These days lots of people are opting to add low calorie sweeteners to their food and drink instead of sugar to combat obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
However, like everything else, artificial sweeteners have NEGATIVE side-effects.
The most popular sweeteners are saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame and sucralose and there is one natural low calorie sweetener, stevia. All these are sweeter and more potent than the regular table sugar due to which a drop of these equals more than a spoon of sugar.
Frequent use of those sweeteners, therefore, limit tolerance for more complex tastes due to which fruits, vegetables and not so sweet foods become less interesting and palatable.
This may lead to us eating more of artificially flavoured foods than the healthy, nutritious, natural foods. Also, by training our minds to believe that by adding low calorie sweetener to one’s food, we can eat as much as we can for it is healthier, we tend to over-eat, thereby putting on weight.
Most of the above-mentioned sweeteners are highly addictive if taken for a longer period. So, we may get caught in a vicious circle of eating unhealthy food and gaining weight.
Though the low calorie sweeteners have been deemed safe for consumption, they do increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes.
Whole fruit is nutrient-dense, high in fiber and has low glycemic index besides being highly nutritious despite containing natural sugar. It is the refined, concentrated sugar which is harmful when consumed in large quantity.
It increases blood glucose and insulin levels, triglycerides, inflammatory mediators and oxygen levels thereby increasing the risk of diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and other illnesses.
Diabetic patients need not entirely give up sugar. Rather they should restrict it to the minimum. Low calorie sweetener should be used wherever possible instead of the regular sugar in foods which do not contain too much of fat or calories.
Diabetics prefer sugar substitutes which have no calories and do not raise blood sugar levels which is where low-calorie sweeteners come in.
- SACCHARINE is a safe artificial sweetener which can be used in both hot and cold foods.
- ASPARTAME is another artificial sweetener which can be used only in cold foods because higher temperature decreases its sweetening effect.
- ACESULFAME POTASSIUM is a low calorie sweetener which can be used in cooking because it can resist heat.
- SUCRALOSE can also be added to hot foods to make them sweeter.
Artificial sweeteners can be used in almost all kinds of foods and drinks and they are generally safe for consumption. They have fewer calories than sugar and they do not negatively affect the blood sugar levels.
The foods generally labelled as “sugar-free” have sugar, alcohol in them which may have a laxative effect if taken in a larger dose. People suffering from phenylketonuria should avoid aspartame-containing foods and drinks for it may adversely affect their health.
It makes sense to read nutrition information given in the food labels because sugar-free foods do not necessarily mean low calorie foods. Food and beverages which have been sweetened with sugar may cause you to be over-weight, have diabetes or get metabolic syndrome if taken in excess.
In such cases, low calorie artificial or natural sweeteners are recommended to sweeten your food without being unhealthy.
However, evidence points towards lots of people binge-eating or binge-drinking those artificially sweetened foods or drinks because of them being more guilt-free than usual. This results in excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.
Therefore, it is suggested that to be naturally healthy, one needs to control the quantity of sugar, artificial sweeteners to all foods and drinks and go for nutritious, natural foods rather than natural ones.
ABOUT AVNI KAUL:
Avni, founder of Nutri Activania (www.nutriactivania.com) believes in a holistic approach to optimal living and considers other wellness factors such as sleep, exercise, environmental exposures, and stress levels to create an individualized nutrition plan. She does not believe in gimmicks or starvation plans. Which is why she insists on being called a ‘wellness coach’ and not just a ‘dietitian’). Avni is also a certified diabetes educator from Project Hope and International Diabetes Federation.