Which Is Best: Stevia, Sugar or Honey?

You can add a number of products to foods to make them sweeter. Honey, stevia and table sugar are three such products, each with different properties. Although each of these products can be deemed "natural," they affect your body in different ways, so you need to look at several factors to determine which one to use.

Calories

One way to evaluate different sweeteners is to check their caloric contents. One of the biggest problems with consuming sweet foods is that they can be high in calories due to added carbohydrates. Stevia, a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener for centuries, is a non-nutritive sweetener that provides no calories to the diet. According to Oregon Health and Science University, when measured by volume, honey has slightly more calories than table sugar.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index of a food is a measurement of the food's effects on blood glucose levels. Foods with a high glycemic index cause your blood glucose levels to rapidly rise. Because stevia cannot be absorbed by the intestines and has no calories, it has a glycemic index of zero. Sugar, on the other hand, has a glycemic index of approximately 58, whereas the glycemic index of honey can range from 30 to 58, depending on the honey's composition, Oregon Health and Science University explains. Eating foods with a lower glycemic index can help prevent or treat diabetes, so if you are concerned about blood glucose levels, stevia is the best sweetener and honey may be slightly better than sugar.

Nutrients

Honey and table sugar are similar in carbohydrate content. Honey also contains vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-6, folate, niacin, riboflavin and panthothenic acid, which makes it more nutritious than table sugar. Stevia does not contain any vitamins or minerals.

Safety

Aside from the calories that it adds to the diet, there are few health concerns regarding the use of table sugar. Honey should not be given to infants because it can lead to a dangerous type of food poisoning known as botulism. The safety of stevia is still being studied; the Food and Drug Administration has designated highly refined stevia products as being "generally recognized as safe," which means they can be used for human consumption. On the other hand, crude stevia extracts and whole-leaf stevia are not approved, the Mayo Clinic notes, because there are concerns about their effects on the kidneys, cardiovascular system and blood glucose levels.

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