We all like a sweet treat now and then. If you work hard at the gym and maintain a healthy diet then you’ve earned the odd sugary indulgence. The real problem comes from hidden sources of sugar we don’t normally think about. Today, refined sugar is found in some pretty surprising places, including dairy products, salad dressings, bottled sauces, and cereals. These hidden sugars add up fast and have been linked to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. So what can you do to curb your sugar intake and protect your health? One way is to replace the sugar you use with an all-natural sweetener, like stevia. Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant. It comes in liquid, powder, and granulated forms, and, depending on the source, it can be 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. Despite this level of sweetness, stevia is almost 100% the opposite of sugar in terms of its effects on your body. Blood Sugar Simple sugars spike blood glucose levels almost instantly after you eat them. This can give you a burst of energy, but this high is soon followed by a sugar crash that leaves you feeling even more tired than before, and desperate for another hit of sugar. Stevia doesn’t raise blood sugar, and some studies show it may even lower blood glucose levels. A steady blood sugar level throughout the day can keep you feeling energetic, and curb sugar cravings. Tooth Decay Tooth decay is caused by plaque bacteria feeding on sugars, creating acids that eat away at your teeth. Stevia does not ferment like sugar, so it doesn’t leave behind the same cavity-causing acids on your teeth. Stevia has also been found to inhibit plaque growth, making tooth decay even less likely. Calories Sugar contains 4 calories per gram. That may not seem like much, but it adds up. The serving size of dressings, dips, and sauces is usually only 1 tablespoon. It’s not exactly hard to over-dress your salad when you’re only supposed to use one tablespoon of dressing. Stevia, on the other hand, contains no calories and can be easily incorporated into homemade dressings and sauces. You can also use stevia to replace sugar when baking. Because it’s so much sweeter than sugar you need a lot less of it. You definitely don’t want to be using a whole cup of stevia in your cake. That’s a level of sweetness even Willy Wonka couldn’t handle. You only need 1 tablespoon of powdered stevia to replace a whole cup of sugar! You’ll also want to use a bulking agent to replace the sugar you won’t be using. These can include apple sauce, pureed fruit, or greek yogurt. Not only will you be reducing the sugar content, you’ll also be adding a healthy ingredient to your baked goods! Stevia can be a great substitute for sugar in your personal cooking and baking. Not only is it zero-calories, it also helps stabilize blood sugar, and prevent tooth decay. Don’t forget to read food labels for the sugar content, too. Sugar is hiding in many everyday products and your first line of defense against ingesting too much is knowing where it is!