Would you like sugar or sweetener, sugar?” You’ve likely heard that query dozens of times from well-meaning waitrons at your favorite coffee nook in town. While likely you never even thought twice about the disjunct, we here at Body360 wanted to take a few moments to answer that very question for you. What is sugar versus sweetener, and why should you care about its impact on your health?
According to WebMD, artificial sweeteners of various chemical composition have been developed as substitutes for sugar and natural corn syrup. These include saccharin, acesulfame potassium (Sunett), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), sucralose (Splenda) and D-Tagatose (Sugaree). These products are included in the mixtures of all manner of food products from ketchup to chocolate as a way to reduce sugar intake.
These products offer the consumer the sweetness of sugar without all those pesky calories, because sugar increases blood sugar levels, which can lead to long-term health problems if not consumed sensibly. This is where artificial sweeteners can come into play. Sounds like the best of both worlds, right? But of course you want to know if this is safe for your diet and your health.
According to WebMD, artificial sweeteners can be up to 8,000 times (yes, 8,000!) sweeter than natural sugar but without the calories. This can be especially helpful for dieting, particularly for those who may be diabetic and thus need to keep an eagle’s eye on their sugar intake.
As far as them being “harmful,” the Mayo Clinic cites studies by the National Cancer Institute that have found no definitive connection between saccharine use and increases in incidences of cancer (as was posited in older causation studies).
One of the major reasons that artificial sweeteners are so beneficial for diabetics is that they do not alter blood sugar levels, according to WebMD. However, what’s important to keep in mind here is that certain foods that have artificial sweeteners in them may nonetheless have other ingredients in their mixture that can affect blood sugar levels due to carbohydrates or proteins that may be present in those foods.
WebMD says that even though foods with sweeteners may be free of sugars, they may not be free of carbs, which of course come with their own issues if overconsumed. As with ingesting any other type of food, the key to maintaining or losing weight is moderation and portion control.
So as we’ve learned, going for foods that have artificial sweeteners instead of sugar can be beneficial for health and weight loss. Diabetics can more safely consume foods with artificial sweeteners without worrying about blood sugar spikes, but portion control is crucial to avoid overeating; just because food doesn’t contain sugar doesn’t mean that you can automatically gorge on more of it.
We will explore more about artificial sweeteners in upcoming postings. Stay saccharin…er, tuned sweeteners in upcoming postings.