If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I used quite a bit of stevia back in the day. I used it in chocolate milkshakes, my morning tea, sugar-free desserts, and even my salad dressings. I basically used it all day, everyday.
You may have noticed that I don’t use stevia in my recipes or daily routine anymore, so I thought I’d take a moment to share why.
First, let’s talk about why I tried stevia in the first place. I embarked on my first Candida Cleanse in 2011, following the protocol laid out in Natalia Rose’s book, Detox 4 Women. While following the program, I cut out nearly all sugar (even the natural sugar found in fruit) and satisfied my sweet tooth using stevia instead, because it is marketed as an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener that isn’t supposed to impact your blood sugar or feed yeast overgrowth. (And killing off yeast overgrowth is the goal of a Candida cleanse.) I followed this protocol strictly for 30 days, and then stuck with the general guidelines for several months afterwards before incorporating more fruit, grains and cooked starches, and animal protein into my diet again. Even when I returned to a more “standard” diet, I continued to use stevia because it was such an easy way to sweeten things throughout the day. I carried a bottle in my purse at all times!
However, I started to notice a few things after using stevia for several months, even long after my diet returned to normal:
- I craved more sweetness. At first, it took a while for my taste buds to adjust to the flavor of stevia– I actually didn’t like it right away. But once my taste buds adjusted, I couldn’t get enough of it. I started using it in everything, and I noticed that the more I used stevia, the more I wanted it. At one point, just 2-3 drops of liquid stevia was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth in a mug of tea or over a salad, but as time went on I found myself adding much more than that to my drinks and meals to get the same satisfaction. In a way, it felt like the sweetener was skewing my taste buds and I needed everything to taste sweeter to enjoy it. I also found myself craving desserts all day long, and when once a small piece of dark chocolate would satisfy my evening sweet tooth, I soon needed to eat the whole bar to feel the same sense of satisfaction.
- I lost my period. The real tipping point for me was the fact that I lost my period while using this much stevia. Though some people could write off a missing period as a sign that the body is “detoxing,” it was a big red flag for me– particularly because I wanted to get pregnant in the near future and hadn’t had a period for nearly 6 months at that point. I was willing to do anything to regulate my cycle again, so I decided to give up stevia completely, to see what would happen. My period returned within 4 weeks, and I was overjoyed! I actually tried adding stevia back into my diet again, just to see if my cycle was affected (and because I was a total stevia addict) and my period disappeared for another 2 months… so that’s when I decided to give it up for good. Of course, I can’t say for sure that it wasn’t something else that caused my cycle to be out of whack, but because pregnancy was my priority at the time, I wasn’t willing to take chances. (On an anecdotal note, two of my close friends also had issues with their cycles and recently decided to give up stevia as an experiment, even though they didn’t use it frequently– and they both saw their periods return within a month.)
- My gut-instinct told me to stop using it. Most zero-calorie sweeteners, even natural ones, have always had a “too good to be true” feeling to me, and my gut instinct has always been to NOT use them. My mom is actually allergic to aspartame, so I’ve always steered clear of the mainstream artificial sweeteners to be on the safe side, but I’m not totally convinced that all zero-calorie sweeteners (even natural ones) don’t still contribute to excess insulin being released into the body. The body is programmed to release insulin when your mouth tastes “sweetness,” so if there is no sugar for the insulin to metabolize, I’d worry that it would remain in the blood stream and potentially lead to hypoglycemia, which comes with side effects of anxiety and hunger.
I also find it interesting that Elaine Gotschall, author of Breaking the Vicious Cycle, has deemed stevia “illegal” on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). She notes that stevia’s molecular structure resembles that of a steroid, and therefore it probably has physiological effects on mammals– it’s just hard to tell whether those effects are good or bad. And while stevia is marketed to have zero impact on blood sugar, my mother (who is Type 2 Diabetic) has found that stevia does, in fact, spike her blood sugar similarly to any other sweetener. So, I take all claims with a grain of salt!
It’s also worth noting that some cultures may have once considered stevia a form of birth control. I was advised by a mentor to stop using it before I wanted to get pregnant, which is what led me to even consider that it might be affecting my cycle in the first place. If it can affect my hormones to the point that it might be affecting my fertility, I don’t feel that it should have a regular place in my diet. (However, I do know several women who have gotten pregnant while using stevia liberally– so it definitely shouldn’t be considered a form of birth control, as it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.)
Clearly, what’s right for me might not be what’s right for anyone else, but I did want to address why I no longer use stevia in any more of my recipes, and why I don’t offer modifications using stevia. I do think using stevia leaves, from a fresh plant, might be a totally different story, since the sweetness wouldn’t be nearly as concentrated as using the commercial liquid drops and powders– which are processed to an extent. I can only speak to my experience with using the liquid drops, which as far as I can tell, are fairly concentrated.
For those of you who do still want to use stevia, you can still find some of my older recipes here.
Reader Feedback: Have you tried stevia and if so, do you still enjoy using it?