It’s no secret that many individuals trying to be health-conscious choose to steer clear of sugar for many reasons. Excess sugar intake can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay, inflammation, and heart disease, among other issues.
That said, are artificial sweeteners any better?
Before making any hasty decisions, here are some pros and cons of both types of sweeteners. What are your thoughts?
Since glucose is our primary source of fuel, we rely on sugar as our main source of energy.
After glucose is converted into energy for immediate use, the body will store some of the glucose as an energy reserve for later.
Humans are naturally hard-wired to like sweet things on some level, and sugar activates the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of dopamine. This will produce an immediate, euphoric feeling.
Dairy products, fruits and veggies all provide natural sugars in addition to fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and hydration, making it beneficial to be consuming all the healthy add-ons in addition to the natural sweetness.
Sugar increases your blood sugar and excess amounts can increase your triglycerides, and possibly your risk for heart disease.
Sugar can contribute to excess calories in your diet, increasing the likelihood for unwanted weight gain.
Sugar promotes tooth decay.
Foods that have added sugar may not provide the satiety that you get from healthier options, so people may tend to consume more calories this way.
Artificial sweeteners have no calories.
They are not carbohydrates, and therefore do not raise blood sugar levels.
Smart use of non-nutritive sweeteners could help you reduce added sugars in your diet, therefore lowering the number of calories you eat.
Since sugar substitutes don’t contain sugar, they can help prevent tooth decay.
Artificial sweeteners can help you avoid the crash and ensuing fatigue that comes with high-sugar snacks.
Artificial sweeteners may change the composition of your gut, reducing the number of good bacteria you have, and hampering the growth of new good bacteria. This can lead to symptoms like cramping, gas and bloating.
Research shows that having a sweet tooth doesn’t stop without the calories. People can develop cravings for sweet foods because getting used to the sweet taste without the calories confuses your body and disrupts appetite regulation.
Weight gain is actually common even when using artificial sweeteners, likely because of metabolic changes induced by them, OR because of “compensatory behavior” (i.e. thinking things like, “I drank a diet soda so I can have extra cake.”)
Although artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe, they should be avoided by people who have phenylketonuria or are allergic to sulfonamides.
Unless they are natural substitutes, like Stevia, artificial sweeteners are made of chemicals.
The major takeaway here is that although in moderation, both options can be considered acceptable additions to one’s diet, whole, natural foods with vitamins and nutrients should be one’s first choice when creating meals, snacks, or even treats!
If you feel that you or a loved one are having trouble creating a meal plan that feels appropriate for your health and wellness goals, we are here to help! Contact us today.