Are Sugar-Free Foods Healthy?
If you’re trying to lose weight, then reducing your sugar intake is a good place to start. Cutting sugar has a lot of benefits for your overall health – but replacing sugary foods with sugar-free items isn’t necessarily a great alternative.
Sugar-free foods are often marketed to seem healthy. Yet these foods are typically pumped full of artificial sweeteners that are bad for your body – and can actually make it harder to lose weight. Plant-based sweeteners like stevia are a zero-calorie option that can allow you to sweeten your favorite foods and beverages without causing your blood sugar to spike.
At Ideal You, we know how hard it can be to lose weight – especially when we constantly get mixed messages about what we should be eating (or not eating). Our program takes the guesswork out of the equation, providing a structured food list, access to a team of weight loss coaches, and all natural, food-based supplements. If you want to lose a life-changing amount of weight quickly and sustainably, we can help.
What Are Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are added to food and beverages to make them taste sweet. Most of these chemical substances contain no calories, or a negligible amount of calories. They are often much sweeter than sugar itself.
Artificial sweeteners are similar enough on a molecular level to trick your taste buds. In other words, when you consume a sugar substitute, your body thinks that it is getting sugar. Our bodies cannot break most of these substances down into calories.
- Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal): 200 times sweeter than sugar
- Acesulfame Potassium (Sweet One): 200 times sweeter than sugar
- Advantame: 20,000 times sweeter than sugar.
- Neotame (Newtame): 13,000 times sweeter than sugar
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, or Necta Sweet): 700 times sweeter than sugar
- Sucralose (Splenda): 600 times sweeter sugar
These artificial sweeteners are popular, and are often found in little packets on restaurant tables. They are also added to a number of foods and beverages, such as diet soda, candy, baked goods, and drink mixes. You can also purchase artificial sweeteners to use at home in cooking and baking, or simply to add to your own drinks.
How Do Artificial Sweeteners Affect Your Weight Loss Efforts?
As a general rule, reducing your sugar intake is a good way to lose weight. For years, Americans have been told that we can simply replace our favorite sugary foods and drinks with sugar-free foods. While these products might be beneficial to some people who have a medical reason to avoid sugar (such as diabetics), they probably won’t help you lose weight.
When artificial sweeteners were first introduced, nutrition experts believed that they were a good way to break sugar addiction and reduce caloric intake. In reality, these sweeteners may actually increase appetite and promote weight gain.
Scientists believe that artificial sweeteners cannot activate the food reward pathway that makes us feel satisfied after we eat. When we eat sugar-free foods, we typically consume more calories in order to feel full. Some studies have even shown that sugar-free foods confuse our brains because they taste sweet but don’t have calories – so that we still feel hungry after eating them.
Studies have even found that eating foods with artificial sweeteners may actually increase our cravings for sugary foods. Researchers have even noted links between consuming artificially sweetened beverages (like diet soda) and obesity.
Artificial sugars may also disrupt gut health. Our gut bacteria plays an important role in our overall health. If these bacteria are disturbed in some way, then it may cause weight gain, poor blood sugar control, metabolic syndrome, and even poor sleep.
Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners such as saccharin can disrupt gut bacteria, causing poorer blood sugar control. Over time, this can cause weight gain – or simply make it more difficult to shed unwanted pounds.
Is There a Good Alternative to Artificial Sweeteners?
If you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar that you consume, then there are a number of ways that you can do so. To start, consider drinking water instead of sugary beverages like iced tea, pop, or juice.
Of course, water won’t necessarily satisfy you if you are craving something sweet. In these situations, you may want to try a low calorie natural sweetener. One popular option is stevia, which is extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
Stevia contains a number of natural compounds, including stevioside and rebaudioside A – each of which is hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar. This plant-based sweetener is very sweet, but is virtually calorie-free.
Several studies have shown stevia to have a number of health benefits, including reducing high blood pressure and lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes. It can also help you lose weight by allowing you to sweeten your favorite foods and beverages without calories.
For example, if you normally put a tablespoon of sugar into your coffee, that will add 48 calories per cup. The equivalent of powdered stevia is just ¼ teaspoon – which adds 0 calories to your coffee. Over time, switching out stevia for sugar can help you cut calories and lose excess weight.
If you’d like to up your weight loss, try adding a bit of stevia to a glass of water, along with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to promote weight loss – and taking it with stevia can make it more palatable.
Get Weight Loss Advice That Works
As Americans, we are constantly bombarded with contradictory information about weight loss. In the not-too-distant past, artificial sweeteners were all the rage for anyone trying to lose weight. More recently, scientific studies have shown that consuming artificial sweeteners might actually cause you to gain weight.
If you want to lose a life-changing amount of weight, there is a better way. At Ideal You, we dig into the science so you don’t have to – instead, you can focus on following our plan to drop pounds quickly and sustainably. We will never ask you to eat fake food or follow fad diets. Instead, we’ll offer you a structured food list, all natural supplements, and tons of support to help you reach your goal weight. Together, we can remove whatever barrier is holding you back from losing weight.