Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Feb

A Primal Primer: Stevia

steviaAfter last week’s article many of you asked about a natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners: stevia. It is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.

Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow (according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market), and the raw leaf is very sweet.

Most stevia you’ll come across isn’t in its raw, unprocessed form, but in powdered or liquid extract form. The “sweet” lies in the steviol glycosides – stevioside and rebaudioside – which are isolated in these extracts. Some products use just one, while others use both stevioside and rebaudioside. Stevioside is the most prevalent glycoside in stevia, and some say it provides the bitter aftertaste that people sometimes complain about; rebaudioside is said to be the better tasting steviol glycoside, with far less bitterness. Most of the “raw or natural” stevia products use the full range of glycosides, but the more processed brands will most likely isolate one or more of the steviol glycosides. The popular Truvia brand of stevia products uses only rebaudioside, as do both PureVia and Enliten. Different brands provide different conversion rates, but compared to sucrose, stevioside is generally about 250-300 times as sweet and rebaudioside is about 350-450 times as sweet.

Does Stevia Affect Insulin?

There is one in vitro study that showed stevioside acts directly on pancreatic beta cells to stimulate insulin secretion and another which shows similarly insulinotropic effects of rebaudioside, which may give you pause. Insulin secretion sounds like an insulin spike, no? And since we tend to be wary of unneeded insulin spikes, maybe we should avoid stevia. It’s not so simple, of course. For one, this was an in vitro study, performed in a super-controlled laboratory petri dish type setting; this was not an in vivo study of animals or people eating stevia in a natural, organic way. The results of in vitro studies are notorious for not panning out when you try to replicate them in vivo. Secondly, insulin secretion isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, we need it to shuttle nutrients into cells, and we’d die without it. As I mentioned in the dairy post a few weeks back, insulin is millions upon millions of years old. It’s been preserved throughout history because it’s an essential hormone. It’s not always the bad guy, especially if you’re insulin sensitive.

In fact, the evidence is mounting that stevia actually is an insulin sensitizer that can aid in glucose tolerance and clearance after a meal. The Japanese have been using stevia for decades in the treatment of type 2 diabetics. Let’s look at a few recent studies. In fructose-fed rats, a single instance of oral stevioside increased insulin sensitivity and reduced postprandial blood glucose in a dose-dependent manner. The same study also found that diabetic rats given stevioside required less exogenous insulin for the same effect. Taken together, these results suggest that stevia may not just be a good sugar substitute for diabetics, but an effective supplement for treatment of their insulin resistance.

Another study looked at the postprandial effects of stevia, sucrose, and aspartame in human subjects. Compared to sucrose eaters, stevia eaters showed lower postprandial blood sugar levels. Compared to both sucrose and aspartame eaters, stevia eaters had far lower postprandial insulin levels. Furthermore, eating stevia did not induce increased appetite throughout the day, indicating stable blood sugar and satiety levels. Another strike in stevia’s favor.

Any Other Effects?

There are other potential benefits to using stevia unrelated to its apparent benefits on glycemic control. Here are a few studies I was able to dig up:

  • When combined with inulin, a soluble prebiotic fiber, low-dose stevia increased HDL while lowering overall lipids in male rats. Alone, low-dose stevia lowered cholesterol without the potentially beneficial effect on HDL. It’s also useful to note that high-dose stevia negatively affected some toxic parameters – so don’t eat spoonfuls of stevia (not that you would) – but long term low-dose stevia was deemed safe.
  • Lipid numbers are fun and all, but we’re really interested in avoiding atherosclerotic plaque buildup. In mice treated with stevioside, oxidized LDL was reduced, overall plaque volume was reduced, and insulin sensitivity increased. Overall, atherosclerosis was reduced in the stevioside-treated mice. I couldn’t dig up exactly how they were “treated,” however, but they were given doses of 10 mg/kg.
  • In another study, mice memory was impaired by administration of scopolamine, an anticholigernic found in the intensely hallucinogenic jimson weed (or devil’s weed) and datura. Impaired mice were given oral stevioside (250 mg/kg) and tested for memory retention. Memory deficit was largely reversed with administration of stevioside, which also reduced the brain oxidative damage caused by scopolamine. Clinically relevant? Perhaps not, but it’s interesting.
  • A two-year randomized, placebo-controlled study of Chinese patients with mild hypertension (which a rather large swath of society probably suffers from) found that oral stevioside intake significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Patients either took a 500 mg capsule of stevioside or a placebo three times a day for two years. The hypertension situation improved across the board and no downsides were reported or detected. Also of note is the fact that slightly more patients in the placebo group developed left ventricular hypertrophy, a pathological thickening of the heart muscle. Of course, another study using far lower doses (up to 15 mg/kg/day) found no anti-hypertensive effects, so it appears that the dose is key. Maybe somewhere in the middle works well, as one study in hypertensive dogs showed: they used 200 mg/kg to normalize blood pressure in the canine subjects.

