Have you ever noticed an advertisement for an artificial sweetener? It looks so attractive. Do you know why? Because it has ‘hope’ painted all over it. A hope of reducing calorie intake and blood sugar levels without compromising on taste. But the truth, dear friends, lies some inches away from the hope.
Artificial sweeteners were primarily introduced in the market to reduce calorie intake. This was achieved by substituting natural sugars with chemicals that had negligible calories and manifold sweetness.
What are artificial sweeteners made of?
Take a closer look at the label. These sweeteners are made using chemicals that might not add calories to your diet, but they might not keep your blood sugar levels stable. According to the FDA, ingredients like aspartame (50 mg/day), saccharin (5 mg/day), sucralose (5 mg/day), acesulfame K (15mg/day), neotame (18mg/day) should strictly adhere to their stipulated dosage (as stated in the brackets). Anything more, than the stipulated dose, is deemed hazardous. It’s all right there in the fine print.
Can you get addicted?
When you reach out for an artificial sweetener, pause, and ask yourself — is it for health or is it an addiction? The sharp sweetness of these artificial additives can be addictive. Its effects can harm your blood sugar levels and taste buds in the long run.
As artificial sweeteners are chemically synthesized, the brain fails to recognise it as ‘food’. This gets tricky as the body doesn’t know when to stop consumption, indicating that we’re full. The garbled signals sent by these synthetic additives can result in overeating. This is a concern, especially for people suffering from diabetes.
Overeating causes an abrupt spike in blood sugar levels even after the consumption of artificial sweeteners.
The next effect is on the taste-buds. As your tongue adjusts to the stinging sweetness of artificial sweeteners, the subtle sweetness of fruits and vegetables fail to satisfy your cravings. This nudges you towards the empty calories of sweeteners, and you lose out on important nutrients.
It is natural to desire to taste sweetness in our everyday life. Instead of turning to chemical-laden additives, look for natural alternatives. Identify ingredients that are sweet but have low glycemic indices.
Here are some natural alternatives
The leaves of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni are used to extract sugar that’s natural and healthier than table sugar. The plant is native to South America and was used by ancient tribes to sweeten their food. The glycosides in stevia are around 250-300 times higher than sucrose, found in table sugar.
Read more about how to use stevia.
Those with a sweet-tooth can turn to dates for a healthy option. Dates are rich in minerals, salt, carbohydrates but have low glycemic indices that have no or negligible effect on blood sugar.
This is another sweetener rich in anti-oxidants. It can help reduce glycemia and metabolic disorders. For people suffering from diabetes, honey has proven to be beneficial as it protects the pancreas and kidneys from oxidative damage that can result from diabetes.
Here’s everything you need to know about using honey as a sweetening agent.
- Artificial Sweeteners. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/#ref56
- 2. M. Yanina Pepino, PHD, Courtney D. Tiemann, MPH, MS, RD, Bruce W. Patterson, PHD, Burton M. Wice, PHD and Samuel Klein, MD. Sucralose Affects Glycemic and Hormonal Responses to an Oral Glucose Load. Diabetes Care 2013 Sep; 36(9): 2530-2535. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/9/2530.full
- Margaret Ashwell, OBE, PhD, FAfN. Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener. Nutr Today. 2015 May; 50(3): 129–134. Published online 2015 May 14. doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000094 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890837/
- Juma M Alkaabi, corresponding author Bayan Al-Dabbagh, Shakeel Ahmad, Hussein F Saadi, Salah Gariballa, and Mustafa Al Ghazali. Glycemic indices of five varieties of dates in healthy and diabetic subjects. Nutr J. 2011; 10: 59. Published online 2011 May 28. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-59 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3112406/
- Omotayo O Erejuwa. Effect of honey in diabetes mellitus: matters arising. J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2014; 13: 23. Published online 2014 Jan 29. doi: 10.1186/2251-6581-13-23 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909917/