Artificial Sweeteners: Good or Bad?

If you’re trying to reduce the sugar and calories in your diet, you may be turning to artificial sweeteners or other sugar substitutes. You aren’t alone. Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” including soft drinks and baked goods. Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that you use instead of regular table sugar (sucrose). Artificial sweeteners are just one type of sugar substitute. The topic of sugar substitutes can be confusing. One problem is that the terminology is often open to interpretation. Some manufacturers call their sweeteners “natural” even though they’re processed or refined. Stevia preparations are one example. And some artificial sweeteners are derived from naturally occurring substances — sucralose comes from sugar. Natural sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are often promoted as healthier options than sugar or other sugar substitutes. But even these “natural sweeteners” often undergo processing and refining.

By Javed Ahmed

Natural Sweeteners Include:

  • Fruit juices and nectars
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. But they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or sugar itself. They are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than sugar. These can be attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet. Also, you need only a fraction of artificial sweetener compared with the amount of sugar you would normally use for sweetness. These types are also popular for home use. Some can even be used in baking or cooking. Certain recipes may need modification because unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners provide no bulk or volume. Check the labels on artificial sweeteners for appropriate home use. Some artificial sweeteners may leave an aftertaste. A different artificial sweetener or a combination may be more appealing.Artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities. They may also help with:

Weight control
Artificial sweeteners have virtually no calories. In contrast, a teaspoon of sugar has about 16 calories — so a can of sweetened cola with 10 teaspoons of added sugar has about 160 calories. If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners may be an attractive option, although their effectiveness for long-term weight loss isn’t clear.

Diabetes
Artificial sweeteners aren’t carbohydrates. So unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise blood sugar levels. Ask your doctor or dietitian before using any sugar substitutes if you have diabetes.

 



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