We can think about stevia as a Primal sugar alternative with some potentially therapeutic effects. Kind of like cinnamon or turmeric, we don’t consume it for the calories or as literal fuel for our bodies, but for flavor, variety, and, possibly, the health benefits. It may induce insulin secretion, but it increases insulin sensitivity, reduces blood glucose (i.e., the insulin is doing its job), and does not increase appetite. It’s been used by humans for hundreds of years and by diabetic patients in Asia for decades. The goofy health food store dude who claims aspartame was created by Donald Rumsfeld to give us cancer may be a vociferous supporter of it, but don’t hold that against stevia. I’m a fan of the stuff and recommend it as a Primal way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

What do you guys think of stevia? Love it? Hate it? Have you ever used its potential therapeutic effects? Let me know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. YES! Been using it for years. Props! Its no good on its own – add it to fruit based things and you have a sensation on your hands.

    Graham wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Stevia is amazing–the liquid form anyways–and I use it in drinks all the time. Sweetleaf makes a really good one, and so does…Nature Pharmaceuticals, I believe it’s called? Either way, it’s like coconut oil, a total staple in my house.

      Clymb wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • Some of the sweetleaf liquid stevia extracts contain Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and that shit is horrible and should never be ingested. Check ingredients before using! (Yes, I know this is an old comment, but in case someone stumbles across this now, I wanted to make sure they were aware of the ingredients of these products.)

        Katelyn wrote on November 26th, 2012
        • Agreed, so many stevia products contain so many additives all, at the end of the day, to dress themselves up to impersonate sugar. Some are a million miles away, others get pretty close to having the same properties, taste and health implications.

          Simon wrote on December 19th, 2012
        • What is horrible about GSE (Grapefruit seed extract)? I use it as a natural antibiotic for myself and my pets and it works fantastic! As for Stevia, its the only sweetener I consume and its great except I only use pure stevia – Commercial brands use additives that are not good for you! For instance, Truvia’s First Ingredient on the label (ie the largest part of the product) is Erythritol — not healthy! Who knows how much actual Stevia they put in it??

          Chris G wrote on October 25th, 2013
        • I used to use GSE, and wondered the same thing that Chris G. asked (why is it horrible and should never be ingested?). Here’s a negative review about GSE from Dr. Weil’s page, which doesn’t concern the grapefruit seeds or pulp in particular, but has to do with the way that it is processed and the harmful additives present in many brands of the stuff:
          http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400888/Is-Grapefruit-Seed-Extract-Any-Good.html

          Miriam wrote on December 10th, 2013
    • I’ve been using Stevita brand. I bought the pure stevia powder (minimum 95% stevia crystals) and the spoonable version that has Erythritol as a bulking agent to mimic a sugar substitute more closely. After using both for several months now, I prefer the pure powder for all applications.

      I am not finding that the spoonable stevita is close enough to a sugar substitute to warrant its use. I do use it for coffee still, but when my packets run out, I will switch it.

      The pure powder is extremely sweet, and I don’t mind the slight aftertaste. I put it in drinks and add some sweetness to certain recipes.

      By the way, the stuff lasts FOREVER! I bought a little $5 one ounce container and its listed for 200 uses. (1/32 of a teaspoon). It’s not even half gone yet after several months of regular use.

      My conclusion: I love it. It works. It’s inexpensive, and it’s a great natural sweetener option.

