a bowl and a wooden spoon of erythritol and stevia on the other side
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Erythritol vs Stevia: Which is Better for Diabetes?

Have you been trying to reduce your sugar intake, but feel overwhelmed by the number of sweetener options? Erythritol and stevia are two of the most popular sugar free sweeteners on the market, but is one of them better than the other for blood sugar control and diabetes

A bowl and a wooden spoon of erythritol and stevia on the other side

This article will walk you through everything you need to know about erythritol vs stevia so you’ll know what to add to your cart next time you go shopping. Let’s dive in!

What is erythritol?

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in very small amounts in foods like grapes and mushrooms. 

This sweetener is frequently added to foods to reduce the sugar and calorie content. With only 0.24 calories per gram (as compared to 4 calories per gram of sugar) it makes a great option for people who are looking for sweetness without all of the calories.

This sugar substitute comes in a sugar-mimicking crystallized form, but only has 60-80% of the sweetness of sugar. There is no aftertaste when using erythritol, and it is suitable for baking, unlike many other sweeteners. 

The human body cannot metabolize erythritol so it has no effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. Erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream and circulates through the body before it is excreted via urine, sweeping up free radicals and providing antioxidant benefits. 

One thing to note, this sugar alcohol is not typically associated with digestive distress, unlike many other sugar alcohols such as xylitol, which means you can enjoy it without worry of unpleasant side effects.

Erythritol is used in many commercial foods to reduce the sugar and calorie content, including sugar-free gums, chocolates, candy, and in baked goods. 

Benefits of using erythritol

Erythritol in a wooden spoon and in a wooden bowl on a cutting board with a coconut cut in half in the background
  • Diabetes friendly: Erythritol has no impact on insulin or blood sugar levels. In fact, for people with diabetes erythritol may even help lower blood glucose by decreasing the amount of sugar that is absorbed and impacting other pathways of glucose metabolism.
  • Low calorie: With 6% of the calories of table sugar, substituting erythritol for sugar can help lower total calories consumed. Those who are counting calories or monitoring weight can use this simple swap to help lower overall daily calories.
  • Antioxidant properties: Erythritol is a free radical scavenger, which means that it can reduce the impacts of oxidative stress within the body to help protect your body’s cells.
  • May reduce risk of heart disease: Due to its antioxidant properties, erythritol may also be cardio-protective and reduce the risk of developing heart disease in people with diabetes.
  • High digestive tolerance: Most people won’t experience digestive issues or other side effects from consuming erythritol in normal amounts. This is because the vast majority of erythritol is absorbed into the bloodstream, so it is not fermented by your gut bacteria to cause symptoms like gas and bloating.

Disadvantages of using erythritol

While most people have a high digestive tolerance to erythritol, similarly to other sugar alcohols, some people may experience digestive distress when they consume large amounts of this sweetener. To be safe, stay under 50 grams per meal to ensure zero side effects.

How to use erythritol

A great benefit of using erythritol is that you can easily use it as a sugar substitute in the majority of your favorite recipes. Since it acts and tastes like sugar, you can use it to lower the sugar content of baked goods and beverages. 

It is important to note though that erythritol does not dissolve as well as sugar and may not be the best option for sweetening frozen items like ice cream since it can crystallize under certain conditions.

Since the sweetness of erythritol is slightly lower than that of sugar, you can use it in the same volume and not worry about sweetness overkill. This also means that you can add more to taste if a little more sweetness is desired. A 1.25-to-1 ratio of erythritol to sugar is common.

What is stevia?

Stevia granules in a cup on a cloth with stevia leaves spread around

Stevia is a non-nutritive natural sweetener commonly found in many low-calorie and sugar-free products since it provides sweetness while being sugar free and calorie free. It is significantly sweeter than sugar, with 1 teaspoon equalling the sweetness of about 1 cup of sugar.

This sweetener is extracted from the Stevia plant in the form of rebaudioside A (aka reb A) extract and can be found in powder and liquid form. Pure stevia is unsafe for consumption, but reb A extract is safe and does not have any known negative health effects.

Many times stevia products are blended with other sweeteners. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label to ensure you know exactly what the product you choose contains.

Benefits of using stevia

  • Diabetes friendly: Stevia is sugar free, so it does not impact blood glucose levels. Even better – stevia consumption has actually been shown to actually reduce blood sugar levels. 
  • Calorie-free: With zero calories, substituting stevia for sugar throughout the day also reduces total calories. This can be especially helpful for those who are trying to lose weight. 
  • Lowers cholesterol: Stevia consumption is linked to reductions in both total and LDL cholesterol levels, making it a heart-healthy sugar substitute.
  • Anti-cancer properties: A component within stevia has been shown to help target and kill cancerous cells to prevent further cancer growth.

Disadvantages of using stevia

Many stevia products often use blends including other sweeteners. Sometimes this can include dextrose (another name for sugar), which directly results in blood sugar increases.

Other stevia products may contain other sweeteners that contain sugar alcohols, which may lead to digestive discomfort. Always make sure to check the label to ensure you won’t be surprised by any potential side effects.

Additionally, there has been some research suggesting that stevia intake can alter the composition of our gut microbiome. Unfortunately, there currently isn’t enough evidence to conclude whether these changes will lead to impacts on other areas of our health.

Stevia plant with wooden spoons

Some people may be allergic to stevia products, especially those who are allergic to plants in the same family such as daisies, sunflowers, or ragweed. If you’re allergic to any of these plants, stevia should also be avoided.

Possibly the most commonly cited disadvantage to using stevia is that many people say there is a bitter aftertaste. Stevia is very sweet, but it also has an herbaceous flavor comparative to licorice, which doesn’t always appeal to everyone.  

How to use stevia

You can use stevia wherever you use stevia, but it isn’t always an even swap. Since stevia is so much sweeter than sugar for the same volume, you might not want to substitute stevia for sugar in a 1:1 ratio.

This is especially true when it comes to baking. Using the same volume of stevia in a recipe as you would sugar is not likely to give you the same results in both flavor and texture. You most likely will need to alter the bulk and moisture content to obtain the desired texture, as well as experiment with different amounts of stevia to get to your preferred level of sweetness which is exactly why many stevia blends that contain other sweeteners (and sometimes even sugar) so that they can be incorporated into a recipe as a 1:1 swap for sugar. But since some of these blends can contain added sugars and carbohydrates, always check the label and look to see if there are special instructions for using it in recipes.

The bottom line: which sweetener is better?

Stevia and erythritol in wooden spoons

If you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake, both erythritol and stevia are great sugar alternatives. 

Each is suitable for people with diabetes since neither have an impact on blood sugar or insulin levels. Additionally, there are few side effects and there may be some additional health benefits to consuming each of these sweetener options.

You can use stevia and erythritol in many of your favorite recipes, but you may need to experiment a bit to get your desired flavor and texture.

In the end, there is no clear winner between erythritol vs stevia: both are fantastic options that can help you reach your health goals. I recommend choosing the one you enjoy the most and the one you find easiest to use as well. 

Wondering about other sweetener options for blood sugar? Check out my posts on stevia vs monk fruit, erythritol vs xylitol and honey vs maple syrup as well.

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