It looks like sugar.....It is sweet like sugar..... it must be sugar?!
The American Heart Association recommends only eating 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, but on average Americans eat over 19 teaspoons of added sugar daily. This increased sugar intake has caused an array of health issues in our country including obesity and diabetes.
How is sugar used in our bodies?
To put it simply, carbohydrates and sugars are made up of glucose. Glucose is the main energy unit used by cells in the body. Insulin is a hormone that is used as the body’s “key” to unlock the cells ability to absorb glucose.
How is sugar linked to diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is abnormally high due to the pancreas not producing enough insulin or your body not able to use the insulin made by the pancreas.
How is sugar linked to obesity?
If you eat more sugar than your body needs for fuel, your body stores the extra sugar as fat. Fat cells are always willing to take up more sugar and grow in size.
The rise in the obesity and diabetic populations has also increased the number of artificial sweeteners available in the United States, most of which were not FDA approved when they were discovered. Where do these seemingly "magical" sweet zero calorie substances come from?! Below is a breakdown of various sugar substitutes.
Sugar: A simple carbohydrate. 1 teaspoon is about 15 calories.
Agave Nectar: Syrup that is made from the agave plant that is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar. This is a natural alternative to sugar and the lower glycemix index than sugar will help prevent the spikes in blood sugar. 1 teaspoon has 20 calories. Although there is a lower glycemic index on agave nectar, there are slightly more calories than sugar so weight gain can be seen with excessive consumption.
Stevia: Extracted from the stevia rebaudiana plant. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and can have a licorice taste. 1 teaspoon is 0 calories. The body breaks stevia down into stevioside that is furhter broken own into glucose and steviol. The glucose produced is used by bacteria in the gut and it not absorbed by the body. Steviol is excreted from the body. Stevia has not been proven to be safe to ingest during pregnancy
Sucralose (Splenda): Chemically modified sugar that is 600 times sweeter that sugar. The compound is not broken down by the body and is excreted whole. It was discovered in 1976 in Europe as a potential insecticide. 1 teaspoon contains about 2-4 calories due to the fillers added to the pure sucralose.There has been some animal studies showing sucralose can decrease the good bacteria in the gut, altering the gut pH and ultimately lead to weight gain.
Aspartame (Equal): Chemical compound that was first discovered in 1965. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar. The compound is broken down by the body and some of the end products include methanol, which can lead to toxicity, formaldehyde and formic acid. Aspartame can also cause headaches, migraines and bloating. There is also a link to aspartame causing kidney function decline.
With all of this said, my own personal view is to avoid any artificial sweeteners. I once was "that girl" who drank 2-3 diet cokes a day and would rush to McDonalds for their fountain diet coke (those of you who drink diet coke, know exactly what I am talking about when I mention McDonalds Diet Coke), but at the same time I also was the girl who had more frequent headaches, fatigue, and overall "crappy" feeling. Once I quit artificial sweeteners (fat free yogurt that tasted like sugary strawberries and sugar free lattes that were sweeter than the real thing) I felt better. That's not to say I don't occasionally mix a "stevia in the raw" into my coffee from time to time, but artificial sweeteners are no longer part of my daily diet.
For those who are diabetic and still want to enjoy that piece of birthday cake or piece of pumpkin pie without spiking your glucose through the roof, these artificial sweeteners were discovered for you, so enjoy them (in moderation)!
For those who are overweight, do not rely on diet coke or these sweeteners to "loose weight," not only do these sweeteners not help change lifestyle habits (like my personal struggle to control my sweet tooth) but there have been studies that suggest that individuals who ingest "diet" or "artificially sweetened" things actually eat more calories throughout the day.