Allulose and stevia are among several popular natural low calorie and zero calorie sweeteners currently available at many grocery stores. While both provide a sweet enhancement to foods, they have some differences. We’ll break down the facts about these sweeteners so you can decide if one might be a good fit for you.
Allulose is a low calorie sweetener that has gained popularity in recent years as a sugar substitute. It is also known as D-allulose or psicose, with the “-ose” at the end of names being a classic part of naming different types of simple sugars. Like other sugars, allulose does in fact get absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, allulose does not get metabolized and instead eventually gets excreted from the body via urine. In fact, allulose is considered one of the “rare sugars,” which are sugars that occur in small quantities in nature and have slight differences in chemical structure compared to conventional sugars. These differences account for allulose’s difference in calorie content, effect on blood sugar, and sweetness level compared to other sugars. Allulose occurs naturally in small amounts in some fruits, such as figs and raisins, but it can also be produced commercially by deriving it from other plant materials.
Stevia is a natural zero-calorie sweetener made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America. The sweet taste of stevia comes from compounds in the leaves called steviol glycosides, the main ones being stevioside and rebaudioside A (or reb A), which are used to make stevia extracts and products. Steviol glycosides generally pass through the upper part of the digestive system intact, and then are broken down by bacteria in the colon, absorbed into the bloodstream, and eventually excreted mainly in the urine.
Allulose is considered a low-calorie sweetener, since allulose metabolism provides about 0.4 calories per gram of allulose. This ends up being a fairly negligible amount of calories when used in normal serving sizes. Metabolism of stevia provides minimal energy, so it is considered a zero-calorie sweetener. Compare these to sugar (also known as sucrose), which, like most carbohydrates, provides 4 calories per gram during metabolism.
Since allulose and stevia behave differently from sugar in recipes, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind to ensure the best results. Keep sweetness in mind. Allulose is 70% as sweet as sugar, so you may need to add more allulose than the amount of sugar listed in the original recipe. Stevia, on the other hand, can be up to 250-300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. Some stevia powder blends may have added ingredients to bulk them up in order to use as a cup for cup replacement for sugar. Also keep in mind that stevia may provide a bitter aftertaste for some people, so using it in small quantities or pairing with other sweeteners may help improve overall taste.
For recipes where you want some caramelization, or browning of the sugar, allulose is the better option than stevia, since stevia doesn’t caramelize. Both sweeteners can also come in either powder or liquid forms, so be sure to choose the right form suggested in the recipe for best texture.
Most low- or zero-calorie sweeteners can result in some digestive discomfort when consumed in large quantities. When sweeteners make their way through the digestive tract, they come in contact with gut bacteria that can ferment the bacteria, sometimes leading to gas and bloating.
Some studies have found that stevia may negatively impact gut bacteria, while others show that stevia may produce favorables effects in the gut environment. Allulose was found in animal studies to boost production of short chain fatty acids, which are healthy compounds produced by gut bacteria. A study of healthy young adults found that the maximum single dose of allulose that was tolerated without digestive upset was on average about 54 grams daily.
At this time, both allulose and stevia are classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
Both allulose and stevia may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels (already in normal range) compared to sugar, since both sweeteners are metabolized differently from sugar, changing their glycemic impact.
One animal study compared the impact of high fructose corn syrup and allulose on blood sugar and blood insulin levels and found that the allulose group had significantly lower levels of blood sugar and insulin after consuming allulose compared to the high fructose corn syrup group.
Stevia does not contribute to a natural increase in glucose and insulin levels. In fact, stevia glycosides can actually support blood sugar regulation when used instead of sugar in healthy individuals with blood sugar levels already in normal range.
As stated, allulose is about 70% as sweet as sugar, whereas stevia is up to 250-300 times sweeter than sugar. Allulose does not have an aftertaste, whereas steviol glycosides can activate bitter receptors and leave a bitter aftertaste for some people.
Both allulose and stevia easily dissolve in liquids, making them useful for sweetening drinks like coffee and tea. You can find these sweeteners sold in powder or liquid form, depending on your preference. Just go sparingly on the stevia, since it is so much sweeter than sugar.
Both allulose and stevia provide zero or very few calories and have a negligible effect on blood sugar levels, making them helpful alternatives to sugar for those looking to manage their sugar intake.
These sweeteners also do not contribute to tooth decay, as they are not metabolized by oral bacteria in the same way as sugar. This can help to promote better dental health in addition to regular dentist visits, brushing your teeth, flossing, and hydrating.
Current research shows that stevia and allulose may also have antioxidant properties, although more research in humans is needed. Allulose’s antioxidant properties have been shown in some studies to have neuroprotective effects.
You can find stevia sold in many supermarkets, and allulose is also becoming increasingly available as well. Many protein powders, protein bars, and baked goods are available that use these sweeteners in their formulations.
It’s important to note that some stevia sweeteners contain additional ingredients. So when making your purchase, be sure to read the label and choose a product made with pure stevia and perhaps erythritol, but without added sugars. Some stevia powders may contain erythritol as the majority ingredient, which is a sugar alcohol that has similar benefits to stevia as an alternative to sugar. The difference is that erythritol lacks the bitterness associated with stevia.
Both stevia and allulose can be suitable alternatives to sugar for those who are looking to help lower their sugar intake. Since these two sweeteners are metabolized differently than sugar, they provide fewer calories than sugar and have a better glycemic impact. Allulose leads to a much lower rise in blood sugar and insulin compared to sugar, while stevia doesn’t raise blood sugar at all in those with blood sugar levels already in normal range.