Understanding artificial sweeteners:
Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that individuals and/or manufacturers use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose) in coffee, baked goods and many other items at the grocery store. Artificial sweeteners are just one type of sugar substitute. Other sugar substitutes include: honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. Some artificial sweeteners are synthetic and others can be from naturally occurring substances like herbs. Artificial sweeteners can be 10-300x sweeter than sugar. With that said, smaller amounts of artificial sweeteners are required to provide a sweet taste.
Artificial sweeteners don’t have calories so they’re healthy for you right?
Artificial sweeteners can be attractive alternatives to sugar because they are calorie free. The human body digests artificial sweeteners and sugar very similar, but where they differ is how the brain responds. Since artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, the body never feels satisfied, so individuals continue to eat. Another concern is that we fool ourselves into thinking “I’m drinking diet pop, so it’s okay to eat this piece of candy”. This thinking can quickly turn into over eating higher calorie foods and less nutrient dense foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Are artificial sweeteners even safe?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), acesulfame (Sunett), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), neotame, and sucralose (Splenda). Some individuals say artificial sweeteners cause a variety of health problems, such as cancer, metabolic syndrome and other health issues. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners are generally safe when consumed in limited quantities. The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) or the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day for each artificial sweetener. So, it is up to the consumer to monitor the amount of artificial sweeteners they are ingesting, starting by reading the ingredients list.
Where do artificial sweeteners hide?
Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages labeled as "sugar-free" or "diet". Commonly known products that contain artificial sweeteners are soft drinks, baked goods, candy, pudding, canned foods, jams/jellies and dairy products. Others that may surprise you are bread, tomato sauce and salad dressing. Rule of thumb, if it comes in a box, bag or jar you’ll want to read the ingredients list before assuming it’s free of added sweeteners. One way to avoid having to inspect every item is by eating whole foods and cooking from scratch. This approach is not always practical. Aiming to use less processed or packaged foods will help limit the consumption of artificial sweeteners.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.