Are Artificial Sweeteners Safe?
Pick a shelf anywhere in the grocery store and you will undoubtedly find a selection of foods and beverages sporting descriptions such as “sugar free”, “diet” or “zero calorie”. Instead of sugar, they contain artificial sweeteners like saccharine (Sweet & Low), aspartame (Equal and Nutra Sweet) or sucralose (Splenda). We’re told that they will help us lose weight and lower the amount of sugar in our diets. And many of us place our trust in these claims, because trying to make healthy food choices is important to us.
But how much truth is there really in what they’re telling us?
The Bitter Truth About Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been added to foods and beverages for years now, but over time more and more evidence has come to light about just how unsafe they really are. “Artificial” says it all – there is nothing remotely natural about any of these sweeteners; in fact, they ALL contain toxic chemicals that have a long list of negative side effects such as depression, migraines, nausea, impaired kidney function, heart palpitations, weight gain (yep, that’s right – weight GAIN), increased appetite and a craving for sweets. They have been linked to the development of brain tumors, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, and can increase your risk of stroke and heart attacks. They quite literally kill brain cells and reduce the good bacteria in your gut (which you need in order to be healthy) by as much as 50%. There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to be had from consuming this stuff!
Some people opt for natural sweeteners such as honey or agave. While they are certainly better options than artificial sweeteners, they are not ideal. Both contain high amounts of fructose, which raises your blood sugar considerably and prevents you from burning fat. When you’re following a keto diet, you’ll want to keep your blood sugar relatively low, so these should be used only sparingly.
Better Alternatives? Sweet!
So what are some better alternatives? Well, there are sugar alcohols. These can be identified by their names ending in “-ol”, such as Erythritol or Xylitol. Both of these are low in calories, but can still raise your blood sugar levels if you consume too much, so if you opt to use them, moderation is important. Be sure to always read the label on whatever product you’re considering, as a lot of them have been highly processed and may contain added ingredients that you’ll want to avoid. And one strong word of caution: Xylitol is HIGHLY TOXIC to dogs and some other animals, so you’ll need to keep it far away from your pets!
Your best choices for natural sweeteners by far are either Stevia (a plant) or Lo Han Guo (monk fruit). Both can be a little pricey, but they are many times sweeter than sugar, so only a small amount is needed. Again, be aware of processing that has added unwanted ingredients. In the case of stevia, I recommend you always buy organic or certified non-GMO varieties. Others are likely to have been made from genetically modified ingredients. Also, some stevia products are made using individual components of the plant that have been extracted rather than using the whole plant. Lastly, stevia can sometimes have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, so if you’re using it in something that calls for more than just a small amount, you’d probably be better off to go with monk fruit.
After you’ve been following a keto diet for a while, you will likely realize that your cravings for sweets have disappeared, or at least diminished drastically. But it’s still nice to know that there are some safe, keto-friendly alternatives for those times when we do want to enjoy a little taste of the sweet life! 🙂