Stevia vs. Sugar: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts

Last Update: July 13, 2023

Life is always a little bit sweeter when sugar is involved. Mary Poppins used sugar to make the medicine go down well. But would a modern Ms. Poppins use stevia? What’s the difference between sugar vs stevia?

Gone are the days when white sugar is the only pick—alternative sweeteners have become increasingly accessible in recent years (and easy to use in your favorite recipes). For those following a ketogenic diet, low-glycemic diet, or are trying to limitda their overall sugar intake, stevia continues to rise in popularity.But is stevia bad for you? Is stevia a sugar? And is stevia healthier than sugar?

We’re answering these questions and diving into the health benefits and more in today’s post.

What Is Stevia?

stevia vs. sugar

In our quest to understand the difference between stevia vs sugar, we have to go understand where each originated. Stevia is an alternative sweetener made from a South American plant by the same name, which is 200 to 400 times sweeter than regular table sugar. It’s been used for generations not only as a sweetener, but also as a remedy for minor ailments like stomach upset or burns. The stevia plant was first recorded in 1899 in Paraguay, and a few years later, stevia was defined as a member of the sunflower family. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Stevia was used commercially as a sweetener, and the trend started in Japan before spreading to other parts of the world, including the U.S.

Stevia Benefits

No, stevia is not sugar. But it is a sugar substitute that is much sweeter. For those looking to reduce or eliminate their sugar intake, stevia may be a winning alternative. This natural sweetener has zero calories, and since it doesn’t affect blood sugar the same way conventional sugar does, it’s generally a safe alternative for people with diabetes. And because we know you’re wondering if stevia is keto, the answer is yes! Stevia is also gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sodium, low-glycemic, and vegan.

Stevia Dangers

Is stevia safe? Let’s dig into the research. First, a surprise: stevia can have a slightly bitter flavor, and some people either love it or hate it. As far as stevia dangers that may pop up, be sure to read the ingredients list. Some stevia brands also include sugar alcohols like erythritol, which may cause digestive issues if you consume stevia in large amounts. At this point, it’s unclear whether or not using calorie-free sweeteners like stevia can help reduce your overall calorie intake for the day. One small study found that when people drank a stevia-sweetened beverage in the morning (rather than using sugar), they tended to eat more at lunch and experienced spikes in blood glucose and insulin.

As with anything, you’ll want to be mindful about your intake. The FDA defines an acceptable daily amount as 4 mg of stevia per kilogram of body weight, which translates to roughly nine stevia packets per day. Regardless of the recommendation, it’s a good rule of thumb to limit stevia the same way you would other sweeteners. As with anything, the possible dangers of stevia may be avoided with moderation.

Stevia Products

If you’re ready to reach for stevia as your sweetener of choice, here are our top picks.

Thrive Market Organic Stevia

Our non-GMO plant-based powder easily sweetens up drinks, baked goods, and more. Stevia dissolves quickly into both hot and cold liquids, and you only need a small amount to make an impact.

Thrive Market Organic Liquid Stevia

Just a few drops of our Organic Liquid Stevia will sweeten your favorite beverage. This ingredient has zero calories and a low-glycemic index. Plus, there’s no bitter aftertaste!

Sweetleaf Strawberry Kiwi Water Drops

If you’re aiming to drink more water but getting a little bored in the process, flavored water drops can help! These convenient drops are sweetened with stevia and instantly perk up still or sparkling water without relying on artificial ingredients.

Sweetleaf Organic Stevia Packets

This 70-count box of stevia makes it easy to sweeten drinks on the go. Sweetleaf’s option is USDA Certified Organic, and every packet contains the same amount of sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar, just without the calories and carbs.

Recipes with Stevia

Cooking with stevia is easy once you know the basics. Here are a few recipes that rely on stevia instead of traditional sugars.

Orange Julius Protein Smoothie

Here’s a frothy beverage that’ll fill you up in the morning. Vanilla protein powder adds a nutritional boost, OJ and pineapple bring the tropical vibes, and liquid stevia adds a touch of sweetness.

Vanilla Bean Dessert Hummus

Don’t knock it ’til you try it! Instead of finishing your meal with something extra sugary that doesn’t boast any nutritional benefits, try dessert hummus. This bean dip is sweetened with liquid stevia and uses both vanilla beans and vanilla extract for a double dose of flavor.

Ketogenic Chocolate-Covered Bacon

This sweet and salty recipe is keto-friendly, thanks to stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. Top the bacon with coconuts and pistachios to wow your guests with extra crunch.

