Thoughts on Alternative SweetnersSeptember 14, 2016
The most common question I get as an RD: What’s your thought on Alternative Sweeteners?
You’ll get a different answer no matter who you ask, but here is my philosophy: Things that taste sweet that don’t give your body calories? Alternative sweeteners might be too good to be true and include six groups that are considered safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration. These include; stevia, acesulfame-K, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose! There are over 30 names by various brands that make identifying these items very confusing! Always check the ingredients list as these will not end up on the nutrition facts panel under “sugar”.
Since Americans are over consuming sugar (roughly 22 teaspoons in one day!), it’s not surprising the number of alternative sweeteners on the market today is on the rise. While sugar alone does not cause type 2 diabetes or other chronic diseases, excessive intake from processed food products adds calories without nutrients. Excessive sugar intake has been linked with insulin resistance, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight gain. Sugar is also easily digested for your body to be able to store the calories into fat quickly!
While alternative sweeteners do not give your body calories, so they do not alter your blood sugar or insulin sensitivity, one might argue they have other affects on your body. Switching from added sugars to alternative sweeteners may be appropriate for some populations and having a little bit every once in a while probably won’t hurt you. Here are 3 reasons why you should avoid them when possible:
1. You’re probably setting unrealistic expectations for yourself by “switching to diet”. While you are cutting calories, I like to shift the focus from calories to the quality of foods you are consuming. Just because a food has no calories (diet soda or diet desserts) doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
2. If something tastes sweet and doesn’t give you calories, your body should be confused. Humans are more complex than even science can prove and altering your taste preferences may put you at risk of weight gain and obesity. Once you start cutting out sweeteners, things like fruit will taste very sweet to you!
3. Enjoy real dessert, less often. Even Dietitians eat dessert, but they prioritize their favorites and don’t try to cut corners. Enjoy your favorite desserts with real sugar, once in a while, and skip the rest. Plus, they probably don’t taste as good!
If you want to try adding Honey or Maple Syrup to your foods, they do add some calories with some nutrients! Honey, created by bees is a great source of antioxidants (prevents against cancer and other inflammatory problems). It also has good bacteria to help the health of your gastrointestinal tract. A reminder, never to give honey to infants as they are not able to process the bacteria properly. Maple Syrup also is becoming more popular and also has manganese and zinc in it!