Friday, September 9, 2011

Honey Vs. Stevia

Photo by Siona Watson
Before I get into this subject I need to say that the best thing for health and weight loss is to avoid sugar in all it's forms. However, even though this blog is called "The Primal Home", I am not some super fit, never eat a carb, crossfitter. (Although I greatly admire these types- I'm just not there yet.) For my family, especially the kids, we enjoy something lightly sweet on occasion. I usually use honey to accomplish this. 

I've been getting a lot of comments on my recipes asking if stevia can be substituted for honey.

Honestly I've never used stevia before. It's always been tied in my mind to artificial sweeteners. I realize this is a wrong assumption and that it comes from a plant leaf. But honey has always seemed very "real food" to me.

I've been hearing so much about stevia that I decided to do some investigating. I googled "honey vs. stevia" and when that got me nowhere I tried "honey" and then "stevia". Here's what I found out:

  • Our caveman ancestors would most definitely eaten honey, although it would have been rare. 
  • Raw Honey is antibacterial and has many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 
  • Honey's glycemic index varies depending upon the nectar source. It can range from 30 to 75.
  • It has slightly more calories than table sugar per spoonful. 
  • Like table sugar, honey will produce an insulin response and blood sugar spike. 

  • Stevia is a plant with very sweet tasting leaves. 
  • Most stevia is processed into a powdered or liquid extract.
  • It has been used for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Japan.
  • Stevia contains 0 calories. 
  • Stevia has been shown to lower elevated blood pressure.
  • It is commonly thought that stevia has a glycemic index of 0 and does not produce an insulin response. 
  • Some of the more processed brands such as Truvia contain additives.  
  • Stevia can sometimes have a licorice like aftertaste. 

After looking around for quite awhile I found no evidence that stevia is harmful and found it may even be beneficial.

I don't plan on replacing my honey completely but I do think I will pick up some stevia the next time I'm at the store and play around with it a little. I have to admit- 0 calories and no insulin response sounds pretty tempting!

Sources and further reading:

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  1. Interesting! I use raw honey only, but I guess I avoided Stevia because I thought it produced an insulin response. When I was a teenager I found this spindly, mint-like plant at a clearance sale one time and it was Stevia... it didn't survive but I was surprised at the sweet taste. I might try using it for ice cream, that would be awesome!

  2. I have been using liquid Stevia for about 6 weeks, only in my morning hot tea. Other than that I eat Real Food. I was a honey girl before I began my more primal lifestyle. My mom has a good friend that has a honey bee buisness so we can get all the raw local honey we want! I guess I should take more advantage of that huh?

  3. I eat Stevia leaves when I get a nasty sugar craving. But I use a tsp of honey in my morning smoothie (1 tsp for me, 1 tsp for my DD) because it is local and believed to help with local allergies. So far it seems to be helping!

  4. I, too, have been experimenting with Stevia with excellent results, I find using anything more than about 1/2 tsp of liquid stevia in a recipe can get kind of bitter though! Although I love honey it's glycemic load is just a bit much for me...I also really like coconut palm nectar and yacon syrup.

  5. I sometimes use Stevia with honey because the Stevia makes it possible for me to cut down on the amount of honey and at the same time honey helps hide any bitter after taste from the stevia. For example I make a coconut milk smoothie where I put one packet of the stevia and one tea. local raw honey. To get the health benefits of raw honey it should not be heated because it is then basically cooked and no longer raw. Also the after taste of Stevia will show up in some recipes more than others and can vary from brand to brand and some think powder vs. liquid makes a difference in taste. I'm still deciding on that. I sometimes use Coconut palm sugar but have not tried the nectar yet. Coconut sugar's flavor reminds me of brown sugar. Coconut sugar is suppose to have a lower glycemic response than most sweeteners.

    1. I was looking for something about mixing stevia with honey. I had to read what you wrote. What got my attention was your name.

      Brenda Helquist.

  6. I bought a stevia plant and during the summer I cut off some leaves let the leaves steep in hot water overnight and kept the sweetened water in the fridge to use in my coffee in the mornings...Worked great...

  7. Brenda- I like your idea of mixing honey and stevia. I will have to give that a try.

    Cindy- Also a great idea to turn the leaves into liquid sweetener yourself. Thanks!

  8. Hi Kara, sorry this is so late to the comments section, but I found your blog about two weeks ago and love it. I'm a big honey person too, but the insulin spike is always tough to get around. I'm glad you brought up stevia and I was interested in the comments of people who are using it. I did a quick search and saw that South Americans and the Japanese have been using the Stevia plant for decades, but that the processing of stevia as a powder and a glycerin (or gel?) has not been tested in any large scientific study. All of our info is anecdotal. So, once again, the processed product we Americans get, is not the healthy alternative to sugar that others have been using forever.
    So it was great to see that your commenters are using the plant itself, and with good results. I'm almost tempted to try it. Until then, I'll stick with the honey.
    Oh, and I can't wait to try your Lemon Bars. Again, thanks for your blog. (And sorry to go on and on.)

  9. My mother bought a stevia plant after she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and wanted to cut out all possible irritants (bovine dairy, sugars, grains). She usually sticks with making her own simple syrup, like cindy mentioned, or using the leaves straight. Neither she nor I trust Truvia or any other processed sugar substitute for their 'health' claims - after all, Splenda is table sugar that has been run through the chemical gamut of chlorides, ketones and methanol before it becomes sucralose. I'll stick with honey, myself, from the guy that lives right down the road. :)


  10. I prefer honey too. Love your recipes.

  11. I little goes a long way. I use a small amount in my morning coffee.

  12. I tried to like stevia but hated the taste. However, you have to really watch and read labels. I didn't and noticed after I got home that the first ingredient in my "0 calorie, all-natural" stevia was dextrose. Fishy, no?

    1. I completely agree!! I hated it too...thought it tasted "chemically" (I know that's not a word!) It's the only way to describe it!

  13. Truvia doesn't have dextrose in it and I didn't notice an aftertaste with it either. Perhaps try that one if you are looking to try Stevia

  14. I get my Stevia from Trader Joe's and the only other ingredient is lactose (so if your lactose intolerant this might not work for you) I use it in moderation. I do use honey with it sometimes to modify the taste. I don't think there is anything wrong with using stevia as long as your only using it in limited amounts and it is as close to pure stevia as possible. I would not trust Truvia. While research so far sounds promising, we don't know enough about it to know if it's really as great as it sounds so far. I think it's best to have sweets only on rare occasions just as our ancestors would have.

  15. I love Stevia! It's become my sweetener of choice, and this morning someone asked me why I prefer that over honey. I forwarded this post b/c you break down the differences so well!!
    Stevia has been known to regulate amniotic fluid in pregnant women :)

  16. The best brand of stevia to purchase in a store is Sweetleaf. They have been around for years (long before truvia came onboard) and they use water to extract the sweetness from the plant - NOT chemicals. The only other ingredient is inulin (in the powder) and that's plant fiber. I also think it tastes delicious - even my husband likes it!

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