If you have diabetes or are otherwise looking to keep your blood sugar levels under control, choosing the right sweetener can be tricky. There are so many options out there and between the different tastes and proclaimed side effects, it’s often difficult to determine which one to choose. However, a growing body of research suggests that using stevia for diabetes may be the best option.
Stevia comes from a shrub that is is native to North and South America. It’s considered a zero-calorie sweetener, even though it’s as much as 150–300 times sweeter than regular white sugar thanks to compounds in it called steviol glycosides.
In recent years, stevia has become rather popular among people with diabetes, and for good reason. Research shows that stevia may have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
Stevia for Diabetes — The Research
One study showed that people with diabetes who consumed dried stevia leaf powder experienced significant drops in blood sugar levels — while fasting and after eating a meal. Interestingly enough, those study participants also saw reductions in their triglyceride and cholesterol levels, too!
Results from another study showed that taking stevia powder as a dietary supplement led to decreased blood sugar levels. Not only that, but results also indicated that use of stevia reduced signs of liver and kidney damage.
Some research also shows that using stevia could reduce hunger and cravings and improve satiety — which are also important factors if you’re struggling with diabetes. In one study, a team of researchers gave participants a snack before their main meal — a diet trick they termed “preloading.” The snack contained either stevia, aspartame (another sugar substitute), or regular white sugar. Their results showed that the stevia snack group had significantly lower blood sugar levels and insulin levels after their meals compared to the other groups. The stevia preload also only contained 290 calories compared to almost 500 in the sugar group, yet participants who ate the stevia snack reported less hunger and more satiety.
So if you have diabetes and are wondering which sweetener is best to use, stevia may not only help you get your sweet fix, but it could also help you manage your blood sugar levels. It’s important to note that some manufacturers will add other ingredients to stevia products like sugar alcohols (xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, etc.) which can cause side effects in some people. If you use a stevia product and experience bloating, abdominal pain/cramping, diarrhea, or any other symptoms, stop using it and contact your healthcare provider. As a general rule of thumb, always consult your doctor before making major changes to your diet.