Change Your Mind About Sugar
In this modern era of processed foods, we seem to have gotten into the habit of expecting a sweet taste in almost everything we eat. Even your favorite brand of beef jerky now lists high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. You can opt for low-fat versions of foods if you suspect fat is not good for your diet. The problem is that when manufacturers remove the fat, the product often loses its desired flavor or texture. To remedy this, some form of sugar is regularly added to make the product tastier.
With reports of increases in obesity and diabetes, and a myriad of other health issues pointing to sugar as a major contributor, it’s no wonder manufacturers and consumers alike are looking to sugar substitutes. We’re used to expecting something sweet around almost every corner, so it seems natural that we want to keep the same diet but with a healthier sweetener.
Unfortunately, many of these substitutes create the same glycemic response as sugar in your body when digested. This means they can cause insulin spikes and lead to glucose intolerance. Some of these sweeteners lead to a variety of other complications in the digestive system and throughout the body. Specifically, we’re talking about commonly available products like aspartame (aka NutraSweet or Equal), sucralose (aka Splenda), saccharin (aka Sweet’N Low), acesulfame potassium (aka Sunett or Sweet One), and neotame.
Some of these products, notably aspartame, actually produce a stronger insulin response in the body than natural sugar. These products also stimulate a powerful hunger response in the body, causing you to eat more, which is exactly what you were trying to avoid by choosing a “diet” or “lite” option. This means that eating diet versions of products containing aspartame can lead to weight gain faster than sugar. Studies show that people who consume diet sodas are more prone to serious diabetes-related illnesses than those who consume the full-sugar versions of the products. These diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Worse, aspartame has been linked to causing cancer and other tumors in laboratory animals. One of the oldest substitutes in terms of availability in mass production and commercialization is saccharin. New research shows that saccharin upsets the balance of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system, leading to glucose intolerance and other metabolic disorders. In general, these sweeteners should simply be eliminated from your diet.
If you insist on looking for sugar substitutes because you can’t tear yourself away from that sweet taste, look for something like pure stevia. Stevia is a naturally sweet product derived from the leaves of the stevia plant and appears to have none of the ill effects of artificial sweeteners. Be sure to read the label before adding the product to your shopping cart. Some products have stevia on the front of the pack but list dextrose as the main ingredient on the back. Dextrose is a glucose product often derived from corn and is unrelated to stevia. Likewise, avoid products high in fructose, as fructose elicits the most powerful insulin response in your body. This includes items like agave syrup and honey, unless you can find locally grown raw honey and then use it in moderation.
Maybe it’s time to change your mind about sugar instead of switching your sugar to a different sugar. Drinking water, tea or coffee instead of soda with no added sugar is a good place to start. Eating full-fat plain yogurt with a handful of berries for breakfast is another. Look for every opportunity to eliminate sugar and its various substitutes from your diet. At first your taste buds may rebel against you, but soon you will get used to it and you can start enjoying new tastes in your food that you didn’t know were there. Your body and waist will show you that you made the right choice.
Thanks to Patrick Smyth