Question: What about Stevia and Xylitol?

Many people have asked about Stevia and xylitol and, quite honestly, I’ve been avoiding writing about it.

Stevia

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I’m not a big fan of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes. But both Stevia and Xylitol actually do have some benefits. So, let me sit on the fence a bit and give you the pros and cons and see if you think you should include them in your diet.

Good Sweets?

First a little background:

  • What is Stevia? Stevia is a herb native to Paraguay that has an incredible sweet taste. In fact, it is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has been used for thousands of years as a sweetener and it appears to improve insulin sensitivity, may reduce hypertension, and even help fight obesity.
  • What is Xylitol? Xylitol is a sugar that is found in fruits and some vegetables and is used as a common sugar substitute. It is about as sweet as sugar, but only 1/3 of the calories. It is used mainly as a sugar in chewing gums, because it supposedly produces fewer cavities than sugar gum and reduces plaques. Xylitol may help control yeast, such as thrush and has less of an impact on blood sugar.

Good for You?

Okay, here is the reason why I’ve been avoiding this subject:

Are these sugars good really for you?

Yes, Stevia and Xylitol are better for you than eating artificial sweeteners and sugars like high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar. They have less of an impact on your blood sugar and, actually can help with blood sugar problems. Stevia turns to better for you than Xylitol because Xylitol is still a sugar. But the question remains: does that mean you should be eating these sugars?

I would say it is okay to eat these sugars as long as you understand where they are in your diet and I would say it also depends on what kind of dietary plan you are on. If you are following the diet plans outlined in Sugarettes, then these sugars are okay if you are working to still eat sugars and trying to balance your blood sugar, but probably not okay if you where you are trying to avoid all grains and sugars.

The problem with these sweet substances is that they are still training your tastes buds to highly sweet tastes and this will eventually lead to craving real sugars again. And once you fall off the wagon, you are back on the sugar roller coaster.

I would also suggest that if you are going to use Stevia, watch out that you take the whole plant and not just the extracts and isolated compounds like steviosides (these are concentrated, purified, substances similar to white sugar).

There you go, xylitol and Stevia are a mixed bag: much better than most sugars, but maybe not the choice you want to make if you want to break free of the sugar madness that has a grip on you.

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About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

18 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Mitch May 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Hi, just reading your article and would like to mention that xylitol isn’t a sugar but a sugar alcohol- also known as a polyol- which is extremely different from sugar, and in fact cuts your sugar cravings with using it.

    Just curious where you are getting your references from Dr. Scott?

    Xylitol is extremely safe for diabetics being only 7 on the glycemic index compared to sugar which is 100. It contains 1/3 of the calories and 75% less carbohydrates than sugar.
    The benefit of xylitol is that it is identical to sugar in taste and usage (1 to 1 ratio of sweetness and for cooking) but does not make it a sugar.

    Thank you for the article i hope you will do some more research into xylitol!

    • Dr. Scott May 27, 2015 at 6:18 am - Reply

      Hi Mitch, thanks for your comments. I think that both stevia and xylitol are okay substitutes for sugar, but that it is much better to stay away from foods that are super-sweet tasting (no matter their effect on blood glucose, or appetite) because that keeps people addicted to a taste that is not natural. From experience, people who turn to sugar substitutes fail to keep sugar out of their lives.

      Dr. Scott

  2. Heleen Rossouuw May 4, 2015 at 6:08 am - Reply

    My husband got stage 4 Melanoma cancer and we are trying a few alternative healing and remedies One of the things we try is to avoid sugars at all, this include carbohydrates that will convert into sugars in the body

    Food that is not sugars and/ or carbs is also only free range and organic as much as possible (We do not live in USA and organic is not always available)

    He is on this very strict diet since 17 December 2014 and he is craving something sweet. We started off with stevia but the taste of stevia is not favorable

    My question: What I have read about Xylitol it seems that it still converts into “sugar/insulin” in the body, but this varies from article to article. Can we use Xylitol if we want to minimize or totally restricts food that covert into sugars?

    • Dr. Scott May 4, 2015 at 6:39 am - Reply

      Heleen, I generally consider Xylitol to be safe and it only has minor effects on blood sugar. I would say that it is okay to use, but I would use it sparingly. Eating anything that is super sweet can increase sugar cravings.

      Best of luck,

      Dr. Scott

  3. Catherine December 4, 2014 at 4:42 am - Reply

    I have recently become allergic to sugar. Stevia was recommended to me as a sugar substitute but I find the taste a bit bitter. I much prefer Xylitol, however I only put half a teaspoon in my tea and only if I am not eating anything else! Thanks for the info given. I found it very interesting.
    Catherine

    • Dr. Scott December 9, 2014 at 11:22 am - Reply

      Catherine,

      A lot of people don’t like stevia. What you will find is that you can wean yourself away from sweetness altogether.

      Dr. Scott

  4. Julie H. February 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I am so glad I came across this today! I just asked my husband if he thought that the stevia I was using would be continuing the sweet-flavor cravings. Now I know that, although my blood sugar would be fine, my tastebuds would not be changing like they could. I’ve eliminated almost all added sugars and I already feel much better! I’m trying to eat whatever natural sugars (fructose) I have, with an ample amount of protein. Also, I don’t feel that I can completely eliminate bread. I was wondering what your take on sourdough bread is. The kinds I get do not use added sugar. I heard it was low-glycemic. Do you believe one can still feel really healthy and great while still eating these items (sourdough and fruits)?

    • Dr. Scott February 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Julie,

      I talk a lot about how to balance high sugar foods with low sugar foods at the end of my program, but there is also information on the web about creating low-glycemic meals. The best breads to eat (if you are going to eat breads) are the sprouted breads. Baring that, I would say you should try to eat your breads (and other sugars) as close to a meal with protein, fat and fiber in them as possible. Protein, fat and fiber all help slow the absorption of sugars.

      Hope that helps,

      Scott

  5. Tarun Verma January 10, 2012 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Which one is better and safe as a sugar substitute Xylitol OR Stevia.

    • Dr. Scott January 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Tarun,

      It is hard to say. I always tell people to stay away from new drugs because we don’t know how they react until thousands of people take them over a long period of time. We are in the exact same place with both Xylitol and Stevia. While Stevia has a long history of use, the extracted version most of us eat has not been used for very long. It appears that both are safe and even have some benefits, but I would just use them in moderation and it should be okay.

      Scott

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