I used to be a Diet Soda Junkie.
Earlier this week, I shared on my Instagram, that three years ago I decided to give up artificial sweeteners for good! Yes, it’s been 3 whole years! Prior to that time, during my calorie counting days, I enjoyed my sugar-free sucralose sweetened yogurts & puddings (low cal right?! gotta be good), Equal in my coffee, sugar-free candies, gum & cookies, ‘diet foods’, and did I ever LOVE my 3:00pm Diet Dr. Pepper! The sound of the can clinking around as it made its way down to the opening of the pop machine and better yet, the sound of the can being opened, was music to my ears. Ahhhhhh!
So you might be wondering why I gave up those things I enjoyed so much? Well, A little over 3 years ago was the time when I also started focusing more on how food truly makes me feel. I started to become more in-tune with my body’s signals and began making an effort to choose wholesome and ‘Real Foods’. Foods in their most natural forms. Yes, even at that time, I knew artificial sweeteners probably weren’t all that good for me; but I struggled with the fact that I would have to give-up so many of the ‘food-like products’ that I loved (especially the diet soda) and that I enjoyed on a daily basis. I really had to change my ways.
The turning point was when I came across a graphic on Facebook that brought awareness to all of the possible negative side-effects that artificial sweeteners could have. It was definitely a scare tactic and it worked. I decided, enough was enough. Why would I put something into my body (on a daily basis) that doesn’t make me feel good and that could potentially be harming me. So at that moment, with half a can of Diet Dr. Pepper in hand, I threw it in the garbage and that was that. And yes, I did have the classic withdrawal symptoms of headaches and major cravings but I stood strong (more tips on breaking the soda habit coming soon) and I’m so happy I did. In addition, I started reading labels and avoiding all sources of artificial sweeteners – in yogurts, puddings, beverages, candies, gums, cookies, baked goods, ‘diet food’, etc.
Fast forward to the present moment. I haven’t consumed artificial sweeteners in 3 years – I haven’t had a migraine since then(amazing, right?!) and as a previous sufferer of ‘IBS’ (Irritable Bowel Syndrome – a very overused diagnosis in my opinion), my gut health has improved leaps and bounds. For me, eliminating artificial sweeteners was a life changer and it was worth it.
I encourage you to also take an honest look at your diet and choose the foods that nourish your body and make you feel your best so that you have the energy you need to live life to the fullest. Really recognize how food makes you feel! Because my friend, YOU are worth it!
So now that you know my story, lets move on to the reasons why it’d be best to avoid artificial sweeteners.
5 Reasons to Avoid Artificial Sweeteners.
Grocery shopping can be overwhelming with the endless number of products claiming to be “healthy.” Looking at nutritional labels may be deceiving especially when it comes to artificial sweeteners.
Synthetic sugar replacements found in foods labeled “low calorie,” “reduced-sugar,” “light,” “no sugar added,” “diet,” “low-fat,” and “sugar-free” may seem like healthier options but the reality is that they often have harmful effects in our body. Let’s debunk these misconceptions by sharing five reasons why you should be avoiding artificial sweeteners.
1. Weight Gain:
Artificial sweeteners are marketed to be a great sugar alternative for achieving weight loss, weight maintenance or diabetes management because they add no calories. However, studies show a correlation between obesity and weight gain in both children and adults who consume artificial sweeteners. The notion that artificial sweeteners contribute to weight loss makes sense in theory, however eating these substances actually tricks our body into thinking it needs more energy (calories) making us want to eat more.
2. Increased desire for sweeter foods:
When we consume artificial sweeteners, some of which are up to 8,000 times sweeter than table sugar, we actually crave MORE sugar and more of the sweet taste on our tongue. Rather than fulfilling a sugar craving by consuming zero calorie sweeteners, we continue to yearn for more sugary foods. So instead of kicking a sugar craving to the curbside, artificial sweeteners do the exact opposite. They make you crave more sugar.
3. Induces blood sugar disturbance potentially leading to chronic disease:
Since artificial sweeteners tend to increase appetite; weight gain and obesity-related diseases are commonly associated with consumption of artificial sweeteners. Here’s an explanation for this: When we consume artificial sweeteners, our body releases the hormone insulin in response to the sweet taste. Since artificial sweeteners don’t actually cause an increase in blood sugar, this insulin response causes the sugar in our bloodstream to be absorbed into our tissues leading to low blood sugars (hypoglycemia). This results in sending a signal to our brain that more calories are needed in order for our blood sugar level to return to normal levels. This not only results in unstable blood sugars, which is undesirable for optimal health, metabolism and well being, but could also lead to overeating furthermore leading to chronic obesity related diseases.
4. Decreased “good gut bacteria” and immune response:
Our body contains thousands of species of microorganisms that play numerous roles in maintaining optimal health. Our gut microbiota (or bacterial environment) contain beneficial bacteria that aid in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients and are also key players in fighting off invaders to keep us healthy. Research shows that artificial sweeteners decrease the diversity of these good bacteria, thereby creating a bacterial imbalance in the body known as dysbiosis. This can result in poor digestion and reduced immune response. Our immune system can sense a decrease in microbe diversity, which could inflict an autoimmune response against our own body leading to inflammation, glucose intolerance and gastrointestinal discomfort. A healthy gut = a healthy you! For more tips on digestion learn our 5 ways to Improve your Digestion Naturally.
5. It’s not found in nature.
Need we say more?
Be an artificial sweetener detective! Look for these names of artificial sweeteners on ingredient lists and on packaged food items:
|Artificial Sweetener||Acesulfame Potassium||Aspartame||Neotame (like aspartame)||Saccharin||Sucralose|
|Common Name||Sweet One||Equal, NutraSweet||NutraSweet||Sweet’ N Low||Splenda|
|Sweetness (Compared to Sucrose)||200x sweeter||200x sweeter||8000x sweeter||300x sweeter||600x sweeter|
Foods that commonly have artificial sweeteners:
- Diet soda and other diet drinks
- Sugar-free pudding, jello & ice cream
- Low-calorie sweetened yogurt
- Sugar-free gum, candy and baked goods
- Sugar-free, diet or low-sugar salad dressings, condiments and pickles
- Protein shakes and bars
- Foods labeled “diet”, “low calorie” or “low-carb”
Know the foods you’re nourishing your body with and pay close attention to how they make you feel inside and out. Choose wholesome foods that are in their most natural form and make sure to read the ingredients on packaged food items.
By avoiding artificial sweeteners, you can restore your body’s internal balance to ensure full functionality and optimal health. Using natural sweeteners such as honey or pure maple syrup in a portion-controlled manner is a better option for your health.
Have you removed artificial sweeteners from your diet? and if so, what changes did you experience?
Pin it: 5 Reasons to Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
- Yang, Q. (2010). Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
- NETTLETON, J. A., LUTSEY, P. L., WANG, Y., LIMA, J. A., MICHOS, E. D., & JACOBS, D. R. (2009). Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. American Diabetes Association , 688-693.
- Tandel, K. R. (2011). Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics.
- Payne, A. N., Chassard , C., & Lacroix, C. (2012). Gut microbial adaptation to dietary consumption of fructose, artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols: implications for host–microbe interactions contributing to obesity. Obesity Reviews , 799-809.
Special Thanks to Kendra Parker, Dietetic Student Intern, for c0-authoring this article. Kendra is a senior at Colorado State University with an interest in real food and clean, healthy living.