Health Tip #35

health-tip-35

Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t The Answer

Although we have discussed limiting processed carbohydrates and sugars in our diet, turning to artificial sweeteners to satisfy our sweet cravings is not the answer.  Chemically derived artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame (Equal), Saccharin (Sweet n Low), and Sucralose (Splenda), have been shown to have negative health effects.

Artificial Sweeteners Can Make Us Sick

Consumption of Aspartame is associated with neurological disorders, headaches, brain tumors, seizures and mood disorders.  When heated, Aspartame also converts to  free methanol which breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde.  Both are toxic.   Saccharin, noted for it’s bitter aftertaste, has been linked with certain cancers including bladder cancer.  Sucralose has been shown to cause skin rash, panic attacks, muscle and head aches, diarrhea and intestinal cramping.

Artificial Sweeteners Do Not Make Us Thin

To top it all of, far from helping to keep our blood sugar stable, consumption of these imitation sugars, disrupts our body’s appetite-regulation system.  Our body expects a rise in blood sugar from the ‘sweet’ taste but when no nourishment is delivered, it sends messages to keep eating more.  This may even lead to glucose intolerance, metabolic syndrome and obesity.  Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to alter our gut microbiome.

Some Better Alternatives

When we have sweet cravings, the very best thing to do is to ask ourselves why?  Sweet cravings are often an emotional response to stress.  Dealing with the underlying issues is the better course of action.  Sour foods, such as lacto-fermented vegetables can help eliminate cravings.  The next best thing is to try to satisfy our cravings for something sweet is with natural, whole fresh fruits,  like kiwi, grapefruit, pineapple, and berries.  The herb stevia, native to South America can also add sweetness.  Stevia tastes 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar so a little goes a long way.  You can even grow your own.  Finally, unrefined, whole sugars, used sparingly are a better alternative to refined sugars.

Health Tip #34

health-tip-34

Soft drinks are addictive

If you are a regular soft drink consumer, one of the best things you can do for your health is to stop drinking soft drinks.  Soft drinks contain sugar, in the form of fructose, caffeine and a number of unsavory chemical flavors, coloring and preservatives.  Sugar and caffeine are very addictive substances.  In fact, sugar consumption increases dopamine and stimulates pleasure centers in our brains exactly the same way heroin does.

Soft drinks cause blood sugar dis-regulation

Consuming caffeine and sugar in this way can set you off on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows as your body struggles to return to homeostasis after  their consumption.  Blood sugar rises rapidly.  The pancreas creates insulin to deal with the sugar.  As the blood sugar spikes, the liver deals with the sugar by storing it as fat.  The caffeine creates a stress response which raises blood pressure and the liver dumps more sugar into the bloodstream.  An hour later our blood sugar crashes leaving us looking for another sugar high.  The sustained level of sugar intake of a regular soft drink consumer, makes it impossible to lose weight and can lead to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Fructose makes us fat

Most soft drinks are sweetened with fructose which is far worse for our health than regular sugar because fructose must be processed by the liver which then stores it as fat.  For this reason, fructose consumption has been associated with obesity.  Fructose has also been linked to increased levels of triglycerides which increases risk of heart disease.  The blood sugar roller coaster effect after fructose consumption also puts us a risk for insulin resistance and decreased leptin signaling.  Leptin controls appetite and fat storage.

Artificial sweeteners are no better

Finally, if we think we can avoid soft drinks negative effects by choosing the diet version, think again.  Diet sodas are often sweetened with Aspartame.  Aspartame has been associated with neurological disorders, brain tumors, liver problems, birth defects, diabetes, and other ailments.  Artificial sweeteners also disrupt appetite regulation and sends messages to keep eating more.

Healthier alternatives

The best thing we can do for our health when it comes to soft drinks is to just avoid them all together.  Try switching to spring or sparkling water, adding cucumber, lemon or lime for flavor.  Chilled herbal teas are flavorful and refreshing. Lacto-fermented drinks like kefir or kombucha can also be a healthier alternative.