Both Stevia and Cane Sugar are used to sweeten products all over the world. The vast majority of desserts and sweet drinks are made with cane sugar, but stevia is really gaining popularity as clean labels are becoming more important to consumers.
Both products are used in foods including sweets, processed foods, baked goods, and sodas.
Both sweeteners come from nature. Cane sugar of course, from the Sugar Cane. Stevia is a bit of a mystery; some people even think it is an artificial sweetener. Stevia comes from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana, a plant found in South America and other tropical areas.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia has been used for hundreds of years but has only been recognized as safe as a food additive in the United States since 2008. Because of the banned status, it held for years, consumers often lump it in with sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin and assume it is unhealthy. The powdered sweetener derived from the stevia plant can be 200-300 times as sweet as sugar but are low in carbohydrates. (find the different varieties here) This is excellent news for people with diabetes, on the keto diet, or even just trying to watch their calorie intake from sweets.
Different stevia products will have different degrees of sweetness, which means there is some experimentation involved in formulating with this ingredient. Luckily the experts at Icon Foods can take the guesswork out of this process.
Stevia does have a distinct flavor and works best when paired with stronger ingredients like coffee, chocolate, or lemon. Other than a slightly different flavor, the other main concern with stevia is the volume. Because it is so much sweeter than cane sugar, you usually need something to fill in that empty space in your recipe. In general, for every 1 teaspoon of sugar, just 1/16 of a teaspoon of stevia is needed.
Nutritionally is where sugar and stevia differ the most. Stevia provides zero calories and has a glycemic load of zero. There is one gram of carbohydrates per two teaspoons of stevia. That is why stevia is known as a non-nutritive sweetener.
Now let’s have a look at cane sugar. Two teaspoons of cane sugar contain about 32 calories and 8.4 grams of carbohydrates. When it comes to sticking to a diet or keeping blood sugar at the right levels, stevia is the clear victor.
Cane sugar is the dominant force in the sweetener industry. For the most part, the products you find are going to contain cane sugar. From dessert foods all the way to condiments and yogurts that aren’t generally considered unhealthy, you will find this ingredient.
Because consumers are becoming more educated on sugar consumption and the health complications coming with it, sweeteners like stevia are on the rise. Stevia is a way to enjoy that sweet flavor naturally. As everyone becomes hyper-aware of nutritional labels, big players like Coca-Cola have taken notice. You are starting to see stevia-sweetened versions of your favorite products pop up more and more. The big knock on stevia is that it does not taste exactly like sugar, which is true, but with different blends and formulas provided by Icon Foods you can achieve the perfect product without all of the carbohydrates and added sugars.