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Use Stevia Instead of Sugar

Let’s talk about something that you really need to let go of if you want to heal your skin condition: sugar. Why? Quite simply, sugar kills the good bugs in your microbiome.

Professor Cynthia Kenyon from the University of California, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of aging, experimented with giving glucose to worms, and found that it shortened their life spans dramatically. She claims that if you’d seen what she has seen, in terms of what sugar does to living organisms, you would never eat sugar again. She doesn’t.1 Sugar is death to your microbiome. Just say no to sugar.

So what can you use as an alternative to sugar, something that’s kinder to your skin and gut? I only allow one kind of sweetener on the farm: stevia. Stevia is brilliant stuff: it’s made from the leaves of a plant, is low-GI, has zero calories, and is safe for diabetics. In fact, stevia is not actually a sweetener at all – it just stimulates the sweet tastebuds on your tongue, so that you have the sensation of sweetness.

Stevia has been used for centuries as a bio-sweetener and a traditional treatment for diabetics – and studies show it may actually improve blood sugar control.2 Stevia also appears to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.3 Researchers particularly recommend its use for those diabetes patients, those wishing to lose weight, and children.4

The sugar folks fought long and hard to keep stevia out of the UK and off the shelves – and who can blame them! You would too, if faced with an alternative to your product that had zero calories and actual health benefits.

Ways to use stevia

The sugar barons lost the fight, though, and had to adopt a ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ approach, so stevia can now be found on in many supermarkets. A word of advice, though: carefully check the label on the stevia you find in the supermarket, because many types of stevia have been layered onto a dextrose base to give it extra bulk – and dextrose is a form of glucose (sugar) derived from starches.

I recommend using completely pure stevia, which comes in crystals, drops, and clickers that you can pop straight into coffee and tea. I usually order mine online, or get it from a health food store. Pure stevia is a bit expensive, but as it is roughly 30 times as sweet as sugar, one small bag will last for a long time. I like stevia clickers for coffee and tea; I don’t like the drops, as I find them fiddly and I’m generally in a hurry – but that’s just purely personal preference. You might find they work very well for you.

The only downside to stevia that I’ve found is that it’s hard to bake with. It has an odd, fluffy texture that can’t match the lovely grainy quality that sugar gives a cake. If you find a good way to bake with it, please do let me know, and we’ll go into business together!

There is a baking version of stevia that has erythritol added for bulk. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is made by fermenting glucose. Like stevia, it does not raise your blood sugar, so is microbiome-safe. The advantages of erythritol is that it creates the same shiny effect in low-calorie chocolate, adds bulk to dairy products, and improves the shelf life of baked goods. Stevia and erythritol work for home baking because they’re both heat-stable. It’s safe enough, but I’m still not crazy about the results.

For baking, I prefer to sweeten with whole, blended-up fruit and veg, like bananas and carrots, or dried fruit. Dried fruit tends to have a similar glycemic index to its non-dried counterpart. So it’s safe to use sparingly as a natural sweetener – because it still has its fiber, the sugar goes into your bloodstream more slowly. Dried apples, apricots, peaches, and plums are all low GI and nice to work with. If you need to increase sweetness levels, you can top up with stevia until it’s sweet enough for your taste.

What about other natural sweeteners?

You may be wondering about the effect of other natural sweeteners on the microbiome. Honey, for example. Well, honey is brilliant stuff – but I treat it as medicine. Honey is very high on the glycemic index – almost as high as pure glucose – so don’t use it as an everyday sweetener, as it will damage your microbiome.

Honey is a natural antibiotic. If we have coughs or colds, we make a mix of honey, lemon and ginger and drink it down. We also apply sterile dressings that have been surgically infused with honey to wounds, in order to promote rapid healing and prevent infection. I used these surgical honey dressings on Rich’s wound when he had MRSA, and I always keep a few spare in my farmhouse first aid kit – they’re brilliant to have around.5

Honey should not be mixed with kefir, though, because honey’s naturally antibiotic action will kill off the kefir probiotics that you’re trying to get into your system.

We don’t bother with manuka honey – apparently, three times more manuka honey is on the shelves than is actually produced in New Zealand, so the chances are good that you’re being overcharged for fake manuka.6

When we need medical honey on the farm, we use heather honey – the honey that most beekeepers choose to eat. It’s a little more expensive than regular honey, but nowhere near as pricey as manuka! It’s a mono-honey (made from only one plant) that has been shown to be just as anti-bacterially effective as manuka.7 It’s a UK-made product too, which is something we like to support.

How about maple syrup or agave syrup? I don’t use them as daily sweeteners, although I do treat myself to real maple syrup on pancakes for special occasions. Maple syrup is even higher on the glycemic index than honey, so it’s no good for your microbiome either. And please do not use agave syrup! Agave nectar is about 85 per cent fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar, and can contribute to insulin resistance when consumed in large amounts.

