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What is the Difference Between Stevia and Sugar?

Stevia and sugar sweeten our lives, but in distinct ways. Stevia, a natural zero-calorie sweetener, derives from a plant, offering sweetness without impacting blood sugar levels. Sugar, harvested from sugarcane or beets, is calorie-dense and can affect glucose levels. Choosing between them can influence health and dietary balance. Wondering how this choice might affect your wellness journey? Let's explore further.
Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller

Stevia and sugar are two kinds of nutritional sweeteners found in sodas and other sweet beverages, baked goods, and many processed and packaged foods. While sugar, also known as sucrose or table sugar, comes from the sugar beet or sugar cane plant and has long been used as a sweetener, stevia is relatively new to the market. It is sold under several brand names, comes from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, and is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Both are marketed as natural sweeteners as both are made from plants, but the effects of stevia and sugar in the body may not be identical.

Sugar is used as a food additive or naturally occurring in food in many forms. Sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, and high-fructose corn syrup are only a few examples. Sucrose is a dissacharide, meaning that it is formed by two simple sugars: glucose and fructose. It is made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Sugar cane, grown in tropical climates, accounts for more than two-thirds of production. Stevia and sugar are often compared for the calories they add to food, as sugar supplies 4 calories (17 kilojoules) per gram, or 16 calories per teaspoon and 48 calories per tablespoon.

Sugar comes from sugar cane.
Sugar comes from sugar cane.

Like table sugar, stevia is used commercially as a food additive to sweeten foods like soda and baked goods. Stevia rebaudiana is only one of 240 plants in the stevia genus. It is also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf. The sweetness comes from an extract from the leaf known as steviol glycoside or rebaudioside A that is up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose.

Granulated sugar pressed into sugar cubes.
Granulated sugar pressed into sugar cubes.

Though it has been in use in many countries for centuries — it is particularly popular in southeast Asia — it was only approved in its current form in the United States in 2008. It is largely banned in Europe due to concerns about potential toxins contained within. Extracted by drying the leaves and using crystallization to separate the rebaudioside A, stevia contributes no calories to foods or beverages.

Maltodextrin, a sweet food additive.
Maltodextrin, a sweet food additive.

A notable difference between stevia and sugar, aside from the fact that one contains calories and the other does not, is that stevia has been found not to cause the same spikes in blood glucose. Consuming table sugar causes a temporary rise in blood sugar levels, leading the body to release insulin to take up and store this sugar. Since stevia consumption has been shown to cause little to no rise in blood sugar, it has been recommended to those who are diabetic, insulin-sensitive, or on low-carbohydrate diets.

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Discussion Comments


I have read a lot about Stevia. I am using it now. The taste is good but the price is much more than sugar. --Yousuf, Sudan


I realize that stevia has advantages but unless someone is on a strict diet that doesn't allow any sugar, I don't think we need to rely on anything else.

I understand that stevia is natural and all, but so is corn syrup. And we all know about the claims made against corn syrup and its links to obesity and diabetes.

I think that stevia is still very new and with time we might learn more about how it works in the body. Plus, if you have too much of anything, there's bound to be bad effects.

I'm just scared that stevia is going to be the next corn syrup and that we're going to start seeing it in everything pretty soon. Good old sugar is what I'm sticking to.


I'm a diabetic and ever since I had read and heard about the dangers of using too much artificial sweeteners, I have been looking for something as a replacement. Stevia has literally come to my rescue.

I was amazed to know that there could be a sweetener that neither has calories, nor affects blood sugar and also doesn't accumulate in the body.

I'm using stevia in place of sugar while baking and it tastes wonderful. Artificial sweeteners leave a weird taste in foods I noticed, but stevia has worked out for me. I think it's the best alternative to sugar out there for diabetics.


I tried soda with organic stevia for the first time a couple of months ago. This might have been due to the flavoring of the soda, but the taste was very different than usual soda.

It was very sweet as the article mentioned and I prefer it over regular soda or diet soda with artificial sweeteners because it doesn't have calories. I think after years of regular consumption of sugar though, it's going to take me some time to get used to the taste. And of course, stevia is a much more expensive sweetener than sugar.

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    • Sugar comes from sugar cane.
      Sugar comes from sugar cane.
    • Granulated sugar pressed into sugar cubes.
      Granulated sugar pressed into sugar cubes.
    • Maltodextrin, a sweet food additive.
      By: HamsterMan
      Maltodextrin, a sweet food additive.
    • Cane sugar.
      By: HLPhoto
      Cane sugar.
    • Stevia may be used to sweeten beverages.
      By: absolutimages
      Stevia may be used to sweeten beverages.
    • Sugar beets are a source of sugar.
      By: jllh
      Sugar beets are a source of sugar.