      Jack Kronk wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • I tend to use Steviva brand (20% off all products this month – sorry couldn’t avoid the plug)- as well as the pure powder they also have a product with Erythritol as a bulking, and sweetening agent. Unlike the pure powder it doesn’t have any adverse taste. We (I say we as I’m not a cook) use it just as we would sugar, in drinks and baking – my wife makes some mean brownies with it. If you use the powder then I guess you’ll need to adjust the amount of other ingredients to make up for the lack of volume.

        Simon wrote on December 19th, 2012
    • Well, I am a pre-diabetic and consuming some Stevia based products for 10 months and the truth is that I’m doing well, I’ve lost weight and most importantly I can eat sweet food safely. Recommend this page where I’m buying my Stevia for 6 months and have several forms: liquid, powder, filter bags and leaves.

      http://nutrastevia.com/en/store

      Regards

      Mitchel wrote on December 26th, 2012
      • I am a cancer survivor and have recently been diagnosed with diabetes. While I was sick I began reading to find a way to get healthy. I use stevia and I am concerned about all the conflicting information. One thing I have found that is certain, is that eating refined sugar and grains is killing us. I now eat ONLY whole grains and nothing with refined sugar. Another thing to look into is the health benefits of coconut oil.

        Sharon wrote on March 22nd, 2014
        • Congratulations on your good news! My Mom was a cancer survivor and passed away 30 years later at age of 87.

          Have you read Mark’s articles on whole grains and how they may affect insulin levels? I think his original book has a section on foods that are not recommended and why they are not.

          As far as Stevia goes, the last studies I read indicated that it is not insulinogenic. I have included some links to them. When researching I usually try to read actual studies that are peer reviewed and are by a recognizable entity. Too many ‘internet experts’ decide that something is either bad for you or a miracle…based on anecdotal information or studies taken out of context.
          Of course a good way to tell for your needs would be to measure your blood glucose as a baseline and then use some stevia and see if your glucose level rises.

          I wish you well.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2900484/

          http://www.agricultureinformation.com/forums/general-questions-answers/11701-recent-studies-stevia.html

          Emory wrote on March 28th, 2014
    • A recent convert to the primal lifestyle and I am trying to wean myself off of Equal and Splenda type products. I bought Whole Foods, Stevia Extract Liquid and it’s not bad. I add to coffee, tea and this morning to my Greek yogurt and fruit, it was great! I know I have to give my taste buds time to change and it won’t happen overnight, but after reading the article I now have more an incentive to switch. Thanks for great informative article.

      Dee wrote on July 24th, 2013
    • I have not been able to use it with success. It has a bitter taste. I tried it in my coffee instead of splendid and it was horrible. I’m currently using coconut palm sugar.

      Carrie wrote on November 3rd, 2013
    • The best stevia brand I’ve tried is from Trader Joe’s. It’s pure without fillers and organic. Absolutely no aftertaste. And for 622 servings in 1oz for $11, it’s an awesome bargain. It has rebaudiana 45mg per micro scoop.

      Allen R. wrote on March 18th, 2014
    • hm, i may have to disagree with you on that one. i just bought a few stevia plants today at my local greenhouse and i tasted a few of the leaves by themselves and was quite surprised by how yummy and sweet it was. and apparently it only takes 3 plants to yield up to a year’s supply of the stuff. of course everyone’s mileage may vary, but that’s pretty economical. to make the powder, you just dry the leaves in an oven or dehydrater and then pulverize them.

      James wrote on May 7th, 2014
  2. eeeewww, sorry – sounds so good and all – but after numerous trials with different kinds of stevia products – just can’t gag it down on anything – funny initial and aftertaste – i wish i could find out more about the insulin-driving effects of sugar alcohols like xylitol – they are quite palatable and with xylitol – the GI is about 7 vs 100 for normal table sugar – still something but i have notices quite clearly that 2 or 3 xylitol muffins (coconut flour) slathered with better don’t give me anything like the rush that just a few pieces of lower-content cacao chocolate does (with sugar) –
    does anyone have links to good insulin studies with sugar alcohols??
    thankr!
    Ravi

    DaiaRavi wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • jeeeze – sorry for all dem typo’s..

      DaiaRavi wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • I would like to know this too. I love using xylitol.

      Gena wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • Think paleonu(.com) covered xylitol in brief when talking about FODMAPs.

