Artificial sweeteners sound like such a great idea. You can have the sugary taste you love with zero calories, so you don’t have to worry about gaining weight.
Even organizations like the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association approved artificial sweeteners to some extent. On the other hand, a growing body of research suggests that these products may be contributing to the same health conditions they’re supposed to prevent.
But before you throw your reserves of Splenda, and go back to sugar, be sure to read this article. Here, you’ll find out the latest facts about artificial sweeteners and how to deal with your sugar cravings.
What are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners, or sugar substitutes, are chemicals added to some foods and beverages to make them taste sweet. People often refer to them as “intense sweeteners” because they provide a taste similar to that of table sugar but up to several thousand times sweeter.
Although some sweeteners contain calories, the amount needed to sweeten products is so small that you end up consuming almost no calories.
Artificial sweeteners taste sweet because the sweetness receptors recognize them on your tongue; they provide virtually zero calories, as your body can’t break them down. Only a few artificial sweeteners have a structure that your body can break down into calories.
Many types of artificial sweeteners exist, but not all are approved for use in every country. The most common ones include aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, and acesulfame potassium.
Artificial sweeteners’ effects on health
Artificial sweeteners may disrupt the balance of gut bacteria in some people, increasing the risk of disease.
Some mice studies showed an increased risk of bladder cancer on those fed with extremely high saccharin and cyclamate amounts. However, mice metabolize saccharin differently than humans.
Further studies showed no risk when subjects consumed sweeteners in recommended amounts.
Using Artificial Sweeteners:
1. Count calories. Weight loss is one of the most common reasons for using artificial sweeteners. However, you may gain more pounds using artificial sweeteners. Keep track of how much you eat, including nutritious foods that are relatively high in calories, like nuts and fruit.
2. Train your taste buds. Some artificial sweeteners are almost 10,000 times sweeter than sugar. Over time, they could condition you to reject the milder flavors of natural food, so be sure to make whole foods the main part of your diet.
3. Read labels. You might be consuming more sweeteners than you think. Check the ingredients in your toothpaste, salad dressings, and bottled drinks.
4. Understand metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have found that the daily use of sugar substitutes can actually raise the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with increased body fat, diabetes, and heart conditions. It’s another good reason to use healthy natural sweeteners as much as possible.
5. Cancer risk has been lowered in moderate amounts. The FDA has essentially ruled out the risk of cancer for the five artificial sweeteners they’ve approved. Almost 20 years ago, after the original studies were found to be flawed, the FDA removed the warnings about saccharin.
6. Ask your doctor. If you experience headaches or other symptoms, you might be sensitive or allergic to the substances in some sweeteners. Your doctor can advise you about these and other concerns.
Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth:
1. Squeeze a lemon. You probably know that soda and diet soda have been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and other conditions. If you dislike plain water, add lemon or lime.
2. Try dairy. How do you take your coffee? Milk and other dairy products contain natural sugars, so you may be able to skip any extra sweetener.
3. Eat more fruit. Most fruits contain little fat and lots of fiber and vitamins. If you’re watching your weight, you might want to eat just one piece with each meal.
4. Splurge on real maple syrup. Real maple syrup is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While it costs more than the supermarket brands, a small amount will liven up your oatmeal or yogurt.
5. Sprinkle cinnamon. Cinnamon is another nutritious solution. It’s a good source of calcium and antioxidants.
6. Enjoy molasses. Have you been wondering what’s in molasses? It’s sugar plus grapes and beets, which give it more calcium and iron.
7. Go cold turkey. If you want to go further than just cutting back on sugar and sugar substitutes gradually, you may be ready to eliminate them from your diet completely. Advocates say you’ll lose weight and increase your energy levels in just three days.
Most experts agree that limited use of artificial sweeteners may help some adults, especially if you’re overweight or have diabetes. On the other hand, you can eat healthier by cutting back on both sugar and sugar substitutes. If you’d like to avoid artificial sweeteners, try using natural sweeteners instead.