The battle to stay slim and healthy has brought among many changes in American culture. In pursuit of the perfect figure and to prevent diseases such as diabetes, many Americans made the switch to no calorie artificial sweeteners. But emerging research is suggesting these products do more harm than good, so, what choices do we have?
The Concern About Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are food additives which duplicate the effect of sugar in taste, but don't possess as many calories. Normally, these ingredients are created in a lab and are derived from herbs or sugar themselves. The American Heart Association gave their approval of these substitutes, stating, "smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet . . . reducing calories (which) could help you attain and maintain a healthy body weight, and thereby lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes."
However, the key words in the statement are "smart use." The problem is many Americans have made an almost complete switch to these sugar alternatives, consuming multiple servings on a daily basis. Because these substitutes are usually multiple times sweeter than refined sugars, a person can become desensitized to normal sugar and therefore add more of other varieties to their daily diet.
There is another theory which states the potential side effects revolve around the laboratory aspect. The belief is if something is created in a laboratory environment, your body may not fully recognize it. This can lead to health complications as your body is fighting what it believes to be bad instead of functioning normally. This has proven true with certain pharmaceuticals, so there could be validity to this argument, although no official clinical testing has been done.
While many people use these products to cut calories and lose weight, a study conducted by the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine concluded substitutes could cause you to gain weight. Their rationale was the lack of calories coincided with a lack of energy. If a person wasn't getting the buzz they normally achieved from real sugar, they would substitute with more calories of other foods.
Some research also suggests excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners can be linked to are cancer, inflammation and digestive matters. However, further investigation into all of these theories is needed.
What foods contain artificial sweeteners?
The first thing people think of when artificial sweeteners come up is those little packets on the table of restaurants and those found in diet soft drinks. While these are the two most common places, these sweeteners can be found in a variety of places you would not expect, including cough drops, chewable multivitamins, yogurt and gum.
There is also a pretty good bet anything which says “sugar free” on the packaging contains artificial sweeteners in some way, so be sure to check the label. These ingredients can be listed as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, neotame and saccharine. You're also probably familiar with high fructose corn syrup.
Healthy Sugar Alternatives
If you're interested in avoiding artificial sweeteners until more research is done, there are a variety of all natural sweeteners which give you the taste of regular sugar in a much healthier way. A few examples are:
Honey -- Honey has been known to boost energy and strengthen the immune system due to its high amount of antioxidants. Honey has a very sweet taste which is satisfying like sugar, but has considerably less calories.
Date Sugar -- Date sugar isn't actually sugar but rather dried dates ground into a powder. Dates give you the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and fiber in addition to a sweet taste comparable to refined sugar. While this substance can be easily substituted for sugar in cooking, it isn't recommended for drinks as it doesn't dissolve well and can leave a grainy texture.
Agave Nectar -- Agave nectar is considerably sweeter than refined white sugar and honey, so moderation is recommended until you can find a suitable amount. Agave nectar actually contains more calories than traditional sugar, however, because of the high concentration of the nectar, not as much is required which can help you cut calories while increasing energy through other nutrients.
Stevia -- Produced from the leaf of a plant grown in Central and South, stevia has no calories and is much sweeter than sugar. It also ranks low on the glycemic index.
The debate between whether or not artificial sweeteners will have a negative effect on your health is still up for debate. If you're looking for an alternative to keep you healthy, eVitamins has a vast variety of all-natural products to satisfy your sweet tooth.
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