Artificial Sweeteners: Understanding These and Other Sugar Substitutes
With so many looking for a way to lose weight, many have turned to artificial sweeteners. These alternatives to sugar can help many indulge in foods that would be otherwise of limits. Any time you see a “diet” or “sugar free” snack or candy, it is because they have artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are used as a substitute for otherwise unhealthy high levels of sugars in foods many enjoy. Many assume items like splenda or aspartame; however, artificial sweetener can be something like honey or nectar as well. Let’s take a closer look at all of these variants of sugar substitutes and discuss whether or not they are right for you and your diet.
The sugar-substitute can be broadly explained as anything that is used to sweeten an item without the use of actual table sugar. Table sugar is also known as sucrose. When you look at a label and you see “sucrose,” you can be sure that white sugar is involved. Substitutes remove the need for the table sugar and instead allow you to indulge in the sweet taste without the calories. In fact, aspartame and other substitutes have virtually no calories at all. When you notice sodas that claim zero calories, it is because of the use of aspartame. Almost every artificial sweetener claims to be natural and healthy. But can we be so sure that they all are? For instance, sucralose is claimed by its makers to be a “natural” artificial sweetener because it comes from sugar itself. However, it must be processed by a manufacturer.
Health Basics of Additive Sweeteners
Acesulfame potassium, neotame, and sucralose (splenda) are just some of the sweeteners that have been approved. Each sweetener must be approved by the FDA in order to be used in foods consumed by the general public. Sweeteners like cyclamate are utilized in some foreign countries but have not been approved by the FDA. Artificialsweeteners are so useful because not only are they effective alternatives, but also because there is less quantity necessary for use. Processed foods are the most common place to find sweeteners. This may be why there is a bad rap given to the use of sweeteners. A large number of consumables with sweeteners also contain trans fats and high levels of other carbohydrates. Despite the bad reputation, sweeteners are highly useful for dieters seeking weight loss. This is especially true for those looking to control their sweet tooth for items like cake, candy, and brownies. For those who have already developed diabetes, artificial sweeteners are a true Godsend. Since the artificial sweetener does not raise the blood sugar level, it is usually safe to consume. However, always be sure to check the labels or your physicians before consumption. Finally, artificial sweeteners do not contribute to tooth decay. This can be huge benefit for those who have a history of poor enamel or a history of general tooth decay.
Risks of Additives Sweeteners
There was a time when sweeteners were considered the possible culprits in cancer cultivation in the body. However, in recent decades this fear has been pushed aside as evidence seems to not back the earlier concern. Saccharin carried a health warning for some time, but the National Cancer Institute has declared that there were no real concerns for artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are regularly regulated by the FDA under the title of food additive. The FDA usually monitors the additive before its release. It also regulates the acceptable daily intake, which notes how much can be consumed each day in a safe manner. This is not to be thought of as a marker of the maximum you can intake, however. Instead, the ADI is usually about 100 times less than the amount that can cause harm.
Other the Processed Sweeteners
Sugar alcohol is a particular type of sweetener that avoids some of the concerns of the additives. Sugar alcohols occur in fruits and vegetables. However, these alcohols can also be manufactured through a particular process. Sugar alcohols are not without calories, but generally still have fewer calories than sucrose. The downside is that some are generally less sweet than sugar as well. Novel sweeteners are a bit of a hybrid. They can contain both the sugar alcohol and additive sweetener. The obvious plus side is that the additive is generally in much smaller quantities than if used directly. The sugar alcohol and novel sweeteners are generally used in processed foods like cakes and candies. The benefits of the sugar alcohols are the same as general additive sweeteners. They can be used to promote lower calorie counts in similar foods that would otherwise be unhealthy. It also can be a useful in the struggle to control diabetes as well as fewer problems like cavity creation. The only true concern of sugar alcohols is the laxative effect it can have when taken in high quantities.
Finally, there are natural types of sweeteners. These are usually the best for anyone looking to remove high sugar levels. However, they do not always fit into foods as easily as additives or alcohols. Natural sweeteners are items like grape juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and agave nectar. As would be expected, these sweeteners are used for a variety of confectionary items as well as toppings for indulgent meals. Many natural foods and concoctions have such natural sweeteners instead of high levels of processed sugar. The downside of any natural sweetener is that it still does not hold a considerably high level of nutrients. Still, the fact they are not processed and manufactured gives some people the incentive to use them over additives. Like alcohols, natural sweeteners do contain calories and are thus somewhat nutritive. However, natural sugars can raise your blood sugar levels just as table sugar can. Thus, they are to be used sparingly for those sensitive carbohydrates or diabetics. Natural sugars should be treated much like table sugar, as it just as many promote weight gain and tooth decay.
Image credited to healthylife-healthyplanet.com; businessislamica.com
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