Sugar Ain’t So Sweet

March 18th, 2015 | By Marjie No Comments

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Satisfy your sweet tooth with no calories included? Sugar substitutes give you all the same taste of sugar without the gut-busting consequences. Whether your goal is eating healthier or cutting calories, artificial substitutes seem to be everyone’s go-to product.

Today, sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food products and beverages marketed as ‘diet’ or ‘sugar-free,’ but don’t let those labels fool you! Artificial sweeteners are widely used in many processed foods, such as soft drinks, baked goods, canned foods, dairy products, candies, and even chocolate. Many foods containing sugar substitutes still have carbs and calories from other ingredients.

This means that foods carrying claims of ‘no sugar added’ or ‘reduced sugar’ are not necessarily free of carbs or lower in carbs. And just because a food product is marketed ‘no sugar added’ doesn’t mean it is free of calories. (If you consume too many sugar-free foods, you may possibly still gain weight if they have other ingredients that contain calories.)

Regardless of how they are classified, sugar substitutes are NOT instant solutions to weight loss. Artificial sweeteners seem to be the answer to effective weight loss by providing the taste of sweetness without any calories, but let’s take a look at a popular drink:

A 12-ounce can of a popular sugar-sweetened cola has about 150 calories, while a 12-ounce can of diet cola has 0 calories. The healthier choice seems so simple. But many studies have linked diet soda products to an increase in weight gain, in addition to other health issues. Some researchers theorize that people who frequently consume artificial sweeteners confuse their bodies’ ability to manage calories based on taste, which eventually leads to eating too many sweet foods and then gaining weight.

Sugar substitutes aren’t completely bad, but they should be taken in moderation. Doctors have noticed a trend in people replacing the lost calories with other unhealthy foods, which offset their diet or weight loss plan. One might think, I had a diet cola, so it will be okay to have a cupcake. This is definitely flawed thinking!

Another common problem with artificial sweeteners is that people become attached to the taste. It is no secret that sugar substitutes are a lot sweeter than normal sugar. If you consume a lot of sugar substitutes then the sugar receptors in your mouth will become over-stimulated and your taste buds will start to limit your tolerance for more complex tastes. This means you could start to find foods that aren’t as sweet, such a vegetables, downright unappealing. In simpler terms, using artificial sweeteners may make you shy away from healthy, nutritious foods and consume more artificially flavored foods that have less nutritional value.

To date, only six artificial sweeteners have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, neotame, and advantame. The FDA has even established an acceptable daily intake for each of these sugar substitutes.

While artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes may help with weight management, they are not a magic bullet and should only be consumed in moderation. Here are a few tips for those of you who want to be more cautious of what you are putting in your body:

  • Avoid products labeled ‘diet,’ ‘sugar free,’ ‘low’ or ‘reduced calorie,’ or ‘no sugar added.’
  • Use natural sweeteners like agave nectar or raw honey when you need a sweetening boost.
  • Remember that sugar substitutes do not provide a quick fix for obesity or health issues, so your best bet is cutting down on sweets and opting for water whenever you can!
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