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Ask the Dietitian: Is Stevia Healthy

Stevia is a popular alternative sweetener, but is stevia healthy? A Kroger dietitian weighs in.

By Molly Hembree, R.D., L.D.

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Q: I’m trying to cut back on sugar consumption. I see a lot of products that say “no sugar,” but they list stevia as an ingredient. Is stevia healthy?

Kudos to you on dialing back on added sugars! Professional health organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics have identified added sugars as a top public health concern in our eating patterns. Specifically, the AHA recommends women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day and men no more than 36 grams.

Stevia is a “nonnutritive” sweetener, meaning it offers little to no calories or sugar. Stevia is GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA and is safe to consume in the amounts present in many of our favorite treats and sweet-tasting beverages. Stevia is a terrific option to sweeten a morning brew or use in a favorite baked good recipe.

Q: A lot of articles and media stress the importance of antioxidants. Can you tell me more about why I need them and the best ways to get them?

Antioxidants combat oxidative stress from our environment and body processes, which can damage cells and is linked to inflammation. Some of the most common antioxidants are vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A). You can get adequate amounts through a plant-centric diet and inclusion of healthy fats (like nuts, seeds and peanut butter), citrus, peppers, green vegetables, and orange- or red-colored produce.

Q: I enjoy eating meat but am trying to cut back on its consumption and incorporate more vegetables in my diet. When I have a craving for meat, what are the healthiest types and why?

Amping up the veggies in your diet is a smart way to increase nutrition, provide lasting energy and fight chronic disease. Virtual high-five! So, without ignoring the need to include vegetables on your plate (aim for 1 cup of vegetables per meal), we still want to include space for protein.

Turn to lean (less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat and 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100 grams, or about a 3.5-ounce serving as packaged) versions of meat and poultry if consuming meat. Stay under one serving total of red meat (including beef, pork, lamb and bison) and processed meat (including bacon, sausage and hot dogs) per week. High intakes of saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers.

Keep in mind that some vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplants and beans provide a “meaty” flavor
to dishes. Consider using these ingredients instead and you may
not miss the meat!

A registered dietitian with Kroger, Molly provides private nutrition-counseling services, and has been a public speaker, radio talk-show guest, blog author and TV news presenter for Kroger. She enjoys helping customers simplify the confusing world of nutrition labels, dietary intolerances, weight management and plant-based nutrition.

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