Intermittent fasting or time restricted eating is a period of time restraining yourself from consuming any food or calories. This dates back to the ancestral way of eating. So, in a sense the fasting period mimics the period in which we needed to hunt and gather our next meal. This way of eating makes a lot of sense, and comes with a wide variety of health benefits. Including increased metabolism, fat burning, gut rest, autophagy, and decreased inflammation.
However, in today’s modern society it can be hard to restrain yourself from consuming any calories. Most of the beverages we drink like coffee, tea, and energy drinks contain calories which will break your fast. There are a lot of zero calorie sugar-free options, however these can be tricky. There is still some debate as to what really breaks your fast. Check out my article on sugar-free energy drinks while fasting. However, this article is going to be taking an in-depth look at the natural sweetener Stevia. I will be discussing what stevia is, how it affects the body, and if stevia will truly break your fast.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is a sugar substitute and natural sweetener derived from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana. The leaves of the stevia plant have natural active compounds called steviol glycosides. The stevia glycosides are 250-300 times sweeter than table sugar, and are not fermented. This means it is not metabolized by the human body.
The stevia plant has been used for many many years by the endogenous people of South America. However, it wasn’t until the 2000’s that stevia really picked up popularity in areas like China and the US. Over the years, companies have fought for stevia to be approved for use as a food additive, and it took quite some time to get passed through legislation. However, as of 2017, stevia is recognized as a safe and approved natural sweetener to be used in the United States.
Does Stevia Break My Fast?
Technically, stevia does not break your fast. This is due to stevia containing zero calories, and not causing an insulin response within the body. Unlike some artificial sweeteners which spike insulin levels, stevia is a natural sweetener that is not metabolized by the body. So, it does not have an impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Research shows stevia is not digested or absorbed by the body, and it simply get passed through the digestive system. Stevia is unique in this way, and it appears to actually have a great impact on insulin sensitivity. Which makes stevia a popular choice among diabetics and those following a ketogenic diet.
Being that stevia is zero calories and does not effect insulin levels, makes stevia a popular choice while intermittent fasting. Many people like to sweeten their coffee or tea while fasting. This is actually one of the main reasons some people avoid intermittent fasting, because they no longer can enjoy their morning beverages. However, stevia allows you to sweeten your coffee, tea, and water without breaking your fast. You will still get the benefits of gut rest, autophagy, and increased metabolism if you consume stevia.
The Taste Of Sweetness
There is some debate in the literature in regards to the taste of sweetness, and its effects on intermittent fasting. Research in animal studies particularly mice, has shown that just the taste of sweetness on the tongue can trigger receptors in the brain, causing processes within the body to become activated. However, it is unclear whether or not this same response holds true in the human body. It is still debatable whether or not just the taste of sweetness can trick your brain into thinking you have consumed sugary foods. The research shows that sweetness is the only taste bud that may have this effect on the brain. Sour, bitter, and salty tastes do not have this same response on our brain.
Although, stevia is zero calories and does not cause an insulin response within the body, it still is extremely sweet. It is debatable whether or not just the taste of sweetness breaks your fasting window, and most of the research we do have is on animals. So, whether or not the sweetness of stevia has an impact on fasting in these regards is unclear. It is just something to consider when consuming stevia in your fasting window. However, I believe the research is inconclusive, and stevia is acceptable to consume while fasting.
The effects natural sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols have on the human body can be tricky. However, stevia is one of the best zero calorie sweeteners out of them all. Some of the other zero calories sweeteners can cause an insulin response within the body, thus breaking your fast. However, stevia does not cause an insulin response and is not absorbed by the digestive system, and therefore is acceptable while intermittent fasting. I recommend sticking with stevia as your sweetener while fasting. It is fine to add a little bit of stevia in your black coffee or tea. However, do not add cream or dairy products because these will for sure break your fast.
Remember it is important to consider all these little things when intermittent fasting. Although it seems excessive, you want to make sure you are not breaking your fast. You do not want to be ruining your fast accidentally by consuming something that is breaking your fast. Make sure to check the nutrition label and ingredient list for any beverage you want to drink while fasting. Stick with acceptable beverages while intermittent fasting like water, sparkling water, black coffee, or plain tea. My personal favorite is sparkling water and black coffee. Sparkling water actually makes a great choice while intermittent fasting due to the hydration and carbonation. Check out my article on the best sparkling waters to consume while fasting.