Should You Say Goodbye to Artificial Sweeteners?
Pour Some Sweetener On Me
Sugar seems to have a chokehold on American food, but people are fighting back.
With rising rates of obesity and diabetes, more Americans are rethinking how much and what types of sugar they consume. Approximately half of American consumers want to lower their intake, and 70 percent actually read the sugar levels on food labels.
The problem is that refined sugar is found everywhere, from frozen foods to pasta sauce, and often in unsafe amounts. However, thanks to an increase in health-related organizations and the internet, people are more informed about the impact of sugar than ever before.
What exactly may happen when we have too much sugar? It may cause many problems, but most notably:
- Weight gain/obesity
- Heart disease
- Mental health disorders
- Fatty liver
- Dental problems
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes, some of which come from nature and some that are made by people.
What’s the Difference Between Natural Sugar, Table Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners?
Some fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain natural sugar, which means the foods naturally contain sugar, along with vitamins, fiber and protein, which help the body slowly break it down—making it much healthier than other types of sugar.
Table sugar (also known as cane sugar, granulated sugar and white sugar) is processed and refined, meaning that a natural sugar was modified with other ingredients.
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes, some of which come from nature and some that are made by people. The body has a harder time breaking down artificial sweeteners and table sugar, which can lead to inflammation and fat storage, so it’s important not to consume too much.
The potential health risks that may come from table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have many of us seeking out natural, heathier sweeteners to keep our food tasting good without being harmful.
Here are four sweeteners to consider instead of sugar:
Local, raw honey
There’s a good reason Winnie the Pooh was obsessed with honey! While it has more calories and carbs than agave syrup and other artificial sweeteners (so use in moderation, no more than 1 to 2 teaspoons per day), it’s packed with 22 amino acids and nearly 30 minerals, can enhance heart health and is rich in antioxidants. If you’re diabetic and considering adding more honey to your diet, please consult your physician first.
Note: Honey should never be given to babies less than 1 year old, because it can cause infant botulism.
Don’t let the name scare you; this sweetener is one of the good guys. Erythritol is a type of sugar alcohol, making it different from most other types of alternative sweeteners. It doesn’t raise your blood sugar like honey and agave syrup, and it also does not cause cavities. Erythritol is nearly zero calories per gram, has the lowest number of calories compared with other sugar alcohols and has a net carbohydrate of zero. Pretty sweet!
Note: Erythritol may cause minor digestive issues (such as an upset stomach, gas and bloating) if large quantities are consumed. People with IBS and sensitive stomachs should use erythritol in small doses, if at all. Powdered erythritol is most likely refined and processed, so it should be avoided.
A highly popular sugar replacement that looks like table sugar, stevia is made from stevia leaves, which are also used medicinally. Although stevia contains zero calories, it is much sweeter than sugar, which means that a small amount of stevia can go a long way.
The next time you’re craving something sweet, try fruit! By replacing sugar with fresh fruits, frozen fruits, real fruit purees or real fruit juices, you may benefit from more vitamins, minerals and fiber. The natural sugar found in fruit, vegetables and milk is not dangerous.
Note: Enjoy fruit juices in moderation, because they may contain a lot of sugar and not enough fiber. To make fruit juices healthier, include fibrous vegetable juices. Fruits that have lower amounts of sugar include blackberries, kiwis, raspberries, avocados and peaches.
The Verdict: Do You Say Goodbye to Artificial Sweeteners?
While research has shown that honey, erythritol, stevia and fruit are some of the healthiest sugar substitutes available today, there are still some questions left unanswered. More long-term studies are needed to analyze sugar alternatives to ensure they are safe for diabetics and don’t cause other ailments. However, one thing is for sure: Experts aren’t questioning whether too much sugar is bad for the body.
So, the next question is: What changes should you consider to lower your and your family’s sugar intake? If you need some ideas, check out our helpful healthy swaps to reduce your sugar intake infographic!