Artificial sweeteners seem like attractive alternatives to sugar…
…because they’re intensely sweet and add no calories to your diet.
Such sweeteners are widely used in processed foods such as soft drinks, candy, canned foods, jellies, dairy products, puddings, and pretty much anything labeled “sugar-free.”
The most popular fake sweeteners…
…on the market today are Equal and NutraSweet (aspartame); Splenda (sucralose); Sweet One, ACK, and Sunett (acesulfame); and Sweet ’N Low (saccharin). Plus there’s xylitol (or any sugar alcohol that ends in -itol), and stevia (from the leaves of the stevia bush).
According to dietitians at the Cleveland Clinic, artificial sweeteners lead you to crave more sweets and are associated with changes in gut bacteria that lead to increased fat storage.
The worst sweetener is aspartame, which research shows has caused cancer in three independent animal studies[i] and is linked to hypertension and other health risks. While there’s much controversy over aspartame—too lengthy to mention here—it is best avoided!
Impaired glucose tolerance
Researchers have also found that artificial sweeteners—which are often recommended for diabetics and obese people—cause changes in the gut microbiome that are clearly related to impaired glucose tolerance.
One study confirmed that non-diabetics who consumed artificial sweeteners experienced increases in hemoglobin A1c, impaired fasting glucose tolerance, increased body weight, and increased waist-to-hip ratios—demonstrating that diabetics do not benefit from using artificial sweeteners but may instead be harmed by them.[ii]
Not only do artificial sweeteners lead to increased cravings and gut issues, they also contribute to inflammation. Because these sweeteners are altered foods (or not food at all), 0ur bodies see these substances as “foreign” and respond by sending immune cells into the body to combat them.
An overactive immune system, in which immune cells are constantly hovering because of continued threats, is what results in the everyday, chronic inflammation which leads to the vast majority of our diseases and ailments.
Artificial sweeteners made in a laboratory contain no nutrition, contribute to health issues, and should be avoided.
Stevia is the only packaged sweetener I’m comfortable recommending for beverages. To date, there are no known health issues when stevia is used sparingly (less than two stevia-sweetened items per day).[iii]
Fruit should be the first food of choice when craving something sweet, or desserts made with frozen fruits such as easy homemade Very Berry ice cream.
Dates are also a wonderful whole food sweetener that can be used in desserts, smoothies, sauces, and certain salads.
Date paste or date syrup are other acceptable options since they’re made using only whole dates. Here’s my favorite recipe for date paste – and it’s super easy, too. Just dates, water, and a blender or food processor.
If you’re not struggling with sugar addiction, however, The “Plan A” Diet does allow for the occasional use of simple sugar such as adding a small amount of raw cane sugar to your oatmeal or making a recipe that calls for maple syrup.
It’s not smart to stuff yourself with sweets... (Proverbs 25:27a, MSG)
(Portions of the above information is taken from the “Deceptive Foods” chapter in The “Plan A” Diet: Combining Whole Food, Plant Based Nutrition with the Timeless Wisdom of Scripture. Order a signed copy or learn more by clicking here.)
[i] Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, “5 Best and Worst Sweeteners: Your Dietitians’ Picks,” dated September 9, 2016; accessed September 17, 2018. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-best-and-worst-sweeteners-your-dietitians-picks/
[ii] Suez J., Korem T., Zeevi D., et al., “Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota.” Nature 2014; 514:181-186. Accessed September 17, 2018. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature13793
[iii] Dr. Michael Greger, “Is Stevia Good for You?” dated August 30, 2010; accessed September 17, 2018. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-stevia-good-for-you/