We’re all familiar with those bright, colorful packets in every little coffee shop and restaurant in town. Pink, Yellow, Blue…and that’s just to name a few. What do these colors have in common? They are all fake! AKA, zero calorie/ zero carb, artificial sweeteners. YIKES, this already sounds like a bad idea…
Famed for their super sweet taste, these artificial sweeteners claim to be healthy. Do these super sweet concoctions seem too good to be true? Let’s delve deeper into this phenomenon to see if there truly are no consequences for indulging one’s sweet tooth into these packets.
What I learned through my undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University are that these little sugar packets are actually tricking our bodies into believing that what we are consuming Is actually sugar (glucose). In response to a sugar spike, our bodies (pancreas) release a hormone (insulin) to carry this energy into our muscles and utilize it for actions such as running, hiking, playing or even just scrolling through this article. However, because these artificial sweeteners have no actual nutrients or calories, the insulin cannot find any energy to put into our muscles. The proof is in the ‘sugar-free pudding’. A study published by researchers at Purdue University shows that sugar free, is anything but!
After time and continuously eating and drinking foods with artificial sweeteners (sugar free candies and diet soda pop), the body adapts. If there is a sugar (glucose) spike in our body but insulin can’t find any energy, then the pancreas eventually slows down its production or produces insulin that is no longer effective. A high amount of blood glucose in the blood resulting from a lack of or ineffective insulin can result in diabetes.
So what can we all do to lower our risk of diabetes?
One thing to do is to eat natural sugar and natural sweeteners, but do so sparingly. Maple syrup, local honey, molasses or even stevia are all natural sweeteners that the body will recognize and therefore can use as energy more effectively. But don’t get this twisted. Too much of a good thing, is never a good thing. Real deal or not, aim for less than 5 teaspoons of added sugar per day. That’s whether you add it, or the food manufacturer already has. If you know you have insulin resistance or glucose intolerance, it’s best to steer clear of added sweets until your body returns to steady state and is better equipped to manage glucose.
What do I do if I have too many sugar cravings throughout the day?
Some ways to deal with sugar cravings are:
Eat at least three meals a day with clean protein and healthy fat sources in every meal to combat hunger and cravings.
Eating a healthy protein and fat rich breakfast or snack within a couple hours of getting up in the morning will help your body not crash later in the day and have you craving those cookies and sweets.
Keep sweets out of the home. If you don’t buy it, you can’t binge on it.
Be warned! Sugar is addictive! Your taste buds (your brains immediate connection to your food) are sensitive and adapt to craving greater amounts of sweetness overtime if they are fed large amounts of sugar or starch regularly. By cutting out small amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet overtime, you will soon realize that you crave fewer refined carbohydrates throughout the day. Because some artificial sweeteners are 10x as sweet as the real thing, you can bet the addiction is 10x as intense!
Cut out one food or drink containing high amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners for one month. After the month is up, try it again. If you’re like most humans, your taste buds will think the item is too sugary to be safe and your taste buds will continue to crave smaller amounts of sugar.
As you’re working to ‘kick the can’, try drinks like club soda or sparkling water, flavored with lemon, lime or grapefruit essential oil.
Herbal teas also make a tasty transition off the sweet stuff. Most folks really like the Passion flavor that TAZO brand tea offers but check out the offering on the shelf and let us know your pick.
For a sweet treat that always delivers and ranks high on the nutrient index chart, opt for 70% or greater dark chocolate.