but is often used in much larger quantities.
This is why people love using stevia. It provides all of the sweetness they need, comes from nature, but doesn’t fill your body with calories that you need to burn off later.
Pitfalls of Stevia
Because stevia is highly-purified and comes from nature, it’s not known to have any negative side effects. Stevia has been studied extensively, and many of the claims of negative side effects have been proven false.
So long as stevia is consumed in a purified form and in moderation, you shouldn’t need to worry about negative effects.
This makes it one of the best keto sweeteners to use across your entire diet. No carbs, no calories, all-natural, and no fear of long-term issues.
How to Use Stevia
If you’re new to using stevia, you’re probably wondering how and when to consume it. You can use it anywhere you would use normal sugar.
You can purchase granulated stevia, which looks much like granulated sugar. This lets you use it in baking and cooking recipes. You can sprinkle it on top of the fruit, oatmeal, or other foods you might like to spruce up with a bit of sweetness.
It’s also popular to use stevia in beverages like coffee and tea, in place of calorie-dense sweeteners. For those who like to flavor coffee, you can make a stevia-based sweetener using natural flavors like vanilla.
You can also purchase liquid stevia which works better when using it in beverages.
These days, many stevia enthusiasts grow their own stevia plants at home. They are easy to grow indoors, and you can even purchase mature plants from local garden centers.
Caring for stevia plants is the same as any herb you might grow at home. You can steep the leaves or process them in a variety of ways to utilize your own stevia in recipes.
What Is Erythritol?
Erythritol is another popular sugar replacement. Despite its complicated name, it’s used quite widely in reduced or sugar-free foods.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. When wheat or corn starch is fermented, it produces sugar alcohols, such as erythritol. The end result is a crystalline substance that can be used in the same way as granulated sugar.
You can find this substance naturally in certain fruits, such as watermelon, grapes, peaches, and pears. It’s also found in fermented foods and beverages such as beer, wine, soy sauce, and cheese.
While it’s often consumed naturally in these foods, it’s produced industrially through an intentional fermentation process when used as a sugar replacement.
Erythritol has held FDA approval since 2001 for use in food and beverages.
Pros and Cons of Erythritol
So should use include erythritol in your diet? Here are the pros and cons to weigh as you contemplate sugar replacement.
Benefits of Erythritol
Just like stevia, erythritol is a sweetener that occurs naturally in certain fruits. It also occurs as a natural by-product of fermentation. This is not an artificial sweetener that tricks you into eating healthy.
However, when used as a sugar replacement in sugar-free foods, this substance is produced industrially through means of fermentation. erythritol manufacturers aren’t harvesting this from nature, but rather forcing its production.
Still, it’s a naturally occurring sweetener, regardless of how it’s produced. Along with sweetening foods, it helps them retain moisture as well.
There are numerous sugar alcohols created through fermentation processes The good news is that erythritol contains the least amount of calories. Like stevia, the calorie content is so low that it’s considered calorie-free.
This makes it a great choice for those on a calorie-controlled diet.
Studies have shown that erythritol is an effective sugar replacement for those with diabetes. It doesn’t have a noticeable effect on blood sugar levels, and it could even improve blood pressure levels after eating.
Unlike refined sugar, erythritol is noncariogenic. That means it won’t contribute to tooth decay or cause cavities. It can actually prohibit the growth of oral bacteria, making it beneficial to the mouth.
Lastly, erythritol may even work as a natural pesticide, helping farmers protect crops with a substance that is safe for human consumption.
Problems with Erythritol
Since erythritol is natural and very low in calories, there aren’t too many issues or potential side effects of consuming erythritol on a regular basis.
While erythritol has undergone research over the past few decades, there is more to be done to confirm that this sugar alcohol is an effective, long-term sugar replacement that can be consumed on a daily basis.
Consuming too many sugar alcohols may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. But erythritol is better tolerated than most types of sugar alcohols.
For now, so long as you consume it in moderation, there shouldn’t be any negative side effects you experience.
Erythritol vs Stevia
Erythritol or stevia, which one should you commit to using if you’re done with refined sugar?
The good news is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. Both are naturally occurring. Both are virtually zero calories. And both offer an amazing amount of sweetness without the negative side effects that come with artificial sweeteners.
And both are best consumed in moderation. So using a bit of stevia as a coffee or tea sweetener, and using erythritol as your baking sweetener of choice could be a good way to balance things out and ensure you don’t become too dependent on any one substance.
Both sweeteners are nonnutritive, meaning neither is going to contribute noticeable amounts of nutrients to your body.
There are some key differences to consider, however.
Stevia is far sweeter than sugar, so you’ll use far less than the amount of sugar you might use. Conversely, erythritol is less sweet than sugar, so you’ll probably want to use more than the amount of sugar you might normally use.
The taste is also a factor. Stevia comes with a bit of a bitter aftertaste that can affect the taste of the final product. It takes longer to get used to stevia.
Erythritol won’t change the taste of your food or beverage nearly as much as stevia will. But erythritol doesn’t dissolve as well as sugar or stevia would, as it’s prone to crystallization.
Therefore, it won’t be the best choice for every type of recipe. For best results, learn to appreciate and use both sweeteners to live a sugar-free, healthier, and happier lifestyle.
Other Sweeteners to Consider
While these might be two of the most popular natural sweeteners, they certainly aren’t your only options when taking the keto or low carb diet seriously.
We already discussed how honey and maple syrup are a bit too calorically dense for our liking. So what are some calorie-free options?
Xylitol is another sugar alcohol. While it’s low in calories, it has more than erythritol. It’s great for oral health and may even support a healthy gut.
Just keep it away from your dogs, as it’s toxic to your furry friend.
Yacon syrup, like stevia, comes from a plant native to South America. The yacon plant is processed into a syrup and is very high in soluble fibers.
It can help prevent constipation. But be careful about consuming too much of this fibrous sweetener.
Lastly, try monk fruit. This fruit from Southeast Asia produces one of the sweetest extracts.
Mon fruit extract is free from calories and carbs, and may also act as an antioxidant. There aren’t any known side effects, but research on it is slimmer than other natural sweeteners.
Using the Best Sweeteners
Before you go out and buy new sweeteners for your pantry, be sure to read the ingredient labels. Many companies will sell products called stevia or monk fruit extract even though they contain other ingredients.
To lower costs, they will add filler ingredients and other sugary sweeteners to their products, which defeats the purpose.
Whether you buy online or in-store, make sure you are buying pure, non-diluted sweeteners to ensure you aren’t consuming any secret refined sugars.
And make sure you don’t indulge too much. While none of these sweeteners come with horrible side effects, they can all cause digestive discomfort if consumed in high quantities.
Pace yourself and try adding the smallest amount of sweetener possible. If more is needed, you can always add some.
The Sugar-Free Life
Erythritol vs stevia, now you know the key differences and similarities. When it comes down to it, it really depends on what you are using the sweetener for and which taste you prefer.
Stevia is very popular, but many can’t get used to the aftertaste. Both are worth trying to see which you prefer. No matter what make sure to toss out that refined sugar today.
Looking for more health tips like this? Visit our blog now to keep reading.