The Skinny on Sugar and Sweeteners – Part 1 can be found here.
All artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, meaning that it takes less of the sweetener to get the sweet taste than it does actual sugar. However, not all artificial sweeteners are created equal (get it – Equal?? ha ha!!). Their potency and sweetness varies significantly from one to another:
- Aspartame is 180 times sweeter than sugar.
- Saccharin is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
- Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sugar.
There are four artificial sweeteners currently recommended by The American Diabetes Association: saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-k (which is often used with saccharin), and sucralose. Artificial sweeteners do not raise your blood sugar, but artificial sweeteners are different than sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are plant based products such as mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol and can affect blood sugar levels, although not drastically.
The primary benefit of artificial sweeteners is that they provide the sweet taste without the calories. This is what many people find appealing about them – you can have the sweet taste without the concern of gaining weight. Or so they think. There are studies that suggest people who consume items containing artificial sweeteners actually end up eating more and are unable to stop their sweet food cravings the way those who eat foods containing natural glucose can.
A downside is that artificial sweeteners can have side effects such as headaches, upset stomach, heart palpitations, and insomnia. For me, personally, I know to steer clear of items containing aspartame and phenylalanine because it is a headache trigger.
When considering using an artificial sweetener, keep in mind that the newer the sweetener, the fewer tests have been conducted on its safety. Sucralose is one of the newer artificial sweeteners that has made its way into many products, including diet sodas, but there have been fewer tests performed to determine its long-term affects on our health. That doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe to use it, but it also doesn’t mean that it’s safe for heavy, long-term use, either.
Sugar is the body’s main source of energy, so a certain amount of sugar is beneficial and even necessary. However, we have a choice between selecting foods that contain sugar naturally and foods that have sugar (or sweeteners) added to them. The best option is foods that contain sugar naturally such as fruits.
If you are looking for something sweet to eat, choose foods that contain sugar along with other healthy nutrients. Try to avoid foods that contain mostly sugar without other nutrients that are important for good health. And don’t allow yourself to drink six diet sodas in one day just because they don’t contain calories! Artificial sweeteners are just that – artificial, manufactured, not natural – so their use should be limited if you are truly interested in your overall good health.
I think it’s also good to pay close attention to the labels on the foods you eat. There are hidden sugars all in our foods that we often don’t realize are there. I like to drink Propel flavored water and you might think because it’s clear and because it’s water that it is pure, but even it contains sucralose to give the water a slightly sweet taste.
The bottom line is, the more sugar you consume, the fewer healthier options you will be consuming. Instead of eliminating sugar in your diet all together, maybe try cutting back a bit and replacing some of your usual sugar-laden items with a healthier choice – some type of fruit or vegetable. Not only will you benefit from reducing your sugar consumption, you will also benefit by putting nutrients in your body that you need. It’s a win-win situation!
What are your thoughts on sugar and artificial sweeteners? Hate them all? Love any form of sugar or sweetener? What’s your personal sugar philosophy?
Have a SWEET day! :)