What Is Sugar?

stevia vs. sugar

Sucrose is its official name, but you can just call it sugar. This sweetener comes from either sugar beets or sugarcane, and is made from filtering the plant’s liquids, then boiling it into a thick syrup. The signature sugar crystals form during the drying process and are ultimately removed, which is why sugar is typically a colorless ingredient. Both sugar and stevia are derived from two different plants. It’s safe to say that stevia is not sugar!

Types of Sugar

Head to the sugar aisle and you’ll find a lot more than granulated. From raw to powdered sugar, here’s a look at some of the most common varieties.

  • Granulated sugar: Granulated sugar is sometimes referred to as “regular sugar” simply because it’s the most commonly used sugar in baked goods.
  • Brown sugar: Brown sugar is made in one of two ways. Either the refining process is limited, or molasses is added back into white sugar crystals. This variety is a wetter and clumpier consistency than its white counterparts, and also boasts a darker hue.
  • Turbinado sugar: This “sugar in the raw” gets its name because only part of the sugar is actually processed. Try it as a drink sweetener, or for adding texture to the top of muffins.
  • Stevia sugar vs. cane sugar: Cane sugar is actually a type of brown sugar, and is less processed than granulated sugar. Cane juice is allowed to evaporate and naturally reform into crystals.
  • Confectioners’ sugar: This type of sugar is also known as powdered sugar. Whatever you call it, the texture is a fine powder, and is typically used to make icing, flavor whipping cream, or add a light dusting on a dessert before serving.

Health Benefits of Stevia vs Sugar

Stevia has zero calories and is low-glycemic, which gives it an edge over conventional sugar—cane sugar delivers 15 calories per 1 teaspoon serving. This makes stevia slightly healthier than sugar. And while you won’t find any nutritional boosts like minerals, vitamins, or protein, sugar is delicious in baked goods or other sweet treats. Whether you’re whipping up a batch of cupcakes, your signature pie, or another favorite dessert, sugar almost always enhances it.

Sugar Products

Regular sugar works in most cases, but if you’re a big baker it’s worth having an arsenal of sugar varieties to choose from.

Thrive Market Organic Powdered Sugar

Perfect for topping French toast, a chocolate torte, or as a sweetener for icings, this versatile sugar is made with ethically sourced cane sugar and a pinch of tapioca starch.

Thrive Market Organic Light Brown Sugar

This bag of organic light brown sugar is made with ethically sourced, fair-trade sugar cane juice and contains no added preservatives or chemicals. Use it as a 1:1 swap for refined light brown sugar in all your favorite recipes.

Wholesome Organic Cane Sugar

Wholesome’s cane sugar is USDA Certified Organic and made from South American sugar cane. If you’re counting, a 1 teaspoon serving will knock you back 15 calories.

Now Foods Date Sugar

In the date sugar versus stevia debate, you should know that while stevia is calorie free, date sugar has 20 calories per every 2 teaspoon serving. If you don’t need to use stevia for dietary reasons, date sugar is a great option for baked goods, and is made up of just one ingredient: finely chopped, dry dates.

Thrive Market Organic Coconut Sugar

If you’re a health-conscious cook that still likes to indulge now and again, try coconut sugar. It tastes similar to brown sugar, and is made from the sap of coconut palm.

Recipes With Sugar

Here are some of our favorite recipes to put your bags of sugar to good use.

Gluten-Free Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown butter takes this batch of GF cookies to the next level, and dark brown sugar adds a caramel flavor that’s unmistakable. We’re all about sharing cookies, but it might be hard to part with them. You’ve been warned!

Strawberries and Cream Oat Milk Ice Cream

The sweet base for this warm-weather treat uses cane sugar, vanilla extract, and juicy strawberries. Here’s a pro tip: freeze your ice cream maker bowl overnight so you can churn it whenever you’re ready.

Pomegranate Martini

Cheers to your new favorite cocktail! This brightly hued sip features vodka, OJ, pomegranate powder, cane sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon.

Instant Pot Keto Ribs

Brown sugar isn’t just for dessert recipes. When used in a dry rub alongside ground pepper, garlic powder, and other savory spices, brown sugar adds a gentle sweetness to tender ribs. Use the Instant Pot for an impressively simple dinner!

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake

Powdered sugar is the star of our impossibly creamy frosting, and it’s worth nothing that it doesn’t need to be anyone’s birthday to make this stunner of a cake.

Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe

For Valentine’s Day or any occasion where treats are involved, our best sugar cookie recipe is a must try. They’re flavored with vanilla and almond, and use both cane sugar and powdered sugar for the perfect, tender crumb and a sweet sugar cookie frosting.

Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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