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Stevia - Nutrition, Benefits, and Side Effects

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Nowadays, stevia is widely raised and utilized. Read the article to learn about stevia's nutritional facts, benefits, and potential risks.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Mansimranjit Kaur Uppal

Published At April 20, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 1, 2024


Stevia, also known as Stevia rebaudiana, is a leafy plant source that resembles the mint plant. It is 300 to 450 times sweeter than sucrose (natural sugar). Stevia leaves have been a part of traditional cuisine and alternative medicine for centuries. It has an ancient origin in South American roots. Stevia leaves are used to yield the raw material needed for distilling the chemical steviol glycoside (SG). Research has shown stevia’s chemical derivatives have many benefits, including antidiabetic, antioxidant, antihypertensive, antimicrobial (against microorganisms), anti-inflammatory, and antitumor actions.

What Is Stevia?

It is a sugar alternative derived from the leaves of the Brazilian and Paraguayan plant Stevia rebaudiana. Steviol glycosides, the active ingredients in stevia, are heat-, pH-, and fermentable-inhibited molecules with 50 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Since stevia's glycosides are not metabolized by the human body, it is a non-nutritive sweetener with no calories. Compared to sugar, it tastes slower to start and lasts longer. Some of its extracts can taste bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations. Stevia is used as a substitute for sugar in food and beverage items that have lower sugar and calorie content.

Why Was Stevia Banned?

The FDA banned stevia in 1991 after preliminary research revealed that it might cause cancer. Rats given large amounts of extract basically had DNA mutations discovered in them. Since stevia would reduce its market share, the sugar industry also had a hidden agenda and actively lobbied against its adoption. As a result, there were legal obstacles that prevented the FDA from accepting stevia right away. Later research, however, contradicted those conclusions, and the FDA lifted its earlier prohibition to permit the importation of stevia leaves and extracts for use in dietary supplements.

Is Stevia Still Banned in the USA?

Stevia is banned in the United State because the researchers proved that stevia is connected to the disease of cancer, but it is no longer. Using stevia in the correct dose is considered as safe and sometimes it may produce side effects like nausea, pain in the stomach, and bloating in the gastric areas.

What Are the Uses of Stevia?

1. Stevia is used commercially in many products, such as sodas, juices, candies, drinks, and baked goods.

2. Stevia products are also used in toothpaste and other dental products owing to their dental benefits and a positive impact on oral flora (microorganisms).

3. Stevia is safe and healthy for general consumption compared to natural sugar (that is calorie-filled and capable of causing blood glucose spikes). It is because it has almost zero calories. Hence, stevia is a great option to sweeten beverages such as coffee or tea.

4. One can add stevia to breakfast cereals, oatmeals, yogurt, or other baked goods.

What Is the Nutrition Content of Stevia?

The nutritional information for one tablespoon (tbsp) of stevia is enlisted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as follows :

  • Fiber: 0 gram (g).

  • Protein: 0 g.

  • Fat: 0 g.

  • Sodium: 0 milligrams (mg).

  • Carbohydrates: 1 g.

  • Calories: 0.

It is important to note that stevia is not a great source of micronutrients. But, because stevia contains zero calories, it can be the most used addition as a sweetener or a sweet tinge to foods without risking any extra calories.

What Are the Health Benefits of Stevia?

1. Weight Management: Research is going on about the effects of stevia in comparison to other sweetening agents in the market for weight management-related effects. The research has been done in rats and shows that stevia could help manage or sustain a healthy body weight in combination with a balanced diet and exercise regimen.

2. Anti-diabetic and Anti-hypertensive Effects: Stevia is a highly researched product by nutrition experts about its impact on diabetes and blood sugar level regularization. Studies show it may augment insulin production (diabetic patients have increased blood glucose and decreased insulin levels). This is because steviol glycoside (SG) metabolism contributes to reduced glucose levels in the blood. On the other hand, in traditional medicine, stevia leaves have also been implicated in stabilizing blood pressure (BP). Hence, stevia may exert a possible anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effect. However, research is still ongoing regarding the exact mechanism of action.

3. Protects Against Cellular Damage and Boosts Immunity: Stevia is plant-based and a rich antioxidant source that can prevent cell damage and maintain cell health. As a result, it can boost body metabolism and immunity.

4. Anti-cancer Effects: SG deprives cancer cells of energy. It is because it manifests cytotoxic (cell-killing) and anti-proliferative effects in cancer cells.

5. Adequate Bioavailability: Stevia has been extensively researched for its absorption into the body cells, metabolism, and excretion. As a result, the major regulatory bodies have agreed regarding its good bioavailability (it refers to the extent a substance becomes completely available to the body).

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Stevia?

1. Some studies show that SG can cause reproductive changes or affect fertility in male rats by showing depleting sperm counts. However, these studies have been inconclusive in humans.

2. Although stevia products have been approved for safe use as artificial sweeteners by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), nutrition experts advise that pregnant and lactating women should be cautious with its use because of a lack of conclusive research on this particular population.

What Are the Disadvantages of Stevia?

1. Baking with stevia is often challenging because it cannot effectively caramelize the dish or dessert.

2. The soft texture of the dish cannot be obtained the same way with stevia as compared to sucrose.

Why Is It Important to Check the Label or Nutrition Facts While Purchasing Stevia?

1. Stevia is compared to other sugar substitutes in the market and is considered a much healthier alternative. However, all stevia-based products are not natural or safe. Hence, it is important to check the label for nutrition information and facts.

2. Many stevia-based products are advertised as having zero calories but may have added artificial sugars, which is counterproductive. If a stevia product contains erythritol (alcohol), sugar, or other flavoring agents, it should be avoided.

3. The inclusion of other sweeteners increases the risk of calorie and carbohydrate consumption. Further, it is not recommended for individuals with tremors and heart palpitations. Therefore, one suffering from heart disease should check the nutrition facts label of the stevia product.

4. A person following a low-sugar diet should consult a registered nutritionist or dietician before including a stevia product.


To conclude, stevia has many advantages, such as zero calories, limited carbohydrate content, and health benefits compared to sugar and other artificial sweeteners. However, more research is needed to establish the same. Also, it would be ideal to check the stevia products processed with artificial or added sugars. Instead, it is safe to use stevia alone for tea, coffee, or baked goods.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop



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