Many people often ask about stevia when striving to attain a fully-paleo diet. But is stevia paleo? The answer isn’t exactly so cut and dry here’s why.
If you are referring to the raw, unaltered, pure stevia leaf itself — then yes, stevia is Paleo. If you’re referring to the multitude of products that are available in the grocery store that bill themselves out as “stevia,” then the answer is likely the opposite.
What’s Wrong with Grocery Store Bought Stevia
If you’re trying to find a low-glycemic or Paleo version of a sweetener, stevia can be an excellent choice. Unfortunately, many times, the stevia that you will find at the grocery store will end up being loaded up with other subtle sweeteners and chemicals that themselves are not Paleo. You might find powdered stevia sweeteners containing fillers like glucose and other non-Paleo ingredients.
This is one of the most common issues when trying to eat Paleo. There are a number of foods and ingredients that in their natural forms are Paleo-friendly. One example is stevia, the leaf. Another is almond milk.
However, because manufacturers of commercially made stevia try to enhance flavor and other things, more often than not they end up adding a lot of other unnatural ingredients that make Paleo approved foods like almond milk and stevia become non-Paleo foods. When this happens, their correspnding commercial products don’t belong in the Paleo diet anymore.
This is why it’s important to check products like store bought stevia before putting them in your grocery cart. The list of ingredients will quickly tell you if there are added sweeteners or other artificial flavors added.
Enjoying this Natural Sweetener
To stay within the guidelines of the Paleo diet, you can use the natural stevia, in its green leafy form. If you do decide to use a pure, unadulterated version of stevia in your next cup of tea or baked dish, consider that a little bit goes a long way.
Stevia is a very potent sweetener, up to 300 times as sweet as sugar. So there’s no need to use so much of it. The other good thing about stevia is that is has almost no calories, which makes it good for weight loss.
Even if stevia in it’s purest form can rightly be called Paleo, there is some cause for concern that it can still be harmful for the body. Some scientific studies have shown that it can act as a mutagen and could potentially increase the risk for cancer.
Before you get scared away from stevia, do understand that these studies were run in animals and so far there have been no evidence of the same effects in humans. The animal subjects were also given high doses of stevia that people aren’t likely to take.
So far, stevia has shown a good safety profile when it comes to the tests done in humans. And it is believed that one to two teaspoons a day on your beverages or food will not be harmful.
Another important factor to consider when deciding if stevia is right for your Paleo diet is to consider why you are Paleo. If your reason is because you are trying to stay in the most optimum personal health or due to an auto-immune disease that you have, then you might want to consider staying away from stevia and generally anything that can have an effect on your hormone levels.
Other Alternatives to Stevia
Perhaps, some of the potential downsides to stevia sound burdening to you and you’d like to find a sweetener that doesn’t have some of these effects.
Stevia is one of the common sweeteners that’s been used to substitute for sugar. However there are other sweeteners you can use too like honey. Another option, though less well known, is to consider Monk Fruit, which itself is also quite sweet.
Chinese food science suggests eating Monk Fruit for it’s storied ability to curb weight gain and potentially even treat diabetes. Just like stevia, Monk Fruit can come in a powdered form that often contains many non-Paleo ingredients. Or, if you are able to source the real plant’s leaves or extract, you’ll find another Paleo option that may agree with your body’s other biological needs.
Stevia in its natural green leaf form belongs in the Paleo food list. However, commercial stevia, that have additives and other ingredients processed into them are not Paleo. In its natural form, you can use it as a sweetener while on paleo in place of sugar.
To find more Paleo foods and recipes, we recommend on taking a look at the Paleo Recipes Book.