        “They do get fermented in the colon, though, and it is possible to exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome or get osmotic diarrhea from, say, compulsively chewing sugarless gum or eating “diabetic” chocolates. ”

        Didnt really read it in depth, as I personally don’t use too much artificial sweeteners.

        Evan wrote on February 8th, 2011
        • checked out his comments on xylitol – not much but a good quick explain why xylitol is not as bad for teeth and GI – doesn’t get processed till much if at all till the large colon where it is fermented and there can cause some diarrhea – but anecdotal (ours too) is that any bowel discomfort passes with a few days of consumption – don’t have any further problem with it now – Polyols (what xylitol is) do occur naturally in fruits says Kurt-
          personally – i think this is a very palatable and only marginally-not-paleo substitute–

          DaiaRavi wrote on February 9th, 2011
        • Xylitol is very poisonous to dogs (or so I have read). So if you have a dog be careful about storing xylitol products out of their reach and not sharing treats with them. My dog has a serious sweet tooth, so I am glad to see that stevia appears to be safe for him. I usually give him a dash of regular table sugar on his oatmeal, but if he gets some stevia sweetened leftovers it’s good to know they won’t hurt him.

          Michele Ellington wrote on February 23rd, 2011
        • Michelle, your dog should be eating meat. Raw meat. Not oatmeal with sugar. Here’s an interesting website I once came across: http://rawfed.com/

          Brian Kozmo wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • Not a fan of it in a lot of things but I do use a few drops in my Yogurt (FAGE total) to take the sour edge off. For some reason it works really weel for me that way.

      Mojo Yugen wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Read up on FODMAPS and potential issues with xylitol here: http://goo.gl/5QGFp

      Shamus wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Just found a little information about sugar alcohols and posted a thread in the Odds and Ends Area. Covers some interesting stuff about the inequality of carbs! Fructose in particular.

      Kelda wrote on February 9th, 2011
    • I use the stevia powder from Trader Joe’s (“Trader Darwin”) and it has no funny initial or aftertaste…might wanna check it out! It’s a powder rather than crystal so that might have something to do with it.

      Jillian wrote on February 11th, 2011
    • Have you tried Now Foods Stevia Glycerite? I find it quite good if you don’t overdo it. You just have to find the right amount for your taste. Amazon and iherb.com sell the Now Foods Stevia Glycerite for about $15 or $20 an 8oz bottle, but it lasts for many months.

      Cara wrote on April 23rd, 2011
    • Hi Ravi and Gena, xylotol and sugar alcohols (its the ol at the end of the sugar name that indicates it is an alcohol) should be avoided as they are likely to aggrevate the liver and give an insulin spike-like normal drinking alcohol. So just use the STEVIA Extract powder only.

      Mara wrote on February 13th, 2012
    • Ravi, have you tried the NuStevia marketed at Vitamin World? It comes in a blue and white box, and it actually tastes very good! No aftertaste noticed at all in contrast to the other stevia products I have also tried. Agree with you – I couldn’t stand the taste of them.

      Joy

      Joy wrote on September 9th, 2013
  3. Glad to hear it, since I have been making chocolate mousse with this (and dark unsweetened chocolate and fresh eggs, naturally) and it is delicious.

    J wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Ooh, recipe please :)

      Misabi wrote on February 8th, 2011
  4. As with any phytochemical, the dose-response function is important to keep in mind. Nice post!

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on February 8th, 2011
  5. It’s ok for sweetening beverages or plain yogurt and things of that nature, but it’s horrifyingly bad, bad, bad if you’re trying to use it for baking.

    Rebecca wrote on February 8th, 2011
  6. Yes I like xylitol and it tastes and measures like sugar. It is made from birch trees. Also it maintains its flavor when heat is used.
    I use it moderately and I have no gastro effects from it either.

    Gayle wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Had to add my 2c about Xylitol – although the marketing likes to say its made from birch (which is can be), its more commonly made from corn as a cheaper source. So check your product if you want to remain grain free!

      precious wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • I read my package and yes the brand I use is made from birch trees. I have seen another brand made from corn

        Gayle wrote on February 9th, 2011
  7. i would not use stevia since it makes u get used to sweet more. getting used to not using sweet as much is better. you get so used to it that even carrot tastes like sweet

    salim wrote on February 8th, 2011
  8. I tried it and tried to like it but, yuck!!!! I would rather do without. I have noticed that as time goes on I look for sweet stuff less and less often. Which thrills me.

