Confused as to what to eat, where to get your sweetness from? Often manufacturers call there sweeteners natural even though they are processed or refined. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. The ones that are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are:
- Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
Do you know that eating artificial sweeteners even though low in calories can make you consume more. You see artificial sweeteners still affect your body in some way. So when you consume them your body continues to crave, some also affect your blood sugar levels and not sure what else with all those chemicals in them….would hate to think!!
There are a lot of different types of sweeteners or there. So I want to go over a few of them,
Saccharin – Saccharin has been around for a while and is 300-500 times sweeter than sugar. It is the original sugar substitute. It is the original sweetener and has been around since the 20th century. Saccarin in the 70′s had health claims warning of it affects and that it may cause cancer. In 2000 that was removed and today it is has often got a warning for children and pregnant women to avoid.
Aspartame – 200 times sweeter than sugar. This is every where. You see this in so many foods today. There is incredible research into the dangers of aspartame, from migraines, nausea, muscle cramps, depression, weight gain, stomach cramps. Through to links with brain tumors, birth defects. MS and fibromylagia. The problem with this sweetener, with all the research into its dangers it is advertised with such powerful and compelling marketing about low calorie, low sugar, low fat so we ignore the fact that the product contains aspartame because at the end of the day it says low calories and if I reduce my calories I will lose weight, right? Wrong! Aspartame combines two amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid with methanol. It has a very distinct taste. Like MSG it is linked to being a excitotoxin which means it overstimulates the nerve ends of the brain. High phenylalanine can result in brain damage.
Sucralose (Splenda) - Splenda is used a lot in cooking, because of it ability to withstand heat, so you will find it a lot in baking. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and is derived from real sugar. It is considered safer than aspartame and it is becoming more popular. You will notice that Sucralose is often listed as the last ingredient in a lot of sports related products such as protein bars, powders and other “health” related foods. It is an artificial sweetener as 85% of the Sucralose is not digested as leaves the body as it comes out. However it can cause headaches, migraines, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea. It also affects the blood sugar levels and leaving you craving more. Sucralose is new on the scene, so like other sweeteners time will tell. The thing to think about here though is what are you consuming that contains this, what are the other ingredients, if you are getting good fuel for you body and the health benefits from it, then it may be okay. But you are swapping something like a stodgy muffin full of flour and sugar with another stodgy muffin full of flour and Sucralose, then you may be better of with something else instead.
Sorbitol & Mannitol (sugar alcohol) - Sorbitol is created by reducing glucose, and mannitol is the hydrogenation of fructose, so they are more natural sweeteners. Sorbitol is naturally occurring in fruits and often used as a food additive and preservation. It is most common in sugar free lollies. The biggest problem with sugar alcohols is the bodies ability to break them down. They can cause havoc with bacteria in the stomach. Also cause bloating, gas and muscle cramps. So if someone has already existing digestive issues sugar alcohols and increase symptoms.
Stevia - This is a herb that has been used for centuries. It has vey little effect of the blood sugar and is commonly used with diabetics. Stevia is also very commonly used in cooking and baking with it being over 300 times sweeter than sugar. Like Sucralose it is a very powerful sweetener, the main thing with stevia is that some people including myself find the after taste to much to handle. Others don’t notice it. So it is something to play around with.
Xylitol - This is another sugar alcohol. It is a natural sweetener that is found in berries and grains. By the time you buy this in the store however it is not a natural food source. It has the same sweetness as sugar, and your body can metabolize half of what you consume. It has been linked with bloating and diarrhea. Similar to sorbitol it can cause havoc with over growth of the wrong bacteria in your tummy. So for those who already have existing digestive issues it would not be a good alternative because of the bodies inability to break it down properly which causes bad bacteria to dominate in your digestive tract.
Agave - Agave syrup comes from the agave plant which also makes tequila. The product that we consume is not good just because it comes from plant. When we purchase it it has been processed and treated as like many other sweeteners. It is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and ranks low on the glycemic index but contains 60 calories per teaspoon compared to 15 of normal sugar. It is very popular in a lot of products claiming to be natural and healthy.
So where to next?
Here is the thing with all the above, it really is up to you what you decide to put into your body. Only you have control over that. I am here to just give you the facts, because life can be confusing, and everyone has there opinion and they are allowed to. You are also allowed to know the facts because big marketing companies with big budgets know just what words to use to convince you to eat there products.
The thing about sugar, when you crave it, it is a sign that your blood sugar levels are out a whack. You see craving something is your body telling you it needs that sugar to get that high it had from it last time. Its addictive. So when you crave and you then consume that sugar you will get that spike in blood sugar and then again the low following and then crave all over again. So next time you are craving sugar, have something protein/fat other than sugar instead and notice the cravings disappear, this stabilizes your blood sugar. If weight loss is your goal, then stabilizing blood sugar levels and insulin levels is what you need to be in control of. So eating protein instead of sugar when craving is how you can get in control.
If however you do want something sweet and delicious as a treat and not each and everyday, look for healthy alternatives. The best form of sweetener I use is honey or coconut nectar. Good quality honey and I add this to home baking. Then using fresh or died fruit is other ways of getting sweetness into your desserts or baking, without the additives and preservatives.
It is completely up to you if you consume artificial sweeteners in the end though you need to understand that losing weight isn’t about just calories. Its not about eating a low fat diet, low in calories and then just exercising your body until the fat melts away. Weight loss and gain is about hormones, cortisol levels, stress, toxin, too many calories, not enough correct movement, not enough rest and most important insulin levels. Its more in depth than just calories in verse calories out. So if you continue to fill your body with food that spikes your insulin levels aka artificial sweeteners and fill your body with chemicals, overtrain because of caffeine or sugar highs and stress your body out and then don’t sleep…you body will believe it is has to fight to stay alive, so it will protect itself and hold onto any fat it has as protection.
However if you want to turn you body into a fat burning machine, you will eat a diet that is clean, healthy and natural, you will keep sugar levels down. Only consume them from natural sources occurring in real food, you will exercise and you will get good quality sleep. That is when you will lose weight. The less you consume sugar the less you will crave it.
We do live in a world of birthday parties, anniversaries and just simple pleasures. So make the call yourself as to when it is right to use what, and instead of consuming each and every single day items that contain the above ingredients, why not just eat healthy all the time, and when it comes to special occasions find a choice that sits right with you and just enjoy it. So use the information above if you want to consume artificial sweeteners and so you can make the choice as which one you think is the better option. However why make it confusing, why not just eat good quality food.
Hope you find this useful, love hearing from you. Comment below :)