Monday, November 8, 2010

Artificial Sweeteners vs Natural

What is the truth behind these?
What is the deal with sweeteners? I have had an ongoing love-hate relationship with artificial sweeteners over the years. It is something I have been wrestling with and become greatly frustrated over. What is the real truth? I personally HATE the taste of artificial sweeteners and everytime I try to buy something with it in it I think it tastes like a chemical toilet. But on the other hand, when you are constantly trying to battle the bulge, you feel like you are out of choices. And these days it seems we are hard pressed to find anything without sucralose (Splenda) or some other artificial sweetener in it. There are hidden sugars in EVERYTHING!!!

The one product at the store that drives me batty is yogurt. I have the hardest time trying to buy yogurt. I don't even like it that much. I guess I force myself to eat it because it's "good for you". Trying to sift through the ingredient list can drive me bananas. I guess a safe bet would be to buy a plain, nonfat or lowfat all-natural yogurt and add your own sweetener (whether it be table sugar, fruit or honey). At least you know what you are putting in your body.

Recently on the Dr. Oz Show, they shed some light on this topic. It was very interesting and I thought there was a lot of truth to it. Here is an exerpt:

The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners

Can They Cause Weight Gain?

Many people use artificial sweeteners to cut their caloric intake, but the very opposite effect can occur. New research shows that artificial sweeteners stimulate taste receptors that sense sweetness in both the esophagus and stomach. Anticipating energy, the pancreas releases insulin, an important hormone for accumulating body fat. At the same time, chemicals are sent to the brain’s satiety center, which becomes confused as to whether or not the body is actually receiving calories. The result? You feel even hungrier and less full, which can lead to weight gain.

Are They Addictive?

First, artificial sweeteners are substances some people feel they can’t live without, a sign of an addiction. Second, artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than natural sugars, such as those found in whole grains, fruits and skim milk, and can actually reset your taste buds. The body then builds up a tolerance, which can cause overuse, another sign of addiction.

The theory between artificial sweeteners and weight gain extends to include addictive behavior. As the sweet receptors in the esophagus and stomach become “tricked” by the zero-calorie sugar substitute, you crave more food and become susceptible to addictive eating habits like binging or overeating.


Dr. Oz and his colleagues did discuss some alternatives to artificial sweeteners such as stevia, truvia and agave nectar (a type of honey). The great thing about these besides being natural is that they have a low glycemic index so they have minimal impact on your blood sugar.

An interesting fact: Splenda, Equal and Sweet 'N Low all have a high glycemic index of 80 while SweetLeaf (a stevia product) has a glycemic index of zero!
Something to think about...

On the other hand, REAL sugar can be just as bad (even worse) than the fake stuff. Which brings me to my problem...I am addicted to the REAL stuff. I am learning a lot from the book "Beat Sugar Addiction Now!"
According to Dr. Teitelbaum, "Stevia and erythritol (PureVia and Truvia) win hands down, followed by maltitol (for sugar free chocolates). When these are not available, use the pink packet (saccharin)...A key point is to use all sweeteners listed above in moderation. The body can get easily overwhelmed by too much of any single sweetener, so it's not a bad idea to mix them up a bit and allow yourself Splenda or Sweet'n Low in modest amounts." (Page 50 - "Beat Sugar Addiction Now!")

Heavy sigh. Okay, now my head hurts...

What are some of your thoughts on this topic?


Rebecca said...

It's all very confusing. Seems like we adopt one sweetener and two years later we're told it's bad for us, i.e. Splenda. I'd just rather use the real stuff. Honey seems to be a wonderful alternative that will keep the bees busy.

Another great blog, Leah! Thanks for sharing.

Leah the Foodie said...

Your welcome Beck! Thanks for your comment!