Artificial sweeteners and the huge list of products sweetened with them are marketed to you relentlessly as “healthy foods” or “healthier” than sugar or corn syrup sweetened products. But are they really?
Just to clarify, some of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market today are:
- Splenda (sucralose)
- Acesulfame Potassium (aka – acesulfame K)
These artificial sweeteners are used in abundance in almost every “diet” drink, “lite” yogurts, puddings, and ice creams, most “low-carb” products, and almost all “reduced-sugar” products. Even many protein powders and meal replacements are loaded with artificial sweeteners.
These sweeteners have been shown to be harmful to human health with negative effects on the liver, brain and nervous system. Sucralose (aka, splenda) is probably one of the worst offenders claiming to be “healthy” and “made from real sugar“. Don’t be fooled! Splenda is actually a chemically modified substance where chlorine is added to the chemical structure, making it more similar to a chlorinated pesticide than something we should be eating or drinking.
You’re probably frustrated by all of the contradicting messages you hear each day about which foods are good for you and which are bad. The fact is, artificial sweeteners vs. sugar or corn syrup is really just a battle between two evils. Which evil is worse?
I’m sure you already know the problems with sugar or high fructose corn syrup sweetened products. The excess empty calories, the massive blood sugar spike, and the resulting insulin surge this creates in your body not only promotes fat gain, but also stimulates your appetite further, making things even worse. These massive blood sugar spikes also contribute to glycation in the cells of your body, which basically makes you age faster.
Whilst artificial sweeteners save you calories, there’s growing evidence that they can increase your appetite for sweets and other carbohydrates causing you to eat more later in the day.
Also, studies are beginning to emerge showing that artificial sweeteners can trigger “sweet receptors” in your stomach that tell your body to produce insulin, even though you didn’t actually consume sugar. These high insulin levels from artificial sweeteners can promote fat storage and trigger cravings, in a similar manner to sugar itself.
Aside from the problems touched on so far, other health issues that have been related to artificial sweeteners in scientific studies (animal and human) as well as through observations are:
- potential cancer risks
- negative effects on the liver, kidneys, and other organs
- stimulating cravings
- gastrointestinal problems
- developmental problems in children and foetuses
- damage to gut flora (killing beneficial probiotics in the gut and causing gut dysbiosis).
So what are your options for healthier alternatives?
Your best alternatives are either natural raw honey, organic maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, stevia or real fruit like dates or apple pulp.
Even though most of these alternatives still have the same amount of calories as sugar or corn syrup… honey, organic maple syrup, coconut sugar and molasses actually provide some nutrients, including minerals and antioxidants, so it’s not just empty calories. Empty calories such as white refined sugar stimulate your appetite more because your body is lacking nutrients.
A good alternative is to replace sugar with stevia or a mix of stevia and one of the options listed above.
Stevia is a natural non-caloric HERB that’s been used for thousands of years in some parts of the world. In liquid form or when dried into a powder, it has a sweetness about 200-300 times stronger than sugar so very little is needed to boost the sweetness of most foods.
Stevia actually helps balance blood sugar levels and has many other reported positive health effects. I’ve yet to see any negative reports or health concerns regarding stevia. After all, it’s simply an HERB as opposed to an artificial chemical created in a lab. But remember – the more sweetened food you consume the more your taste for sweet foods develops, so the healthiest option of all is to learn to appreciate the natural sweetness in fresh fruit and vegetables!