The global campaign for sugar awareness has risen over the past few years. Lately, many people are turning to sugar alternatives. However, these alternatives such as sweeteners are no longer the healthy solution we thought they were. But, not all sweeteners contain harmful ingredients. In fact, studies show that artificial sweeteners have zero calories, hence are better substitutes if you are trying to lose weight or you have diabetes. So, the question is: are sweeteners healthier than sugar?
What are Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes which are derived from naturally occurring substances like herbs or sugar itself. You can find them in diet food, chewing gum, toothpaste or drinks. In the case of low calories drinks and sugar-free gum, acesulfame K, saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame are the best options since they are intensely sweet.
Uses of Sweeteners
They are widely used in processed foods such as soft drinks, baked food, canned food, puddings, and dairy products. They are also used at home for baking or cooking. In addition to that, sweeteners can be used in the modification of certain recipes since they don’t provide bulk or volume to the foods.
Is it Good to use Sweeteners?
Most of the artificial sweeteners are FDA-approved. Studies suggest that switching from sugar to no-calories sweeteners can help with certain conditions. However, this remains to be a personal choice. There are so many healthy artificial sweeteners to choose from as far as long-term health effects of using these sweeteners are concerned. FDA has recognized some artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose, stevia extract and aspartame as safe. These sweeteners are deemed as safe because they generally pass through your body without being digested. To add on to that, researchers have extensively studied them in the labs and therefore, they are accepted as sugar alternatives for long term use. Swapping from sugar to sweeteners is no guarantee you will stay slim and fit.
Some Health Benefits Associated with Sweeteners
- Dental health. Chewing sweeteners like xylitol have shown to help repair tooth enamel. Generally, artificial sweeteners have no proven link with tooth decay.
- Weight loss. Artificial sweeteners pack little to no calories and by using them, you reduce your calories intake which helps with weight loss. Studies show that both short and long term consumption of these sweeteners may lead to weight loss.
- Diabetes. You should reduce sugar intake in order to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Artificial sweeteners have no calories and the body doesn’t digest them. This means they have no effects on your blood sugar, thus are better alternatives to sugar. Nevertheless, diabetic individuals shouldn’t have entirely sugar free diet.
Are Sweeteners Safe?
Due to the mandatory checks and regulations by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sweeteners are termed as safe. The manufacturers have to provide evidence showing that their sweeteners don’t cause adverse effects like cancer, allergic reactions and they don’t affect reproduction. Also, the safety of artificial sweeteners begins with you exercising moderation when it comes to consumption of these sweeteners. If you’re taking, for example, an artificially sweetened beverage, you should only consume the daily acceptable amount which is considered safe.
Side Effects of Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have experienced intense scrutiny for decades. Some critics say that sweeteners cause a variety of health issues including cancer. This is supported by the fact that in one study that dates back to the 1970s, linked artificial sweetener saccharin to bladder cancer in laboratory rats. But according to the National Cancer Institute, there’s no proof of any artificial sweetener that is FDA-approved causing cancer or any other serious health issues.
Sweeteners have been related to weight gain in several studies. Other research suggests that sweeteners are appetite stimulants and thus consuming them can contribute to the risk of obesity. However, there’s no evidence to support this information. Others are concerned that sweeteners alter our taste for food so that we start finding naturally sweet foods like fruits less pleasing and crave for sugary foods. They could not prove this yet. Note that consuming lots of this sweetened food can cause flatulence and diarrhea. We need more researches to dispute or support these claims.
So, Are Sweeteners Healthier than Sugar?
Here, the key to both sweeteners and sugar is moderate consumption. However, for people trying to control blood sugar levels and weight loss, sweeteners may be the best option as opposed to sugar. But, no soda of any kind is good for you. Remember processed foods which are marketed as sugar-free aren’t calories free as well hence, you can still gain weight by consuming them. When looking to buy sweeteners, choose plant-based extracts such as stevia or xylitol since they have fewer side effects.
All images via Pixabay