    But, I am a primal newbie who is on a weight loss quest. Fun read and if, I ever change my mind I know it will be in the archives.

    Have a good day my fellow Grokers I’m off to do some reading and walking in the California sun.

    Peace,
    And eggs and bacon to all

    primal tree top wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • I agree, yuck. Have tried it several times over the years and just can’t like it. I mostly drink coffee and tea unsweetened anyway and when I want something sweetened I use sucanat, agave, or raw honey.

      Lynn wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • Do you realise how much fructose is in argave syrup?! You’re better off putting sugar in your tea.

        Joey wrote on March 3rd, 2013
    • Same here and it gets me thinking about all things sweet. Best to go cold turkey for me.

      Alison Golden wrote on February 8th, 2011
  9. aw, thanks for the thoughtful & insiteful post! I have just been trying stevia in the past few months to help with my sweet cravings. Just 2-4 drops in a (lg) coffee or hot tea. I like it best in tea but I’m getting used to it in my coffee. When you’re trying to cut back, even cutting the 4gms of carbs in a spoon of sucanat helps.

    Peggy wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Why doesn’t Starbuck’s offer Stevia sweetened drinks!?!

      The Skinny Vanilla Latte would ROCK with almond milk and stevia!

      Ok never mind.

      Danielle wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • Or drinks made with Almond and Coconut milk….. mmmmmmmmmm.

        Mary wrote on February 8th, 2011
        • i make chocolate drinks with almond and coconut milk. still trying to figure out how to get a good sweetness and flavor. stevia doesnt quite do it, but maybe im adding too little (or too much?)

          pixel wrote on February 8th, 2011
        • Or hazelnut milk – that stuff is the bidness (but somewhat expensive – $7 a litre – unless you make it yourself, which I don’t).

          A vanilla-hazelnut latté? Sign me up to that.

          GT wrote on May 19th, 2011
      • Yes!!!! If Starbucks would offer Coconut milk and Almond Milk and Stevia, I would definitely go there more often.

        Gloria Davis wrote on December 14th, 2011
      • I agree ~ it would be great if Starbuck’s would use Stevia ~ I love the energy drinks, but worry about the sugar bathing my teeth.

        I have switched to making my own sweet drinks with Stevia flavored drops and club soda. I have had too many cavities for someone my age.

        I sure hope it helps. I also hope Starbucks will try some more healthy alternatives and organic milks/drinks etc.

        Ari wrote on June 17th, 2013
        • If you have cavity problems, I’d guess that the carbonic acid is wiping out the calcium in your system (combining with the acid to neutralize it) leaving your teeth and bones deficient.

          Happily, you can counteract the calcium loss by adding more calcium through supplementation.

          Unhappily, this won’t stop the kidney stones in your future.

          Good luck!

          suicidal idiot wrote on July 22nd, 2013
  10. Hmm. Seems that most of the studies were with either both extracts or just stevioside. So I guess Truvia is not proven to have these beneficial effects, right?

    yodiewan wrote on February 8th, 2011
  11. Thanks for the timely post. Sometimes, I like my coffee sweetened, and I just switched sweeteners for my coffee to Stevia In The Raw. I’ve been reading what I could find about it and it looked safe enough to try.
    Again, Thanks for the post.

    Jim wrote on February 8th, 2011
  12. I recently bought liquid stevia to add to recipes that call for it. BUT….is there a ratio that I could use to possibly convert the liquid to more of a sugar measurement? For instance, a tsp of sugar = X drops of stevia. If anyone has any insight into this question I would be in your debt. I have a few recipes that call for sweeteners like honey or maple syrup and I was thinking about subbing in the stevia.

    George wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Or a quick Google search just answered my own question. I am kind of embarrassed.

      http://www.stevia.net/conversion.html

      George wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • no need to be embarrassed. It happens to all of us :)

        Barefoot Paul wrote on February 8th, 2011
  13. Dan Quinn is one of the leading advocates of stevia and has been preaching its many virtues for years. You can look him up in Google to see his work.

    Stevia is great.

