If you are trying to cut back on sugar but are turning to foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners instead, think twice before you do!
I often get asked about the safety of artificial sweeteners. While these sweeteners may seem like a great alternative to sugar, consumed regularly, they can actually be harmful to our health. In this post, I’ll discuss the dangers of artificial sweeteners and provide some healthier alternatives.
What are artificial sweeteners and why are they bad for us?
We are all used to artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. These synthetic chemicals have been used to sweeten food and drinks for many years. Yet, whilst they are marketed as a low-calorie alternative to sugar, they can actually have negative effects on our health and weight.
According to a recent study, regularly eating or drinking foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners is linked with a greater risk of heart and circulatory diseases. Another major danger of artificial sweeteners is that they can disrupt our gut microbiome.
Our gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria that play a crucial role in our overall health. When we consume artificial sweeteners, they can alter the balance of bacteria in our gut, which can lead to inflammation, digestive issues, and even weight gain.
In fact, artificial sweeteners can actually increase our cravings for sweet foods. When we consume sweet foods, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good.
However, when we consume artificial sweeteners, our brain doesn’t get the same dopamine release as it would from real sugar. This can lead to increased cravings for sweet foods, which can ultimately lead to overeating and weight gain.
What are healthier alternatives to artificial sweeteners?
One option is to use natural sweeteners, such as raw honey, maple syrup, or stevia. These sweeteners are lower in calories than sugar and don’t have the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners.
Another option is to simply reduce your intake of sweet foods. Our taste buds can actually adapt to less sweet foods over time, so gradually reducing the amount of sugar you consume daily will help. You may find that you don’t even miss it!
Sadly, artificial sweeteners have made their way into many foods such as tomato sauce, baked beans, yoghurts and baked goods. If it says ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘low calorie’ on the label, it’s been replaced with sweeteners. You will even find ‘low fat’ products have sugar and sugar substitutes replacing the fat.
This is no accident. Processed foods are designed to get you addicted and craving more, so by consuming products with artificial sweeteners, your body and brain will simply crave more of them.
Replacing sugar with protein
Imbalances in blood glucose levels often cause many of our sugar cravings. Low blood sugar levels might cause you to crave something sweet in order to bring up these levels.
It’s been shown that consuming more protein can minimise your sugar cravings significantly. Protein not only helps stabilise our sugar levels but keeps us fuller for longer.
My advice is to eat at regular intervals during the day. Always start the day with some protein heavy breakfast, include eggs, yogurt or oats and fruits, nut butters and vegetables. This will stabilize your blood sugar, meaning you get fewer crashes and fewer cravings.
If you get hungry and feel a craving coming on – go for a protein heavy snack, choose a handful of nuts, a boiled egg, apple and nut butter, celery with peanut butter, tuna, avocado on toast.
Another great way to know what’s going into your food is to ditch processed food and cook everything from scratch – using fresh ingredients. If you want to use sauces and tins, always read the labels and choose the one with less artificial sweeteners or sugars.
By cutting down your sugar intake and slowly introducing more protein and vegetables, you will reduce your cravings.
In conclusion, while artificial sweeteners may seem like a good alternative to sugar, they can actually be harmful to our health. By choosing natural sweeteners or reducing your intake of sweet foods, you can still enjoy a sweet treat without compromising your health.
I hope you have found this article on The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners and how to Choose Healthier Alternatives useful. If you need help with your diet and nutritional advice, reach out to me via my Facebook page here.