Does Stevia Break a Fast?
What Is Stevia?
More and more sugar alternatives have been gaining popularity lately – and one of the many options is stevia. Stevia is a plant that has been used for sweetening drinks for many centuries. It is native to South America, but it is now harvested in China and Japan too. Just like monk fruit, stevia is considered a “non-nutritive” sweetener because it has zero calories. Thanks to this aspect, it suits many lifestyles and aids in weight loss.
The plant belongs to the sunflower family and there are more than 150 species in North and South America, although China is the main exporter of stevia-based products. The plant is reportedly 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, and it’s a popular choice because this plant is quite sustainable, too, when compared to growing other sweeteners. It uses a lot less water and only 20% of the land required by other alternatives .
Despite its soaring popularity, stevia has been quite controversial. In 1987, it was banned by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and deemed unsafe. Nowadays, only constituents of the stevia leaves (known as steviol glycosides) are considered safe, so the use and import of stevia leaves and crude stevia extracts are still banned in the U.S. 
The stevia extract that we can buy and use goes through approximately 40 steps until it reaches the final form. The stevia leaves are harvested, dried, and purified of their bitter taste and unpleasant odor. Some people may also find stevia tasting not only sweet, but also have a bitter, metallic, or licorice-like aftertaste. However, most manufacturers perform sensory evaluations to make sure their product has as little aftertaste as possible.
Benefits of Stevia
Stevia is a natural sweetener that not only helps us decrease the number of calories we ingest but also brings many other benefits: here’s a breakdown..
May Help Control Diabetes
Probably the most important benefit is stevia’s impact on our glucose levels. If you suffer from diabetes or you closely watch your carbohydrate or sugar intake, stevia is an excellent alternative to table sugar. This is because stevia contains stevioside, a glycoside compound that makes us feel the sweet taste, but this compound is not absorbed by our body. Instead, it is consumed by the bacteria in our colon, thus it has no impact on our blood sugar levels .
May Help With Weight Loss
As stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener, you can easily replace table sugar, which will eliminate the extra calories without having to abstain from sweets. In other words, you can add stevia to your tea, coffee, desserts, candies, and other dishes without supplementing the calories. Thus, you can control the sugar (carbs) you ingest with ease without having to stop consuming sweets .
May Reduce Inflammation
Two stevia compounds, stevioside and steviol, have been associated with improved symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and are rich in antioxidants. These help fight free radicals that produce cell damage. In addition to this, stevia was also shown to improve the immune system thanks to its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. It prevents tumor formation in subjects suffering from different types of cancer .
Helps with Oral Hygiene
Stevia can decrease the bacteria in our mouth, which makes it an excellent ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. Thanks to its compounds, it helps fight dental caries and plaques, preventing gingivitis and other oral diseases. This is one of the main benefits of stevia, especially when compared to table sugar, which is known for its negative impact on oral health .
Healthy Blood Pressure
Stevia may also help maintain healthy blood pressure. In a 2-year study, it was proved that the group who took stevioside daily had lower diastolic and systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group .
Stevia can even be applied topically to get relief from several skin conditions, including dermatitis and eczema. Due to its antibacterial properties, it prevents bacteria from spreading, so you may even make it an addition to your skincare routine! 
Does Stevia Break a Fast?
There are many types of intermittent fasting, and you may wonder what you can eat or drink during the fasting window. Many recommend having plain water only, as eating foods or having certain beverages could break your fast.
Many people fast in order to trigger autophagy, a process in which the body does “housecleaning”, removing and recycling damaged parts of your cells. Many people are very mindful of what they consume when fasting to avoid breaking the fast, which would end the autophagy process .
Fortunately, consuming stevia in moderation does not break a fast. In fact, it is unlikely to interrupt or reduce any of the benefits of fasting (including ketosis). The FDA recommends up to 1.8mg of stevia per pound of body weight. However, the potency of your stevia extract may differ based on the brand, so you need to check the label.
In addition to this, to avoid breaking your fast, be mindful of what other ingredients your stevia product contains. Some brands may add sucrose (same as regular table sugar), which will break your fast, or sugar alcohols, which don’t break a fast but may cause GI problems. If you want to safely consume stevia when fasting, make sure you go for pure stevia extracts that don’t contain any added ingredients.
Finally, you should not consume too much stevia – during your fast or with your meals. As with everything, moderation is key, so you should follow the recommended dose by the FDA. High consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia can impact the health of your gut or may lead to eating more calories throughout the day, which will make you put on weight. Also, when combined with sugar alcohols like xylitol, a stevia blend can lead to digestive issues.
How to Use Stevia When Fasting?
When fasting, many people are encouraged to drink only water – in the end, the definition of fasting is to refrain from eating food for a certain period. However, there are a few items that are not completely off the list since they won’t break your fast. In general, anything with calories or nutrients will break the fast because these will start a metabolic change.
Probably the best way to use stevia is to sweeten your coffee or tea. A cup of coffee during your fasting will not impact its benefits. One cup of coffee (about 240ml) contains 3 calories and a very low amount of fat, protein, and minerals. Due to this very low content, you can consume 1-2 cups of coffee per day without breaking the fast. However, you should avoid adding milk, cream, or other ingredients to your coffee or tea, as these will break the fast.
Another way to consume stevia without breaking your fast is using it to sweeten your water. If you are not a very big fan of plain water, you can use this non-nutritive sweetener to enjoy a refreshing beverage.
Also, for a twist, you can replace plain water with carbonated water – especially if you crave sodas. Juices and sodas are not recommended when fasting because of their high sugar content, so a cup of sweetener water may help you overcome the cravings and stay hydrated.
Outside of your fasting window, you can use stevia more creatively. You can opt for either the liquid or powder form of stevia, but keep in mind that it does not caramelize, unlike the non-nutritive, zero-calorie monk fruit.
Some ideas to use powder or liquid stevia extract include:
- Adding it to smoothies or other beverages
- Baking sweet treats
- Adding it to unsweetened cereals
- Adding it to sauces or dressings
Bottom Line: Does Stevia Break a Fast?
If you are fasting, you need to be very mindful of what you consume as many supplements, foods, and drinks can break your fast and undo all of its benefits. In general, it’s great to plan your meals ahead and decide what you can have during the fasting window.
Fortunately, stevia is one of the few options you have if you want to curb your cravings when fasting. However, it’s important to check the label when buying stevia extract to make sure it’s pure, as additions like sucrose can break your fast.
You can add it to water, coffee, or tea. You can also add it to many other types of dishes you can have when you decide to break your fast, such as sweetening a dressing for salad, baking sweets, or replacing table sugar in almost any recipe to cut the carb and calorie content. You should use stevia in moderation to avoid side effects, but stevia extract is generally considered safe by the FDA. It certainly has many benefits compared to table sugar, which is known to have a negative impact on our overall health.
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