    Stanley Striker wrote on February 8th, 2011
  14. I grow it in my garden and also have a bottle of the liquid in my pantry. I’ve found it useful for cutting down on sugar – for example, I’ll put 1/4 tsp sugar and 1 or 2 drops of stevia in a cup of coffee. I can’t take it on its own as a sweetener though; I find it to be even worse tasting than artificial sweeteners (which I think are disgusting). I’ve also noticed that commercial products sweetened with stevia seem to taste REALLY sweet. I don’t know if these things are just sweetened too much for my taste, or if I’m overly sensitive to the stevia.

    Audry wrote on February 8th, 2011
  15. How about a post on Xylitol?

    DajM wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Mark, if you do a post on xylitol, would you include the other sugar alcohols, please? i prefer erythritol and maltitol, myself….

      tess wrote on February 8th, 2011
  16. I just don’t get sweet cravings since I went primal. I have some birch sugar and agave nector, and I never use either.

    Mark wrote on February 8th, 2011
  17. I use stevia all the time. I mostly use it for cooking. When you have kids, it’s nice to be able to bake cookies/cakes for the kids so that they don’t feel so ‘differnt’ from the rest of the kids who are eating a SAD. I use almond flour, coconut flour and coconut oil in all my cooking so everything is very low glycemic.

    Laura wrote on February 8th, 2011
  18. So what’s the difference between Truvia and Stevia?

    The Real Food Mama wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Truvia is processed stevia (rebaudioside only, none of the bitter stevioside), + erythritol. The stevia makes the erythritol much, much sweeter than erythritol otherwise would be, so you don’t need to use as much, but like erythritol, it’s still good for baking. I’ve found it’s particularly good for chocolate desserts, and for egg-based desserts. I don’t sweeten coffee or tea but I’ve had guests use it in hot drinks in preference to sugar or other sugar substitutes. Combined with seltzer it’s good for home-made soda type drinks and I’d imagine it’d work for cocktails (I can’t remember if the latter are an acceptable primal cheat!). It’s spendy compared to stevia, since the conversion ratio to sugar is closer to 1:1.

      Sarah wrote on February 8th, 2011
  19. Thank you for this post- I was just researching the subject of sugar yesterday. Any suggestions on brands of stevia? I’d like to think that if I’m going to use it that it should still come from as natural source as possible. I’m also wondering about sugar beets. Maybe I’ve missed it (only been around the site for 8-10 mo. or so) but what is everyone’s take on simply growing beets (organically, in my own garden) and making my own sugar? Sure, I’ll still get that insulin spike, but used sparingly, wouldn’t sugar from my vegetable garden still be more Primal? I guess it depends on where Grok was living as to where the sugar he used came from, don’t you think? As a very white Polish girl, I imagine I’d do a little better by rummaging around in the dirt rather than looking for sweet leaves in the jungle! :)

    Sara wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • i’ve been trying various types of stevia, and i notice a GREAT deal of difference in flavor. the more unrefined the source (including a plant which thrived in my garden last year, and OnlySweet), the better it tasted in tea and the worse in coffee! i’m most partial to Now’s liquid, and SweetLeaf powder in packets for general use. i think you need to try various forms/brands to see what suits YOU best.

      tess wrote on February 8th, 2011
  20. My guess now that is Truvia is the brand name and that it is also Stevia??

    The Real Food Mama wrote on February 8th, 2011
  21. Put it like this, homeboy. Dan Quinn has touted stevia’s success and if you want more hits to your website you need to interview him, Ted Koppel. Oh, yeah!

    zolte wrote on February 8th, 2011
  22. Mark,

    The health affects are worth mentioning…but in my opinion unless the stevia is organically grown/fair labor practices it may be having some poor effects on the Chinese folks around where it is conventionally grown on a pretty large scale–erosion, pestcides, etc all unregulated by our government so how are we to know that these folks are safe?

    It’s great to find alternatives but if they negatively impact others and come from across the world, perhaps it’s just better to do without or sprinkle in some local honey if you must–won’t kill you and it’s more real than other artificial sweeteners recently discussed sometimes on this blog.

    Love your blog, thanks for all the good work.

