Nothing makes people feel better than a delightful dessert or a drink doctored with our favorite flavorings. While we know sweets are not good for us, what alternatives exist?
Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners have become increasingly popular as people search for ways to reduce their sugar intake without sacrificing the sweet taste they crave. While sugar alone leaves you feeling fantastic, artificial sugar sources boost the brain like that proverbial kid in a candy store. These artificial sweeteners are not beneficial for your body or skin and can actually harm your health long-term.
Adverse effects of artificial sweeteners on the body
Artificial sweeteners present several potential health risks that many people may not be aware of. From the ingredients to the carcinogenic properties, once you know the dangers of these chemicals, you may not want to touch them again!
The power of artificial sweeteners
First, we must understand the incredible power that artificial sweeteners can take over the mind and body. When you consume natural sugars, you get great feelings from dopamine released in the brain, fueled by the complex carbohydrates and other essential nutrients found in them. This source is the natural and best way to enjoy beneficial sugars! With processed sugars, we are all too familiar with the dreaded "sugar crash" that comes after consuming sweets. But with artificial sweeteners, those dopamine pathways in the brain are opened and not sustained, leaving you craving even more sugar.
Eating these fake sugars with no caloric density gives you no energy to continue functioning, creating the most authentic "empty" eating habits. These habits can lead to even more overeating of sweets or sugar alternatives — and, as we will see, terrible side effects for our health.
The chemical makeup and dangers of artificial sweeteners
Let's take a peek at the ingredients that go into artificial sweeteners. Most are made from chemicals such as aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. Others that are derived from more “natural sources” include monk fruit and stevia. Recently, a common ingredient in these sweetener options, erythritol, has been found to be harmful to heart health. When you use a range of artificial sweeteners, you may have an increased risk of cancer and weight gain and suffer from neurological damage, memory problems, and disrupted gut health.
Heart Health and Erythritol
Let’s start with the newest findings. According to CNN Health, after a range of people ingested erythritol (healthy people to those with existing heart issues), the researchers determined that ingesting erythritol is connected to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death in as quickly as three years. Before this accidental finding and further study, erythritol was considered a “safe” ingredient, often listed on packaging as a sugar reducer or sugar alcohol and included in everything from gum to ketogenic ice creams. Be sure to check your ingredient lists for this harmful chemical. This stevia leaf alternative does not contain erythritol, which still provides a healthier sweetener for those who must use one!
One of the most significant risks associated with artificial sweeteners is the potential for cancer. Aspartame, for example, has been linked to several types of cancer, including bladder and brain tumors. This negative impact comes because aspartame, after being consumed, is broken down into several harmful chemicals, including methanol and formaldehyde, which are known to be carcinogenic.
In addition to the risk of cancer, artificial sweeteners have also been linked to a number of other health problems, including neurological damage. CNN reports that a study conducted in 2017 found that high levels of aspartame consumption can lead to memory problems and other neurological issues. These issues come because aspartame breaks down into a chemical called phenylalanine, which can interfere with the production of essential neurotransmitters in the brain.
Another concern with artificial sweeteners is their potential to cause weight gain. While many people turn to these sweeteners to cut calories and lose weight, they may be doing more harm than good. Artificial sweeteners can cause your body to crave more sugar, leading to overeating and weight gain over time. This is because these sweeteners can interfere with your body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to a cycle of sugar cravings and overeating.
Some evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners may have adverse effects on gut health. CNN reports that a study conducted in 2014 found that consumption of artificial sweeteners can alter the composition of gut bacteria, leading to an increased risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. Gut bacteria play a crucial role in regulating metabolism and maintaining overall health, and disruption of this balance can have negative consequences, so you must feed your gut health well.
Interestingly enough, fake sugars wreak havoc on your skin. From acne and breakouts to premature aging, wrinkles, and skin irritations, you may notice a detrimental effect on your health and vitality. One of the biggest things you can do to support your skin wellness is feeding your gut healthy things, like prebiotic and probiotic foods — even sweet fruits — to help lower inflammation.
Ways to reduce artificial sugar intake
While artificial sweeteners may seem like a great alternative to sugar, they come with a number of potential health risks that many people may need to be made aware of. From increased risk of cancer and neurological damage to weight gain and disrupted gut health, there are many reasons why you should think twice before reaching for that diet soda or sugar-free candy.
Instead, try natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, and reduce your overall sugar intake to improve your health and well-being. If you are looking for sweeteners that are better for your health than artificial ones, there are several options. Here are some natural sources that you may want to consider:
- Honey - Honey is a natural sweetener that is high in antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. It also has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which makes it a better choice for people with diabetes.
- Maple syrup - Maple syrup is a sweetener made from the sap of maple trees. It is high in antioxidants and minerals such as manganese and zinc. It also has a lower glycemic index than sugar, making it a better choice for people with diabetes. But pay attention to the small amounts required to fulfill your daily intake. One tablespoon of maple syrup contains almost 50% of the recommended daily intake.
- Coconut sugar - Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palms. It is lower in fructose than regular sugar and has a lower glycemic index. It also contains minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium.
- Fruit - Fruit is a natural source of sweetness that is high in fiber and antioxidants. You can add chopped fruit to oatmeal or yogurt, or use pureed fruit as a sweetener in baking.
Even if you're choosing a natural sugar source, remember that these sweeteners should still be used in moderation. While natural sugar may be better for you than an artificial sweetener, they still contain dense and almost empty calories that can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. Avoiding chemically-laden artificial sweetener is one of the best things you can do for your health!
Be sure to enjoy other ways of lifting your mood by spending time outside, soaking in Vitamin D, exercising, and enjoying health-boosting self-care rituals like your skincare.
- Tags: Holistic Living