I don’t approve of artificial sweeteners, so we don’t use them on the farm. I do chew xylitol gum, though, because it has been shown to promote dental health. But stevia is the only thing that goes onto my farmhouse kitchen table, or into my Nutribullet to mix with my kefir.

Note: Pregnant or nursing women shouldn’t use stevia. Whole stevia leaves were also traditionally used as a contraceptive by the Guarani Indians in Paraguay. Those on blood pressure or diabetes medications should check with their doctor before using stevia-based products, as they may interact with these medications. People allergic to ragweed may be allergic to stevia as well.


  • Stevia is a safe, natural sweetener that doesn’t harm the microbiome.
  • Honey has natural antibiotics that impair the action of probiotics, so it’s not an appropriate sweetener for kefir.
  • Agave syrup and maple syrup are both high-GI sweeteners that can harm microbiome.



  1. London: Harper Collins - "The Food Hourglass". Written by Dr. Kris Verburgh on March 29, 2014
    link to article
  2. The National Center for Biotechnology Information - "Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review". Written by S.K. Goyal on February 17, 2010
    link to article
  3. Natural News - "Stevia is a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agent". Written by David Jockers on March 8, 2015
    link to article
  4. The National Center for Biotechnology Information - "Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) a bio-sweetener: a review". Written by S.K. Goyal on February 17, 2010
    link to article
  5. NHS - "Can Honey Fight Superbugs like MRSA?". Written by NHS Choices on April 13, 2011
    link to article
  6. Daily Mail - "Is your superfood honey FAKE? Experts reveal that three times more jars of healing manuka are sold around the world than being produced in New Zealand". Written by Maybelle Morgan on May 3, 2015
    link to article
  7. Daily Mail - "Scottish honey 'is as good at healing as manuka': Heather variety could offer cheaper alternative". Written by Daily Mail Reporter on October 2, 2013
    link to article

12 thoughts on “Use Stevia Instead of Sugar

  1. Hi Shann,

    Although I know you would advise against use of other sweeteners as you outline in your post, if one were to use a sweetener from time to time when baking home made granola, would date syrup be a more beneficial option (other than 100% Stevia), being both 100% fruit based and lower in fructose than many alternatives. I would love your thoughts on date syrup and if it has any beneficial uses.
    Best regards,

    1. Hi Jan,

      Are you referring to the Stevia clickers? Stevia is a natural sweetener – a ‘clicker’ is a dispenser for Stevia tabs.

      Hope this has helped!

      Best wishes,

  2. Hello, I’m just embarking on my goats kefir journey for my eczema, and so far it has not been too difficult to give up sugar or products that contain refined sugar (and have bought myself some stevia for some experimental baking. I just wanted to ask how harmful eating fruit is to the gut, as it’s something I eat frequently to curb any sweet tooth desires. Are the fruit in sugars in fruit as harmful as general sugar? Should I eat less fruit?
    A big thanks to the chuckling goat and the mounds of research you have done on the subject,

    1. Hi Mone –
      Fruit is fine, but try to combine it with good fats (avocado, oils, etc) and proteins, so that you’re not dumping a load of fructose alone into your system all at once.

    1. Hi Peter – This is a contentious issue. In 1988, professor Mauro Alvarez of Brazil’s University of Maringa Foundation, repeated a previous study, reported in a Brazilian pharmaceutical journal, showing that female mice given Stevia experienced a contraceptive effect similar to those reported earlier. I’m aware that critics argue that the Alvarez study lacks the information and analysis required by such a research study and can not be considered valid. According to the Herb Research Foundation the study lacks any credibility at all and should be disregarded. Even Alvarez himself now claims that further research has led him to believe that Stevia is completely safe for human consumption. However despite the problems with both studies, the FDA continues to use them as their main source against Stevia. My position on this is better safe than sorry – I certainly do not want to advise anything that has the slightest possibility of interfering with anyone’s fertility or pregnancy. Best, Shann

  3. Hi Shann – I picked up some stevia from Holland & Barrett. they said they don’t sell it in its pure form. Theirs is mixed with inulin – is this OK to use?

    1. Hi Chris – Yes, inulin is fine – that’s a prebiotic that’s also found in the white stuff between orange segments – ; )

      1. Hi
        I bought Inspiral Granulated Stevia yesterday, read the packet more carefully this morning and realised that it is ‘100% natural sweetener made with stevia extract and other natural ingredients’.

        So it is not pure stevia, the ingredients are :

        Natural inulin (vegetable fibre)
        Natural levulose (fruit sugar from red grapes)
        Organic steviol glycosides (stevia extract) (5%)
        Organic gum acacia

        Is this okay to take with my chuckling goat kefir?

        Thanks, Jane

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