Sugar – the less of it we eat, the healthier we all will be. At last, people are starting to get the message that too much sugar is bad for your health. And while it’s great that millions of sweet-tooth junkies are ditching sugar, they’re switching to non-caloric, artificial sweeteners, swapping one bad habit for another. So, if you’re hooked on the powdered white stuff, it’s time to make a change. Ideally, your daily dose of sweetness should come from the naturally-occurring sugars found in some whole, organic, unprocessed foods, not from synthetic sources or processed foods. Ultimately, the fix is a simple one: eat healthy and the too-much-sugar-in-the-diet problem will disappear. Easier said than done, but if you’re one of the millions reaching for the fake stuff, it’s quitting time because, whether you know it or not, those artificial alternatives are wreaking havoc with your weight, your appetite, hormones and even your brain. What follows are the 3 simple reasons why you’ve got to kick those sweeteners – you know, the ones in the cute little pink, yellow and blue packages – today.
1. Artificial Sweeteners Contribute to Weight Gain, Not Loss
If you’re using artificial sweeteners to lose weight, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. While that package of Splenda, Equal or Sweet ‘n Low may dump fewer actual calories into your morning coffee, there’s little research to support that idea that the modest caloric savings will actually contribute much to your weight-loss efforts. However there are multiple large-scale studies over the last 30 years which have repeatedly found that artificial sweetener users gained more weight or had higher BMI’s than those who didn’t use them. More recently, another study came to a similar conclusion, reporting that rats fed artificially-sweetened foods gained more weight than those who dined on sugar-sweetened foods. Simply put, the taste of sweet, be it artificial or actual sugar, appears to play a significant role in increasing appetite, making it counter-productive for anyone who is looking to maintain or lose weight.
2. Artificial Sweeteners Trigger Cravings
If the weight-gain connection isn’t enough to put you off, how about the idea that artificial sweetener use seems to increase junkie-like cravings? Here’s the deal: your old pals Equal, NutraSweet, Pure Via, Splenda, Sugar Twin, Sweet ‘n Low or Truvia and virtually all the popular, non-caloric sweeteners have one thing in common: they’re significantly sweeter than sugar. Now logically, you’d think all that sweetness would enable you to use less or eat a smaller amount of an artificially-sweetened product. But guess what? These super-sweeteners seem to have the opposite effect, in part by flooding your taste-buds with sweet, dulling them to the taste, pushing your sweetness threshold ever higher, while never actually the craving. This also sheds more light on the weight-gain issue as well. The idea is that the super-sweetness of the artificial stuff interferes with the release of satiety hormones, slowing your body’s ability to send signals to the brain that you’ve had enough, which leads to overeating and increased calorie intake, without you even realizing it. You could liken it to rapidly downing a few shots of vodka – it takes fifteen minutes or so for your body to catch up and send the signals that you’re drunk and by then, it’s time to take away the keys.
3. Artificial Sweeteners Kill Good Gut Bacteria & Can Make You Feel Like Hell
When you consider the side effects and health-sapping potential of artificial sweeteners, adding them to your food and drinks starts to seem like an act of sheer lunacy. For example, a recent study reported that when heated, sucralose, aka Splenda, released compounds related to dioxin, a notorious carcinogen. Aspartame has caused cancer in lab rats and is known to kill off significant amounts of those essential good gut bacteria. For years, saccharine carried a warning label saying it might be hazardous to your health. If that weren’t enough, there are plenty of other problems associated with artificial sweeteners that can make life truly unpleasant, including rashes, migraines, gas, bloating, dizziness, cramps and diarrhea to name a few. So you have to ask, is all this a good trade-off? No, it’s a crazy one.
Those sweeteners have got to go! Promise me you’ll never dump another packet of Equal, NutraSweet, Pure Via, Splenda, Sweet ‘n Low, Sugar Twin, Truvia or sugar in any form, into anything you eat or drink, ever again. To start a new relationship with the taste of sweet:
- Gradually cut the amount of artificial sweeteners you use every day, reducing use in increments, over time. For example, if you habitually put one packet in your iced tea, drop it down to a half a packet, then to a quarter and so on over the course of a few days. This will help your taste buds get used to less sweetness, retraining them to enjoy and re-connect with the real unadulterated taste of food and drink.
- As you taper off the fake stuff, enhance dishes with dashes of healthful flavor-boosters such as organic vanilla extract, almond extract, allspice, anise, cinnamon, fennel, etc.,
- When an occasional touch of sweetness is required, try a bit of raw honey; fresh or dried unprocessed stevia leaves (you can even grow your own!); or organic pure maple syrup – and use them sparingly.
- Remember, sweet should be a treat (or, in the case of ribose, to provide quick energy for athletic endurance) not a multiple times a day habit!
For more ideas on how to loosen sugar’s death grip, check out 20 Ways to Get Sugar Out of Your Life.