Today at work a few of my coworkers and I started talking about sugar and sweeteners. It seems like there used to be a ton of information about there about how the low-calorie sweeteners were good to help you lose weight and real sugar was bad. Since I’ve started my own journey, I’ve learned a lot about those low-calories sweeteners and learned that many are artificial and really not all that good for you. If I had time today, I would have shared with my coworkers what I’m about to share with you. Read on to find out what artificial sweeteners are, what they do to your body and how you can cut back on them and make healthier choices.
What are Artificial Sweeteners Anyway?
Artificial sweeteners are essentially sugar substitutes that were developed in the 1950s as a way to help people reduce the number of calories people take in each day. Two of the most common types of artificial sweeteners are aspartame (Equal) and Sucralose (Splenda). It’s most commonly found in soda and because Americans tend to be big soda drinkers, 15% of us ingest artificial sweeteners each year! The use equates to about $1.5 billion…yup, billion with a giant B. With so many of us using artificial sweeteners each year, it’s no wonder that the United States is the most obese country in the world. Some of us may not even know we’re ingesting artificial sweeteners.
How to Identify Artificial Sweeteners
The easy and short answer — read the ingredients list. If you see words on an ingredients list that end in “itol”, you can almost guarantee that product has artificial sweeteners in it. Let me give you an example. I used to be an avid gum chewer and Trident was my go-to. One day I looked at the ingredients and low and behold, I saw Xylitol. Another one of my go-to products was Ricola Cough Drops. These drops actually contain Sorbitol. Needless to say, I don’t purchase these products anymore.
What Do Artificial Sweeteners Do to Your Body?
As I continued my research, I found more and more interesting pieces of information. The first one was a shocker. Artificial sweeteners may actually cause weight gain, not weight loss as many believe. Although artificial sweeteners reduce calories, they actually have no caloric value at all and they do not have any substance. This essentially tricks our brains into thinking we got the sweetness we were craving, but didn’t get the sugar we needed. Therefore, it makes us crave more sweetness causing us to eat or drink more than we should.
Ingesting artificial sweeteners may actually make us sick with use over a long period of time too. While artificial sweeteners do not cause cancer, however metabolic syndrome can. Metabolic syndrome is what classify a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for heart disease, strokes and diabetes. How do you know if you have metabolic syndrome? The most common signs are high blood pressure, excess belly fat and having a resistance to insulin, just to name a few. Having just one soda per day has a correlation to having metabolic syndrome.
Artificial sweeteners can also cause your bladder to weaken over time, causing you to have to use the bathroom frequently throughout the day. Having just one packet of artificial sweetener per day can cause you to go to the bathroom more than you’re supposed to.
How Do You Cut Back on Artificial Sweeteners?
To help you get started, use the three Rs — Reduce, Replace and Renew. Reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners to just one serving per day. If you can get rid of them completely, even better. Replace the artificial sweeteners with something natural, like sugar or Stevia. Renew your taste buds and find out which foods your body craves. Try adding in honey or berries to get the sweetness you yearn for.
So what’s the goal here? Artificial sweeteners are like anything else — ok in moderation. If you want to change your intake, start slow and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Continue to do your own research and read ingredients lists. Over time, your body will not crave the artificial sweeteners anymore and will make the change transform into a new lifestyle. If you’ve had experience with eliminating or reducing artificial sweeteners, I’d love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments below!