Tip: Minimize artificial sweeteners, which may have negative health effects. Reduce your sugar intake and substitute small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey or real maple syrup when you want to sweeten something.
by the Chef Marshall O'Brien Group
Recent USDA recommendations to eat less added sugar may have you considering artificial sweeteners as a replacement. While they do not directly add to your caloric intake, artificial sweeteners may not be as benign as previously thought. Research suggests they may be associated with weight gain, development of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and increased sweet cravings. Minimize artificial sweeteners to avoid these unintended side effects and curb your sugar intake naturally. The more you avoid sweet food, the less you will crave it, and the better you will feel.
It seems logical that substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar would help you lose weight – you get the sweet taste without the calories, right? While some people do lose weight after switching to artificial sweeteners, others actually gain weight. Artificial sweeteners trick the brain by providing sweetness without the sugar the body expects. And since they do not stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain like real sugar does, you are left unsatisfied and craving more sweets. As a result, you may overcompensate for the lack of calories in artificial sweeteners by consuming even more calories than you would have.
Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes
Our guts are host to trillions of bacteria that are integral to digestion, a healthy immune system and metabolism. Recent research suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners alters the composition of gut bacteria in a way that makes you more susceptible to increased body weight, higher fasting blood glucose levels and impaired glucose tolerance. These changes are associated with metabolic syndrome and development of type 2 diabetes – two of the very things you are trying to avoid by cutting out sugar!
What About Stevia?
Stevia is marketed as the ‘natural’ non-caloric sweetener since it is derived from a plant. However, commercially prepared stevia is highly processed, and the little stevia it contains is usually mixed with other chemicals and flavorings. The only truly natural stevia is stevia you grow yourself. Stay away from commercially prepared stevia and choose honey or real maple syrup when you want to add sweetness to your food.
Curb Your Sugar Intake
Cutting back on added sugar will help you feel more energized and healthier, but using artificial sweeteners as a substitute may sabotage your efforts. Instead, try removing added sugar from your diet for two weeks – you will stop craving it and foods you used to enjoy may even start to seem ‘too sweet’. When in the mood for a sweet treat that is low in sugar, try our Berry Ginger Oat Smoothie – it will provide the sweetness you crave from berries and just a touch of honey with the added benefit of high fiber from the berries and oats. It is also an excellent way to use that leftover oatmeal from breakfast for a healthy snack that will sustain you through the day.
You will love the way you feel!
The Chef Marshall O’Brien Group is a dedicated assembly of professionals based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, committed to the goal of using nutrition to get kids and families to lead happier, healthier lives.