Stevia and Splenda are popular sweeteners that many people use as sugar alternatives. They offer a sweet taste without providing added calories or affecting your blood sugar levels.
Both stevia and Splenda are sold as stand-alone products and ingredients in many calorie-free, light, and diet products.
This article examines the difference between stevia and Splenda, including how they’re used and whether one is healthier.
Splenda has been around since 1998 and is the most common sucralose-based, low calorie sweetener. Sucralose is a type of indigestible artificial sugar that’s created chemically by replacing some of the atoms in sugar with chlorine (1).
To make Splenda, digestible sweeteners like maltodextrin are added to sucralose. Splenda comes in powdered, granulated, and liquid form and is often offered in packets alongside other artificial sweeteners and regular sugar at restaurants.
Many prefer it over other artificial sweeteners, as it doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste (
One alternative to Splenda is stevia, which is a naturally derived, calorie-free sweetener. It comes from the leaves of the stevia plant, which are harvested, dried, and steeped in hot water. The leaves are then processed and sold in powder, liquid, or dried forms.
Stevia is also sold in stevia blends. These are highly processed and made with a refined stevia extract called rebaudioside A. Other sweeteners like maltodextrin and erythritol are added, too. Popular stevia blends include Truvia and Stevia in the Raw.
Highly purified stevia extracts contain a lot of glycosides, the compounds that give stevia leaves their sweetness. Crude stevia extract is unpurified stevia that contains leaf particles. Lastly, whole-leaf stevia extract is made by cooking whole leaves in a concentrate (
Splenda is the most popular brand of sucralose-based artificial sweeteners, while stevia is a naturally derived sweetener from the stevia plant. Both come in powdered, liquid, granulated, and dried forms, as well as in sweetener blends.
Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener, but Splenda contains some calories. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), sweeteners like Splenda can be labeled “calorie-free” if they contain 5 calories or fewer per serving (5).
One serving of stevia is 5 drops (0.2 mL) of liquid or 1 teaspoon (0.5 grams) of powder. Splenda packets contain 1 gram (1 mL), while a liquid serving consists of 1/16 teaspoon (0.25 mL).
As such, neither offers much in the way of nutritional value. One teaspoon (0.5 grams) of stevia contains a negligible amount of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The same amount of Splenda contains 2 calories, 0.5 grams of carbs, and 0.02 mg of potassium (
Splenda and stevia are considered calorie-free sweeteners, and they offer minimal nutrients per serving.
Splenda and stevia are widely used sweeteners that have some considerable differences.
Splenda is much sweeter than stevia
Stevia and Splenda sweeten foods and drinks to varying degrees.
Additionally, sweetness is subjective, so you’ll have to experiment to find the amount that satisfies your taste, regardless of which type of sweetener you use.
Stevia is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and gets its sweetness from natural compounds in the stevia plant called steviol glycosides (
Meanwhile, Splenda is 450–650 times sweeter than sugar. Thus, a smaller amount of Splenda is needed to reach your preferred level of sweetness.
That said, using high intensity sweeteners can boost your cravings for sweets, meaning you may end up using increasingly greater amounts of Splenda over time (
They have different uses
Stevia is often used in liquid form and added to beverages, desserts, sauces, soups, or salad dressings. It’s also sold in flavors like lemon-lime and root beer, which can be added to carbonated water to make calorie-free sparkling beverages.
Also, dried stevia leaves can be steeped in tea for a few minutes to sweeten it. Alternatively, if you grind dried leaves into a powder, you can make a syrup by boiling 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of the powder in 2 cups (480 mL) of water for 10–15 minutes and straining it with a cheesecloth.
You can use powdered stevia anywhere you’d use sugar. For example, it can be used in baking at temperatures up to 392°F (200°C), but be sure to halve the amount. Thus, if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar, use 1/4 cup (50 grams) of stevia (
Regarding Splenda, research shows that sucralose is dangerous for baking and works best for sweetening beverages (
Stevia is best used to sweeten beverages, desserts, and sauces, while Splenda is optimal for sweetening beverages.
Both sweeteners are virtually calorie-free, but there are other considerations to be made regarding their long-term use.
First, research shows that zero-calorie sweeteners may cause you to eat more calories over time and even lead to weight gain (
While sucralose itself and other non-nutritive sweeteners have not been shown to raise blood sugar, maltodextrin, which is found in Splenda and some stevia blends, can cause sugar spikes or decrease insulin sensitivity in some people (
Any spike in blood sugar is particularly dangerous for those with diabetes, as their bodies cannot control these spikes as efficiently as those without diabetes, and often require medications to help with blood sugar control.
Studies on sucralose and disease are inconclusive, even those that use amounts higher than most people would ever eat.
Nonetheless, studies in mice have associated consuming high doses of sucralose with cancer (
Also, cooking or baking with sucralose may create potential carcinogens called chloropropanols (
For this reason, never use Splenda for cooking or baking.
Long-term studies on stevia are lacking, but no evidence suggests that it increases your disease risk. Highly purified stevia is “generally recognized as safe” by the USDA.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of whole-leaf stevia and stevia crude extracts in food (21).
Both sweeteners may interfere with your healthy gut bacteria, which are important for your overall health.
One 16 week rat study found that Splenda decreased healthy gut bacteria and increased harmful bacteria, including bacteria associated with diabetes. Splenda was also found to decrease intestinal barrier function (22,
Additionally, some studies show that stevia can interact with medications that lower blood sugar and blood pressure, while other studies show no effect. Stevia blends can also contain sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive issues in sensitive people (
A small 2023 study of erythritol, a sugar alcohol used in the stevia blend Truvia, found a possible increased risk of major cardiovascular events like stroke, heart attack and death, as well as increased risk for blood clotting. More studies are needed to fully understand the long-term safety of erythritol (
It’s important to note that pure stevia does not contain erythritol. However many stevia products on the shelves are stevia blends like Truvia which do contain erythritol. Another product, Stevia in the Raw, does not contain erythritol. Instead, it contains maltodextrin.
Overall, evidence suggests that between these two sweeteners, stevia has fewer potential adverse health effects, though more long-term research is needed.
Regardless of which one you choose, it’s best to only use it in small amounts per day.
Research on the long-term health effects of Splenda and stevia is inconclusive. Both have potential downsides, but stevia appears to be associated with fewer concerns.
Splenda and stevia are popular and versatile sweeteners that won’t add calories to your diet.
Both are generally considered safe to use, yet research on their long-term health effects is ongoing. While no evidence suggests that either is unsafe, it appears that purified stevia is associated with the fewest concerns.
When choosing between the two, consider their best uses and enjoy them in moderation.