Why Your ‘Zero-Calorie’ Sweetener Is Worse For You Than Sugar
We know that consuming too much sugar is bad news. Sugar comes with a long list of negative effects — from making you gain weight to messing with your metabolism. But what about artificial sweeteners? How do they impact your body? According to Brooke Alpert, nutritionist and author of The Sugar Detox, artificial sweetener is worse for you than regular sugar.
When you cut sugar from your diet, it’s not uncommon to integrate artificial sweetener into your routine. Many people tend to swap the “bad” sugar for “zero-calorie” or artificial sweeteners, thinking they’re making a smart choice. (And side note: a packet of Splenda contains four calories.) Alpert says this is a bad move.
“Whether you’re consuming regular sugar or artificial sweetener, the long term effect is pretty much the same,” Alpert says. “Artificial sweeteners will affect your hormones, insulin, metabolism, everything. It really fools your taste buds and it takes away our ability to taste natural sweetness. It gives us the need to have more and more in our diet.”
In other words, sweetness begets sweetness. The more artificial sugar you consume, the more sugar you’ll crave. Foods that are naturally sweet, like apples, lose their appeal. If it sounds like an addiction, you’re right. In essence, by going sugar-free you crave it more than often.
As it relates to your body, Alpert says that artificial sweeteners have the potential to significantly damage your gut, which regulates so much of your body.
“Your gut has control over your immune system, brain function, all of it,” Alpert explains. “The fact that this chemically modified sugar substitute has an impact on your gut is an automatic reason you shouldn’t be touching it.”
And according to research, artificial sweeteners promote fat accumulation and inflammation. You’re actually doing yourself a disservice when you think you’re slashing calories.
So what’s the answer if you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake and artificial sweetener is a no-go?
You’re not going to like the solution, but here’s the reality, according to Alpert: you need to ditch excessively sugary foods and be aware of your intake each day to break the cycle.
“You need to have a healthy relationship with sugar before you can use a teaspoon of maple syrup or honey,” she says. “If you have a healthy relationship with sugar and foods are unsweetened, any little bit of sugar you use won’t set you up for that sugar addiction to start.”
So if you’re looking to add a dash of sweetness to your tea or food, go natural.
The takeaways: Know what you’re eating and cut out the processed food that is sneaking sugar into your diet (think pre-made salad dressings and pre-flavored yogurts), and for the love of all that is healthy, stay away from artificial sweeteners.
Sugar is not the enemy…as long as you don’t eat too much.