Sweet Solutions - Is there a better option than sugar?

Simone Barrance 

Adv. Diploma Naturopathy

We are constantly being bombarded with labels claiming to be low in sugar, sugar free, natural sugar, no added sugar and the list goes on. One of the hottest topics at the moment is whether to use sugar or one of the many sugar replacements available for you and your family. One of the most popular sugar replacements is stevia. So what really is the difference between sugar and stevia?

What is sugar?

What we call table sugar, cane sugar or white sugar is actually sucrose. Sucrose is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is made up of two molecules glucose and fructose. Sucrose or ‘sugar’ is found in most plants but in higher levels in sugarcane and sugar beets. It can also be synthesised in a laboratory. The over consumption of sucrose can cause weight gain and has been linked to a variety of ill health effects.

What is Stevia?

Stevia (Stevia rebaundiana) is a sweet tasting herb from the Asteraceae family native to Paraguay. The native Guarani Indians called it Kaa He-He meaning ‘sweet herb’. It has been used in many parts of South America for centuries. 

Sweetness/Taste

Stevia is much sweeter than refined sugar, in fact it is approximately 300 times sweeter! It does however have an aftertaste when too much is used that may take some getting used to. 

Calories, Sugar RDI and Glycemic Index

Sugar contains 15 calories per teaspoon, where Stevia contains 0!

So if you are trying to cut down on calories, swapping from sugar to Stevia will help.

The RDI (recommended daily intake) of sugar is 90g. Each teaspoon contains 4g of sugar.  Just think, if you are having two sugars in your tea or coffee that is just under 10% of your sugar RDI in just one drink!

The Glycemic Index is a number given to foods containing sugar and their associated impact on your blood glucose levels. The higher the number, the more of an impact it will have on your blood sugar. Sugar/Sucrose does affect blood sugar where stevia has zero effect! Make Stevia a common alternate to sugar if you are following a low-GI diet.

Interchangeable with cooking

Stevia is an excellent alternate to sugar in teas, coffees, cereals etc. but just be sure to try it in smaller quantities first due to the sweetness of Stevia. When cooking with Stevia it will not caramelise like sugar does and it is non-fermenting so when baking you will not get the same rise on your breads as it will not provide a food source for the yeast. 

So if you are looking at reducing you and your family’s sugar consumption, grab yourself some Stevia and have a play around with ways you and your family can use it and enjoy the benefits of a natural sweetener with zero calories!