    Ada wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Stevia is naturally pesticide resistant due to it’s intense sweetness.. pretty sweet eh?

      gif wrote on March 29th, 2011
      • Do you really want to consume something that even the bugs won’t eat?

        I don’t understand this preoccupation with sugar substitutes. Just eliminate the sweets from your diet already. Stick with whole fresh fruit instead. Your body will thank you for your intelligence.

        Shary wrote on June 26th, 2012
  23. In the right amounts, it certainly adds a bit of extra sweetness that can scratch an itch. I think it’s safe to use in moderate amounts, but overuse can bring sugar cravings back.

    nutritionut wrote on February 8th, 2011
  24. I have had 3 packets of stevia a day for the last 10 years (1 in each cup of coffee) with no bad effects. I’m usually not hungry for at least 5 hours after, so I’d have to say if anything it’s having a positive effect on my blood sugar/insulin levels.

    Jer wrote on February 8th, 2011
  25. Thanks so much for this article!! I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of including Stevia in my primal diet.

    I buy the pure organic Stevia extract from Trader Joe’s (they also offer a powdered version that has milk product added which I do not recommend).

    It didn’t take me long to get used to the taste, and I now I prefer it to sugar or Splenda-type sweeteners.
    I only use it to sweeten my coffee (I bring it with me to Starbucks. They stare at me…I don’t really care).

    I do have a caveat: I’ve noticed that my dosage tends to gradually increase which makes me think I develop a taste for sweeter and sweeter coffee. When I recognize this pattern, I scale way back and start over.

    Primal Rollergirl wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Happened to me too.. but you just have to take a few more sips, and you’ll notice it is sweet enough.

      gif wrote on March 29th, 2011
  26. I have been using it for years and love how it replaces sugar. Power Aid Zero uses it also.

    Kerry wrote on February 8th, 2011
  27. I used to despise stevia but it’s definitely improved, taste-wise, these last few years. My favorite, with the least amount of aftertaste that I’ve found, is Nu Naturals No Carbs Blend stevia, which is blended with erythritol, a natural sugar alcohol. I use such a tiny bit that the bottle lasts a long time.

    Erin (Pretty In Primal) wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Erin, I tried the same brand and it’s great. I can’t tell the difference between their Stevia and real sugar. Most brands have an aftertaste. Unfortunately my local Whole Foods stopped selling it:(

      Kishore wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Are you talking about the powdered stuff? Because NuNaturals liquid is RANK! It’s about 30% ABV and tastes and smells chemically…

      Sarah wrote on February 9th, 2011
      • No, it’s a granular powder, not the liquid. I’m not a fan of liquid stevia at all!
        I’m pretty sensitive to the aftertaste of stevia (and artificial sweeteners, for that matter. I wasn’t allowed to eat them growing up, so my tastebuds never acclimated;)

        Erin (Pretty In Primal) wrote on February 9th, 2011
    • I agree!!! Nu Naturals is by far the best tasting stevia out there!!!!!

      Rebecca wrote on February 1st, 2013
  28. !!DAN QUINN!! DISCOVERED STEVIAS TRUE POWER AND OWNS ALL RIGHTS TO THE PLANT. DAN QUinn.

    Golden Boy Dan Quinn wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Oh please/. Owns all the rights to a naturally evolved plant? Give me a break.

      River wrote on July 5th, 2014
  29. DANQUINN…DANQUINNDANQUINNDANQUINNDANQUINNDANQUINN

    Golden Boy Dan Quinn wrote on February 8th, 2011
  30. DAN QUINN

    GoldenBoyDannyQuinn youtube wrote on February 8th, 2011
  31. No thanks, I don’t feel the need to sweeten anything. In fact, I have to force myself to eat fresh fruit. But I do have trouble with the salt shaker.

    Grandy wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Then switch to a brand which is primarily potassium chloride then. I use LoSalt (only available in the UK, IIRC) which is 66% KCl and 33% NaCl

      Sarah wrote on February 9th, 2011
  32. I use stevia in a few things, like iced coffee, and glad to know what caused some brands I tried to be disgusting while others are good. Many thanks for this blog.

