You might be wondering if the Stevia FODMAP content is low enough to be included in the low FODMAP diet.
Knowing which is best for you can be challenging with so many sweetener brands and types on the market.
Some sweeteners, such as Xylitol and Sorbitol, are high in polyols (the ‘P’ in FODMAP). Polyols may cause unwanted gut symptoms due to their poor absorption in the lower part of the gut (1).
Good news – the Stevia FODMAP content can be considered low FODMAP! This article will discuss what Stevia is, the Stevia FODMAP content, and how Stevia affects your health.
Is Stevia low FODMAP?
You might be glad to hear that the Stevia FODMAP content is low. Monash University has tested this with a low FODMAP serving size of 2 teaspoons (2).
Although regular table sugar is not high in FODMAPs, you might choose Stevia as a low-calorie alternative.
However, keep an eye on the ingredient lists of your favourite foods and drinks which contain Stevia, as the FODMAP content of the other ingredients can make them high FODMAP overall!
Stevia is often blended with other sweeteners to improve its taste. This can make the product high FODMAP; for example, if combined with xylitol or inulin.
However, it would depend on the FODMAP content of the other sweeteners, as some, such as erythritol, may be low FODMAP (2).
You can read more about which sweeteners are suitable for the low FODMAP diet in our blog: Which Sweeteners are low FODMAP?
If you find that low FODMAP sugar-free products still give you unwanted gut symptoms, it may be due to another factor.
For example, the following factors may be contributing to triggering IBS symptoms:
- Caffeine – this is a gut irritant, especially in large amounts
- Carbonation – fizzy drinks can cause bloating and gas
- Drinking through a straw – increases airflow, which can increase bloating and gas
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a zero-calorie, artificial sweetener from Stevia rebaudiana leaves (2). Although it has a natural origin, it still counts as an artificial sweetener as it undergoes processing in a lab.
Stevia is a non-nutritive sweetener as it doesn’t provide any energy but has plenty of sweetness.
The active ingredient that causes sweetness (Rebaudioside A) is 200 times sweeter than sugar! (3)
Some people find Stevia to have a bitter or metallic aftertaste, which might make it unpalatable for them. For this reason, you may find Stevia blended with other ingredients.
Products based on Stevia that you can buy might include:
Effects of Stevia on the microbiome
So, we know that Stevia is a low FODMAP option, but you might be wondering whether artificial sweeteners such as Stevia affect the gut microbiome.
The short answer: the jury is still out – we need better-quality human studies to make this clear in the long run.
The ‘microbiome’ is a term to describe all the bacteria that live naturally in your body, a large portion of which live in your gut. It has a lot of functions, including contributing to the following (4, 5):
- Nutrient metabolism
Your dietary patterns can alter which bacteria are in your gut microbiome. Generally, a larger diversity of these bacteria is linked with better health (6).
This is the premise of many prebiotics and probiotics: introducing a wider variety of bacteria to the gut to benefit health (7).
Research has indicated that Stevia consumption could benefit the microbiome’s diversity (8). However, as the microbiome can be affected by many things, other dietary components might have affected the results.
Interestingly, some evidence suggests that Stevia has some adverse effects on gut microbiota composition in rats (9). However, it is worth remembering that this might not apply to humans!
We need more high-quality human clinical trials to investigate the actual effects of sweeteners on the microbiome.
What are the effects of using Stevia on my health?
There is an increased demand for low-calorie sugar alternatives on the shelves, likely due to people making swaps to benefit their health.
People often think Stevia is preferable to other sweeteners as it comes from a plant, so it is considered ‘less artificial’. So, Stevia may be a low FODMAP sweetener option, but is it good for you?
Using Stevia for weight loss
The World Health Organization do not recommend people use non-nutritional sweeteners such as Stevia to control body weight (10).
This comes after a recent evaluation of all the available research, which says it doesn’t help weight loss in the long run.
Additionally, some studies have suggested that getting used to using sweeteners can increase cravings for more sugary foods and drinks (11).
Effects of Stevia on blood glucose control
Using Stevia instead of traditional sugar can help control blood sugar because your body cannot break down Stevia as it would with sugar, so it can’t be absorbed into the blood. (12)
Stevia glycosides (part of the product Stevia) can improve how quickly your body can use the foods you eat and how sensitive your body is to insulin (13). This is especially useful for people with diabetes.
Effects of Stevia on tooth decay
Stevia might be an excellent alternative to traditional sugars if you are looking out for your teeth.
Some research has shown Stevia to be antibacterial, reducing the number of nasty bacteria in your mouth. (14)
Also, plaque accumulation after using Stevia is nearly 60% less than sugar, which could go a long way in preventing gum disease and tooth decay (15).
The Stevia FODMAP content is low up to serving sizes of 2 teaspoons. This makes it a suitable low-calorie sweetener which you can use on the low FODMAP diet as an alternative to sugar.
Watch out for other high FODMAP ingredients or triggers for your IBS in Stevia products. Some of the sneaky ones include other high-FODMAP sweeteners and caffeine.
Research suggests that using Stevia in your diet might impact the types of bacteria that live in your gut, but we need more studies on humans to work out the long-term effects of this.
Although the World Health Organization doesn’t recommend Stevia solely to reduce your weight, it will likely help your blood sugar control and prevent tooth decay.
Written by Annabelle Green Registered Dietitian, reviewed by reviewed by Kirsten Jackson, Consultant Dietitian BSc Hons, RD, PG Cert
Serena is UK HCPC Registered Dietitian. She graduated from Coventry University in 2021 with an upper second class in Dietetics and Human Nutrition.
Serena has previously worked as an Acute Dietitian supporting inpatients with both oral nutrition support and enteral tube feeding. She is now currently working as a Specialist Weight Management Dietitian. Alongside this, Serena has worked for The Food Treatment Clinic since 2022 and has created our low FODMAP, histamine intolerance and SIBO ebooks.
Serena has a keen interest in IBS and gut health, most specifically the low FODMAP diet. She is dedicated to helping those with gut conditions to improve their overall quality of life.
Last updated on September 3rd, 2023 at 12:02 pm