What's The Deal With Sugars?
Ingesting refined sugar spikes our blood sugar and insulin, and increases our risk for a whole host of issues.
A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.
The idea behind them is that we can still get the sweetness...without the calories; like when we have a diet pop instead of regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.
But, things don't always work out the way we think they will...
Types Of Artificial Sweeteners
Today, we'll specifically discuss artificial sweeteners, which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.
They're also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, and include things like:
- Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
- Acesulfame potassium
- Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda).
Health Effects Of Artificial Sweeteners
New evidence, in fact, states that people who frequently consume sugar substitutes may be at an increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
I did want to point out one ironic thing, to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.
Studies found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who don't.
Another study (Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.
Aren’t these the diseases that artificial sweeteners were supposed to help prevent in the first place?
Don't be fooled into reaching for products labeled diet or sugar free thinking that they are healthier options! Always make sure to carefully check the label and nutritional information.
The Effect On Our Bodies
When it comes to artificial sweeteners we should air on the side of caution. It is best to avoid artificial sweeteners while trying to reduce our overall sugar intake while more studies are being completed for the following reasons...
- People can trick themselves into thinking that they can eat unhealthier foods such as cake because they have switched to diet soda, nullifying potential health and weight loss benefits.
- Products with artificial sweeteners change the way we taste food, making fruit and veggies taste less and less appetizing.
- Artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for sweets as we stop associating the flavour with caloric intake.
- The sweet taste of these sweeteners send signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
- At least one animal study suggests, that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies.
- There could be an even more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.
I highly recommend reducing sugar intake, so we naturally re-train our palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn't overly sweet. This way, we're reducing intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.
Try having a ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try diluting juice with water. There are simple ways to reduce our sugar intake in our busy lives! Your body will thank you!
There are also some sneaky places that artificial sweeteners might be hiding... watch out for: light or diet fruit juices or beverages, breakfast cereals, processed snacks, yogurt, baked goods, salad dressings, chewable vitamins and gum, and no-calorie waters and drinks.
Pro Tip: Swap sugar in recipes for a small amount of honey, maple syrup, pitted medjol dates or stevia. Add plenty of fibre, healthy fats and protein to these recipes along with these sweeteners to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream.
Chocolate Coconut Bars Recipe
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate
- 1/8 cup coconut oil
- Melt coconut oil just until it is liquified.
- Add shredded coconut and honey. Combine well.
- Press mixture into a parchment paper lined 8 x 8" baking pan and refrigerate until solid.
- Melt chocolate and coconut oil and spread over coconut base.
- Chill and cut into squares and keep refrigerated.
- Serve & enjoy!
Trying To Avoid Artificial Sweeteners?
Are you trying to avoid artificial sweeteners and added sugars but aren't sure where to start? It all starts with meal planning and what you buy in the grocery store! I have something perfect to help you...
Planning what to eat to help you feel your best should be easy! I created the Simple Swaps Guide to Meal Planning & Prepping to give you some simple tips and short cuts in the kitchen. This guide was created to offer my best suggestions to help you make small changes that will have a big impact on overall health.
Click on the button below to access this free guide.
Swithers SE, Patterson NA. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2013.