Artificial Sweeteners 101: Why You Should Avoid Them

While they were originally formulated as a way to allow people to “have their cake and eat it too,” artificial sweeteners are now considered to do more harm than good.

As we look at labels, it’s important to understand what we are actually putting into our bodies, and why artificial sweeteners are harmful. If you’re chugging Diet Coke or nursing a Splenda addiction in an effort to maintain—or lose—weight, it might disturb you to discover that artificial sweeteners can actually cause your body to do just the opposite. Fake sweeteners disturb the body’s ability to count calories—thereby encouraging weight gain, not loss. They can disrupt the precious balance of the gut microflora ecosystem, leading to a host of health problems. They also alter glucose tolerance, resulting in confused hormones, excess sugar in the blood, and ultimately, weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners are much more potent than table sugar and can be up to 300 times as sweet. This causes our sugar receptors to become over stimulated, causing healthy foods to taste more bland and appear less desirable.

Artificial sweeteners can also cause major stomach upset and bloating called dysbiosis and can increase your riskof developing diabetes and heart disease.

Back in the day, saccharin (what Sweet ‘N’ Low is made of) was the only artificial sweetener on the market. A lot has changed since then and now there are a laundry list of artificial ingredients to avoid. The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners—saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose—as well as a low-calorie sweetener, stevia. Their approval of these sweeteners, however, does not prove that they are either “safe” or healthy, so they should still be used in moderation. Other artificial ingredients to steer clear of are cyclamate, erythritol, glycerol, isomalt, malitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

Like Michael Pollan says, “Don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce.” Be diligent when reading ingredient lists, and be wary of phrases such as “sugar-free,” “sugarless,” “diet,” and “low-calorie formula.”

If you’re looking for a safe, non-artificial sweetener, try ALOHA Coconut made from coconut water and acacia gum. It contains more naturally-occurring minerals and fiber than regular cane sugar. Better yet? It really tastes great!

Photo Credit: iStock