The topic of artificial sweeteners is rife with mixed messaging and misinformation, making it challenging to know what to believe. In this blog, we’ll delve into the truth about artificial sweeteners and explore their safe usage. We’ll also look at alternative sweeteners that come with added health benefits.
The Role of Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are commonly used as a sugar substitute in various processed foods like cakes, biscuits, yoghurt, muesli bars, soft drinks and juices. Since excess sugar consumption can lead to weight gain and elevated blood glucose levels, replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners can reduce kilojoule intake and support better blood glucose management. Artificial sweeteners can be an excellent tool for weight loss and managing chronic conditions, like diabetes.
Disadvantages of Artificial Sweeteners
Although artificial sweeteners have their advantages, they do have their weaknesses. Regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can change the way we perceive food, overstimulate sugar receptors, increase our cravings for sweet foods and cause stomach upset. Additionally, they can leave a sickly-sweet aftertaste.
Types of Artificial Sweeteners
There are many artificial sweeteners on the market, with Stevia, Equal, NutraSweet, Splenda and NatVia being some of the commonly known ones. You only need to add a small amount of these sweeteners to recipes to replicate sugar’s sweet taste. Xylitol and erythritol are regarded as sugar substitutes rather than artificial sweeteners since they act as a bulking agent and provide a sugar-like taste. These substitutes are ideal for replacing sugar in recipes, with no conversion required.
Common Foods Sweetened Artificially
You’ll find artificial sweeteners in various store-bought foods like sugar-free maple syrup, chocolate, energy drinks, mints, yogurt and muesli bars. These products are often labelled “sugar-free” or “no added sugar” and are commonly found in the “health food” section of supermarkets.
Types of Natural Sweeteners
When it comes to sweetening your food, there are so many options available. One great option for natural sweetening is honey. Not only does it add a sweet taste to your food, but it also contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties that can provide added health benefits. Honey has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener, and it can be a great substitute for table sugar in many recipes. Fruits are another excellent source of natural sweetening. They contain natural sugars that can be used to sweeten your food without the need for artificial sweeteners. Fruits like bananas, dates, and figs are particularly good for this purpose because they are naturally sweet and can be used in baking or as a natural sweetener in sauces and dressings. Lastly, dried fruits like raisins, cranberries and apricots are another great way to sweeten your food naturally. They provide a concentrated source of natural sugars that can be used as a sweetener in recipes or as a snack.
There’s no right or wrong sweetener to use, whether it’s artificial sweeteners, sugar substitutes, or natural sweeteners. The key is to avoid excessive consumption of all sweeteners. If you’re unsure which sweetener is best for you, seek personalised advice from me, a qualified gut health dietitian!
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