Ask an Expert

The recommendations to decrease sugar in our diets are increasing. Thankfully, Stevia is here to help! Stevia is a low-calorie sweetener that is a great alternative to sugar for those looking to reduce sugar and calories in their diet. If you are new to using stevia, or have never tried it before, you may have some questions. Carolyn Reynaud, a registered dietitian, answers your stevia questions for you.

I have been drinking at least 3 cans of lemon< diet cola for at least 4 years.  I heard last night that Stevia causes cancer. How should I proceed?  I made an appointment with my doctor but that is a month away, I have thrown out the three cases I had at I am home.  Are other products tainted?  I have not seen Stevia printed on any other cartons.  Please let me know as I am concerned. Does Stevia sweeteners cause cancer? My Wife said she heard it on TV.
Stevia has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status with the FDA, deeming it safe for the general population. A food ingredient has to go through a substantial amount of study to be granted GRAS status. In researching safety of stevia, any links to cancer are explored. Current research does not support that stevia causes cancer. While not an exhaustive list, the support includes a recent review published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, and the American Cancer Society opinion that also supports that stevia appears to be safe when used in moderation. While hearing a story on the news can certainly cause some alarm, it sounds like the story did not capture the whole picture.
Does the sweetener stevia have any chemicals in it?
The sweetening component of stevia is actually an extract called rebaudioside so you may also see this term related to stevia. When grocery shopping, you can purchase pure stevia or other variations. Many brands have crafted stevia blends (in which stevia is blended with another ingredient) to make it easier to use while providing a sweet taste. When you are in the shopping aisle, I would suggest reading the ingredient list to determine the blend that works best for you. It may also be helpful to taste several varieties as the blends will all sweet taste but may taste differently.
I have read that low calorie sweeteners add to belly fat supposedly because they are not natural, the body does not process them like food, but stores them as fat.  Is this true?  I've been trying to get rid of belly fat for quite some time now.  Unfortunately, I drink a lot of diet sodas. Also, I have read that Stevia, because it is a natural substance from a plant does not contribute to belly fat like the others do.
What contributes fat overall is taking in more calories than we need. Low calorie sweeteners do not contribute to body fat but actually aid in reducing excess calories to help lose or manage body weight. Stevia is one of those sweetener options. You’re right, Stevia is an extract from the stevia leaf and when our bodies metabolize stevia it does not get absorbed but is excreted it in our urine. Therefore, we are taking in negligible calories when consume stevia – making it virtually calorie free, and a good choice if you are looking to reduce body fat. Improvements to your diet and physical activity habits can help reduce your overall body fat and your overall health. However, any claims that a food or supplement specifically targets a region of body fat are likely untrue. People store fat in different areas of their body for many reasons. Rather than trying to target a specific area, most people are more successful at reducing overall body fat stores while physical activity can be used to improve the tone and size of the muscles and can change your overall body shape.
Does Stevia neutralize calcium intake? 
Stevia does not inhibit the absorption of calcium and it can be a good option as a sweetener in foods that are calcium sources like milk and yogurt.
I understand that some Stevia products have a bad taste or after taste. Which brands more palatable?
We all have different taste preferences, so which brand is the most palatable is pretty subjective. This is one of the reasons we see so many different stevia options on the market. To find the brand and product that works best for you I would suggest reaching out to the manufacturers for free samples; or asking your local grocer if they provide samples. See which version your taste buds prefer.
Are cookies made with stevia sold in stores?  If so, what brand, and what stores sell them?
Food product options are going to vary by store and region. To see if stores in your area sell cookies containing stevia I would ask your local grocer what they have available. Also, many stores have a specialty section where you can commonly find available stevia products. If you are unable to find stevia cookies in your area, there are many recipes online for baking stevia sweetened cookies at home. Since stevia is freezer stable, you can double your batch and freeze some for later.
What is the difference between regular stevia and Stevia in the Raw?
There are numerous brands that make sweeteners using stevia and Stevia in the Raw is simply one of these products made by the company In The Raw.
Can stevia be used like sugar in retarding fruit spoilage?  For instance -- cutting strawberries in half and sprinkling layers in a jar w/sugar will keep them in the fridge for longer than it ever takes my family to eat them!  Will stevia work this way?
Pure Stevia does not have the same properties that sugar does in preventing spoilage. However, there are products available that blend Stevia with pure cane sugar for a lower calorie option to pure sugar to prevent browning.  
If I wanted to substitute Stevia for pure cane sugar in baking, what would the ratio of Stevia to sugar be?
The ratio of stevia to sugar can vary between products and brands. To determine the right ratio for the product you have at home, I would check the packaging for the equivalents or go the manufacturer’s website.
I have started a ketogenic diet. I am also a restaurant owner. I’m loving the whole concept. I am trying to learn more about using stevia in some of my recipes. For example, I have a recipe that I use 3/4 cup of sugar in a sorbet. Can I use liquid stevia, stevia extract or a powder/granule style of stevia.
Stevia can be used in many recipes to reduce the carbohydrate content of many foods and beverages. Whether you use liquid, granular, or powdered stevia will likely depend on the type of recipe and the other attributes that sugar is contributing. For example, liquid stevia may be better in liquid products while powdered stevia may provide the texture necessary for many baked goods. It is important to remember that Dietary Guidelines recommend most Americans consume 45-65 percent carbohydrates so a ketogenic diet may not be advisable.


Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian and a paid contributor to She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.