For many people, the journey to a healthier way of life often includes dropping a few, or quite a few, pounds. Foods marketed as “diet” or “sugar free” seems like a logical starting point. Look at a can of soda, for instance. Drinking a 12oz. can of diet soda instead of a regular one can save 140-200 calories in a single serving. But is adding artificial sweeteners really the right road to take when on the journey to master healthy eating habits?
Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar or naturally occurring sugars in foods. This resets the body’s standards for sweet tastes. The bar has been raised, so to speak. The receptors eventually dull to the sweetness that occur in nature, such as fruits, and the subtle sweetness in vegetables. Fresh, wholesome foods, carrots, sweet peas, and sugar beets might taste bland and possibly bitter to a person accustomed to the overpowering sweetness found in “diet” foods. Ironically, the person who consumes “diet” food, labeled as low calorie, starts to crave sweeter and sweeter foods when hungry, instead of the fiber rich fruits and vegetables that would keep them satisfied longer and at for far fewer calories. One can try this at home easily. Discontinue use of artificial sweeteners for one month. If you need something sweet, use real sugar or better yet a little real maple syrup, molasses or honey. Use the smallest amount possible and notice over the month how your tastes seem to change. It is amazing how an ice cold, juicy apple can taste.
If one has been used to consuming artificial sweeteners in many different forms, they might find it surprisingly difficult to discontinue this practice. Aspartame, in particular has been linked to addictive tendencies, especially in sodas. People report headaches and nausea for weeks after abruptly stopping the consumption of products containing these additives. Diet soda drinkers have an even more difficult transition as many parts of their day included a can of fizzy, usually caffeinated beverage. To the naysayers who claim since these substances are FDA approved so “they must be safe”, why do the effects of halting their use, sometimes bring on the same type of symptoms, albeit milder, as someone going through detox?
Besides potential negative neurological effects, artificial sweeteners have been shown in studies to have links to increased rates of bladder cancer. There are many studies that cite skin rashes, migraines, stomach upset and painful joints as side effects from some types of sweeteners. Liver and kidney toxity rates show an increase in people who consume regular amounts of these types of products. There are many claims that the artificial sugar actually increases appetite and causes an increase in blood sugar.
Many studies are contradictory and it is difficult to know which is to be believed. Each person has to be responsible stewards of their body and make choices that enhance his or her life. The question you have to ask: is substituting chemicals for natural foods really the healthy choice?