In this world of low-calorie, low-carb diets, artificial sweeteners have kind of taken center stage, but are they really as good for us as people tend to believe? Newer studies have found that they may not be. Artificial sweeteners are most commonly found in diet drinks, but are also used to sweeten other foods, such as: cereal, yogurt, and juice. Science has revealed that people who drink diet soda regularly are at higher risk for obesity than people who don’t drink soda at all, and are also at higher risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Artificial sweeteners have also been known to be a trigger for migraine headaches.
Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners “confuse” the brain. When we eat something sweet our reward center in the brain is activated, releasing dopamine and causing our bodies to want more. When actual sugar is consumed, the body will release the hormone leptin once a sufficient amount of calories have been taken in, signaling that you are full. When we eat/drink artificial sweeteners, the same reward center in the brain is activated, but because the caloric intake never comes, the full signal is never received. This in turn causes cravings for more sweets and carbs.
Artificial sweeteners continue to become more and more potent, the most popular ones on the market today include:
Aspartame (Equal)- 180 times sweeter than sugar
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)- 300 times sweeter than sugar
Sucralose (Splenda)- 600 times sweeter than sugar
Consuming these highly concentrated sweeteners cause the body to be less receptive to sugar because it doesn’t taste nearly as sweet. This again results in the body craving more and more sugar.
The best choice to make nutritionally is to treat foods and beverages containing artificial sweeteners as treats, just as you do foods that are high in sugar. To add a touch of sweetness to foods on a regular basis, use natural sweeteners such as honey or raw stevia. When baking, overripe bananas and unsweetened applesauce also work as a sugar substitute. When purchasing food, be sure to read labels so you know exactly what you are consuming. As always, your best option for beverage is water. If you aren’t a big fan of plain water, add fruit for more flavor. Have you ever been surprised by which foods contain artificial sweeteners?