Reasons you shouldn’t swap sugar for artificial sweeteners

5th September 2023 | EATIVITY Editors

In a world where sugar seems to lurk in every corner, finding ways to reduce or eliminate it from your diet can feel like a daunting task. But fear not! Transitioning to a sugar-free lifestyle doesn’t mean bidding farewell to all of your favourite treats. With a little creativity, you can discover delicious sugar-free alternatives that won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out.

The movement towards a sugar-free diet has continued to rise in popularity over the years. However, a recent finding by the World Health Organisation suggested that the common solution of replacing it with artificial varieties may not necessarily be the best alternative. In fact, in July this year, the WHO confirmed that the artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes used in many popular foods and drinks such as diet soda and sugar-free desserts could cause cancer. 

Pharmacist and founder of Ultra Nature supplement, Dr. Sam Megalli says that in the quest for a healthier lifestyle, many of us turn to alternative options for sugar to cut down on calories while still satisfying our sweet cravings.

“Artificial sweeteners seem like the ideal solution, offering the promise of sweetness without the guilt. However, beneath their enticing facade lies a complex web of potential dangers that demand our attention and understanding,” said Dr. Sam. For those trying to give up their sweet treats to support Muscular Dystrophy this Sugar-Free September, Dr. Sam explains the dangers and risks associated with artificial sweetener use.

The dangers of faux sweeteners

The metabolic maze: affecting blood sugar and insulin regulation – According to Dr. Sam, one of the most concerning aspects of artificial sweeteners is their potential to disrupt our metabolic processes. Despite their lack of calories, some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners can still trigger an insulin response, much like real sugar. This unexpected response can confuse the body and may impact blood sugar control, potentially contributing to issues like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Craving sweetness, consuming more calories: a vicious cycle – Artificial sweeteners might inadvertently encourage us to consume more calories than we intend. By conditioning our taste buds to crave intense sweetness, we might end up compensating by eating larger portions or seeking out additional sugary foods. This counterintuitive cycle can hinder our efforts to make healthier dietary choices. 

Weighty worries – According to Dr. Sam, it’s a common misconception that switching to artificial sweeteners aids in weight management. Some studies propose that using artificial sweeteners could actually lead to weight gain over time. The altered sweetness perception might lead to increased cravings for sweet foods, ultimately derailing weight loss efforts. 

Gut health in the balance: the microbiome’s reaction – The gut microbiome plays a vital role in overall health. Recent research suggests that artificial sweeteners could disturb this delicate balance. Some studies point to potential negative effects on the gut microbiota, which may impact digestion, immunity, and even mental health.

Neurological concerns: does sweetness equal reward? – Our brain is wired to perceive sweetness as a reward. Some experts worry that the intense sweetness of sugar-free artificial sweeteners could de-sensitise our brain’s reward pathways, leading to decreased satisfaction with less sweet foods. This could potentially lead to overeating and a preference for overly sweet options.

Five sugar-free alternatives to satiate your sweet tooth

Here are some fantastic sugar-free swaps that are sure to satisfy your cravings this sugar-free September, and beyond!

Swap sugary spreads for nut butters – Nut butters like almond, peanut, and cashew butter are a source of healthy fats and protein. They are also a fantastic sugar-free alternative for adding flavour and sweetness. Opt for natural nut butters without added sugars and enjoy them instead of jams and chocolatey hazelnut spreads.

Swap ice cream for coconut yoghurt and fresh berries – Creamy, sweet and rich. A few scoops of decadent coconut yoghurt combined with a handful of in-season berries offers an excellent low-sugar alternative to gelato, sorbet, and even frozen yoghurt – which can be a surprisingly high source of hidden sugars. Sprinkle it was s spoonful of cinnamon for a sweet, yet sugar-free finish.

Swap milk chocolate for dark varieties – Craving chocolate doesn’t mean you have to surrender to sugar-laden options. Instead, embrace the rich, intense flavour of dark varieties with at least 85 per cent cocoa. Dark chocolate boasts less sugar than milky versions and is instead packed with antioxidants that support heart health and overall wellbeing. Savour a few squares of your favourite with a handful of nuts for a luxe treat that won’t sabotage your efforts.

Swap a spoonful of sugar for a few dried dates – Experiment and use them as a replacement in traditional baked goods that generally rely on refined white sugar. Dates are like nature’s candy – a naturally sweet, sticky, alternative that’s loaded with nutrients, fibre, vitamins, and minerals that will deliver you with all of the sweet highs. For tea and coffee sweetness, try using honey or maple syrup, which allow us to enjoy sweetness while benefiting from the nutrients the foods offer as well.

Swap sugary fizzy drinks for a sugar-free alternative – While sugar, fizzy soft drinks are falling out of favour fast, their alternatives are not necessarily always a healthy option. For example, sugar-free sodas are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners, and even fruit juices can come packed with unhealthy amounts of sugar.  In these instances, Plus Hemp offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy hydration and health, plus a hit of omega-3 and omega-6 essential acids – without any added sugar.

Check out the video below to find out how much sugar Australians are actually consuming each day and how it compares to what the experts recommend.

Dr. Sam Megalli is a Senior Pharmaceutical Executive, university lecturer, medical research specialist and founder of Australian wellness brand Ultra Nature

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