    Digby wrote on February 8th, 2011
  33. I have tried the NOW brand stevia, as that was supposed to have less of a bitter aftertaste. I rarely use it, though, as I found myself eating more and more of things sweetened with stevia…almost like regular sugar cravings. I find the taste of stevia to be too sweet. The whole purpose behind going Primal/Paleo (for me, at least) was to stop the sugar cravings. Now, if I want something sweet, I’ll just reach for a piece of fruit–just the right amount of sweetness and no aftertaste!

    Kim wrote on February 8th, 2011
  34. I gave up Diet Pepsi for the soda, Zevia. It comes in many flavors, lemon lime, cola, and ginger ale just to name a few. I really enjoy it when I want a soda. It’s made with Stevie and other natural ingredients. I’m hoping it is a decent replacement.

    Rebecca wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • After reading this post, I am so excited to try Zevia. Soda is one thing I really miss although the few times I’ve had some since going primal I feel just awful. Maybe this is a way to reincorporate this treat!

      Erin wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • I LOVE Zevia as a special treat. And I discovered recently that if you mix the orange or root beer with heavy cream you have yourself an amazing desert!

      Amber wrote on February 10th, 2011
  35. Stevia has a huge aftertaste to me..makes me super thirsty. read that the processing of the stevia is what is harmful(w/chemicals) but Truvia it said processes w/water..any way would like your take & anyone elses info on a product called WHEY LOW???

    Milliann Johnson wrote on February 8th, 2011
  36. I have had disastrous stomach cramps and constipation with numerous stevia products, but particularly Truvia….I’m talking devastating pain! I’ve tried over and over with different brands, but keep getting the same result. This is fairly well-documented on the internet, but weirdly, it’s mostly women that seem to be affected. Such a shame. It seems like a great alternative with some decent health benefits. But for me, the pain is absolutely not worth it.

    MOWL wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • I also got crazy bloated from trying powder stevia recently. I thought it was something I ate, but once I went down the list and googled side effects (of which there are MANY forums for)…stevia was it. I’m going to try again just to make sure.

      Imrotu wrote on February 8th, 2011
      • Many stevia products on the
        market today are full of fillers
        and other garbage.. One in particular
        inulin which can cause bloating and a
        host of other problems. Other fillers, starch, silica, or maltodextrin or aspartame also can cause issues Stevia, however sweet (2-300x sweeter than table sugar)
        is actually not sugar at all but rather
        a sweet herb. Quality stevia makes all the difference in the world. I use Emperor’s Herbologist JAJA Stevioside. It taste clean and has no fillers. Check out the website it is very informative and may help in your quest to discover better health and wellness good luck..

        Umosoe wrote on July 7th, 2012
    • I too had horrendously painful stomach cramps/pain and diarrhea after eating stevia. It was such an awful experience I haven’t tried it again, but I just ate 2 stevia sweetened cookies a few minutes ago as an experiment. Want to make sure it was the stevia that made me so sick last time. Wish me luck. lol

      Trisha wrote on June 20th, 2012
  37. I’ve read some studies about possible reproductive damage caused by large doses of stevia, though this has always been in processed form. We use stevia, if anything, but I grow the actual plant and powder it in the Vitamix. This way, I know there are no added ingredients.
    I agree with the previous commenter though… it is horrible in baking!

    Katie wrote on February 8th, 2011
  38. I use Sweet Leaf in my coffee almost exclusively. I have tried both the Truvia and Pruvia brands as well. They take a little getting used too, but not too bad.

    Kurt wrote on February 8th, 2011
  39. I like NuNaturals Vanilla stevia a lot and hate NOW brand – so you really do have to try a few. I use the NOW in my smoothies just to get rid of it.

    What I’D really like to hear about is…yacon syrup! So much interesting research and very delicious. People on the candida diet can eat it.

    Thanks Mark!

    Kelly wrote on February 8th, 2011
    • Hi Kelly,

      Obviously it’s all subjective, but I LOATHE the NuNaturals vanilla! It’s about 30% ABV and the smell is very chemically.

      The best – in my opinion – is Stevita (all flavours).

      Sarah wrote on February 9th, 2011
  40. Another thing I noticed and kina why I switched to Sweet Leaf was that the Truvia packets list erythritol as an ingredient. Sweet Leaf lists “Stevia Leaf Extract, Inulin Soluble Vegetable Fiber”

    Kurt wrote on February 8th, 2011

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