The Facts about Artificial Sweeteners
With so many people becoming health conscious these days, it’s important to have factual information on the things you eat. If you don’t know all the facts, you could be ingesting something that you think is good for you, but actually does more harm than good. When it comes to the different types of artificial sweeteners you use to improve the taste of your food, there are many to choose from that claim to be good for you, but are they really?
Splenda, also known as sucralose, is an artificial sweetener that is much sweeter than good old sugar. The good news about sucralose is that it doesn’t contain any calories, and it is a good sweetener to use for cooking and baking. It has been found by the FDA to have no harmful effects such as toxic or carcinogenic, and there is no risk of developing reproductive or neurological issues from consuming sucralose. The bad news about Splenda is that the additional agents that are added to it, maltodextrin, to give it bulk so it can be substituted for sugar in cooking do contain calories, around 12 per tablespoon to be exact, but the packaging does not give away this little secret. Although Splenda is good to use for baking and cooking, if it is used alone and not mixed with regular sugar, your food can have an odd flavor to it. Some people believe that the use of Splenda can cause damage to your body and your organs; however, the FDA has decided this is not true. Most of the time when a product claims to have zero sugar you should take a look at the ingredients. You will find that the manufacturer has substituted sucralose in order to make their zero sugar claim. According to a Duke University study, sucralose alters the flora in the small and large intestine and contributes to “adverse affects “in the body, even an increase in body weight. This isn’t necessarily the type of finding you want, especially when it is being marketed as a diet product.
Sweet’N Low, also known as saccharin, is also a much sweeter artificial sweetener than sugar but only about half as sweet as Splenda. The good news about Sweet’N Low is that heat does not affect its taste, so use in cooking and baking is okay. Although a little over 30 years ago, the FDA proposed to ban the use of saccharin due to evidence of bladder cancer in lab rats that were fed large amounts of saccharin. No ban was ever actually enacted in the U.S. and, in 2000, the warning label that had been in place on Sweet’N Low was removed. The bad news about Sweet’N Low (as if knowing that rats developed cancer after eating saccharin isn’t bad enough news), saccharin is not recommended for ingestion by children or pregnant women because there are not enough studies that show how saccharin can affect children.
NutraSweet and Equal both contain aspartame and are much sweeter than sugar, but less sweet than Splenda or Sweet’N Low. These two artificial sweeteners have been recommended and approved by the FDA as all-purpose sweeteners for use in drinks and food, and there do not appear to be any dangers of harm to your body or health by using these two artificial sweeteners. The bad news about NutraSweet and Equal is that you can’t cook with them because the heat causes the aspartame to break down. In addition, some people have reported having allergic reactions to aspartame.
Despite having zero calories, all these artificial sweeteners can still cause weight gain. Here is Dr. Bloom’s take, “aspartame is such a great fake sugar that it even fools your body into thinking that there is incoming sugar. In response your body produces insulin to drive that sugar into your cells. The problem is there is no additional sugar present so your blood sugar levels drop making you hungrier.” The drop in blood sugar causes sugar cravings, and the cycle keeps repeating.
Due to the facts given, it appears that if you’re looking for an artificial sweetener to use in place of sugar, your safest bet is going to be Splenda. Aside from the additives, Splenda is the lesser of all evils. You can add it to coffee and you can use it for baking making it the all-purpose artificial sweetener.
But, what should you be using you ask? Is nothing safe? If you want to eat right, try and avoid processed and artificial food all together. There are natural alternatives out there. The best product to use as a substitute to sugar and all the artificial sweeteners is stevia.
Stevia is an herb native to Paraguay that can be 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. The first plus is that Stevia is a natural sweetener. Stevia extract which in its pure form comes as a liquid, contains no sugar so it has none of the same effects as sugar in the body. Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, no glycemic index and has no effect on insulin levels. Packets of Stevia powder however contains 5 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates which is the equivalent to two tablespoons of sugar which has 30 calories and 8 grams of carbs. A downfall is that Stevia needs maltodextrin to be mixed in to get the powdered form (as we saw with Splenda) and thus the calories. Stevia is about three times more expensive than artificial sweeteners and is also only sold in little packets not in bulk. So if you want to bake with Stevia you will find yourself tearing open a bunch of tiny packets.
Another all natural but higher caloric alternative is honey. Honey has antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties that can help with digestion and help you stay healthy. I use honey over my oatmeal and in my tea. The key is to not try and trick your body everyday by using artificial sweeteners and think you are still being healthy. Honey and sugar are higher in calories and are not recommended when dieting by any means. The whole point of trying to avoid sugar all together is not necessary. Your brain actually needs some sugar in order to function. It is the over use and abuse of sugar that will harm your body and halt your fat loss efforts.
The bottom line is that your body needs nutritious carbohydrates for survival. Some of these carbohydrates may include sugar in one form or another. While it’s not necessary to completely exclude sugar from your diet, it is recommended that you stick with natural sugars over processed sugars. My recommendations are Stevia and honey.
Phatburn Phounder & Participant