By Jack Artha
It is common knowledge that excessive sugar consumption is unhealthy and has been known to cause anxiety, depression, fatigue and obesity. As a result, sugar substitutes have been enjoying popularity among the weight conscious as they are low in calories and still high on taste. However, are artificial sweeteners good for you?
To begin, we take a closer look at the two more popular substitutes, aspartame and sucralose.
Aspartame is a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore, although it shares the same calorie density as sugar (4 calories/gram), a significantly smaller amount of aspartame is needed to achieve the same level of sweetness. This is why aspartame is advertised as a low-calorie sweetener and is commonly used in diet sodas.
Sucralose, or Splenda, is basically chlorinated sugar. Being 600 times sweeter than sugar but with the same calorie density, it delivers on sweetness at an even lower calorie count than aspartame. Currently, it is commonly used in candies, canned fruits, meal-replacement bars and soft drinks.
Despite their purported low-calorie benefits, consuming these artificial sweeteners in large quantities or on a regular basis can have dangerous side effects such as allergic reactions, headaches, depressions, diarrhea, anxiety, rashes and stomach pain. Sucralose, in particular, contains chlorine which contributes to heart disease and cancer.
Ironically, sugar substitutes can indirectly promote weight gain by increasing appetite. They trick the body into thinking that it has just consumed sugar, hence, the body releases insulin to digest it. When insulin is released without any sugar present, it triggers an increase in appetite, causing the person to consume more.
In addition to this effect, Aspartame contains phenylalanine which blocks the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that controls food cravings. Without serotonin, these unchecked cravings may result in weight gain.
Thus, when you come across a food or beverage product that has no sugar added, take a look at its ingredients. If you find, “artificial sweetener”, “aspartame”, “sucralose” or “splenda” on the list, put it back on the shelf because it belongs there, not in your stomach.
Raw Honey as an Alternative
Having understood that artificial sweeteners can be detrimental to your health, one healthy alternative to sugar is raw honey. Although it is still a form of sugar and is a calorie-dense sweetener, it has more health benefits and contains anti-oxidants. Therefore, its consumption improves your immune system. It also contains a lot of beneficial enzymes that improves your digestion, especially your glucose digestion, thus giving you more constant energy throughout the day and reducing appetite.
However, as good as honey is for your health, if you are concerned about weight gain, the best is still to reduce your intake of sweet foods and raise your metabolism rate through regular exercise. This way, you don’t have to worry about gaining weight while enjoying the health benefits of a good workout.
Jack Artha is a Singapore-based Certified Personal Trainer, specialized in natural fat loss and total wellness. He is known for guiding his clients to achieve their fitness goals as well as transforming their lives to healthy lifestyle.