In a sugar phobic world, health junkies have rejoiced in finding an all natural, plant derived sweetener in the form of stevia: a sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant stevia rebaudiana. While this may sound healthy and better for you, it's actually not and here's why.
Stevia is a form of an artificial sweetener. It does not contain the fiber that fruit sugar has and it is processed to contain zero calories. Therefore, when you consume it, your mind and body is tricked into thinking it ate sugar and will crave more. In contrast, when you consume something sweet with added fiber, the sugar passes through the blood stream at a slower pace, whereas with artificial sweeteners, it passes through immediately, leading to more cravings.
Researchers of a 2004 study at Purdue University found that regularly consuming artificial sweeteners may increase your risk of weight gain. The reason being that the body can normally detect its caloric intake based on a food or drink's sweetness. However, the study argues that drinking soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners may actually trick the body's calorie-detection system. When the body thinks it is going to receive calories but then it doesn't, it may begin to have trouble regulating its food intake and end up taking in too many calories from other sources. Although drinks containing stevia were not a part of the study, critics of the sweetener suggest that stevia may cause the same problem. The same theory attributes to constant dieters who no longer sense hunger levels and cannot eat mindfully.
Many health food companies are now trying to use stevia in their desserts, smoothies and non dairy milks to make them sound more appealing to sugar fearing consumers - they are also doing this to reduce the calories in their product. However, if you notice that eating a "healthy" dessert containing stevia actually increases your hunger drive, you can now understand why. Better alternatives for sweeteners include bananas, apple sauce, dates and coconut sugar.
The conclusion: tricking your body into thinking you are being healthy by avoiding the sugar just won't work.