By Betty Murray
Sugar is found naturally in some foods, such as fruits, but most often, it is added to our foods. Take a peek at the ingredients list on any store-bought food, and you’ll likely find added sugar. In fact, Americans consume about 165 pounds of added sugar each year.
Artificial sweeteners serve as zero-calorie sugar substitutes that can aid in weight loss, but are they really that good for you? Here’s the scoop on some of the most common artificial sweeteners:
Agave nectar — Organic raw agave nectar is similar in taste and texture to honey and contains approximately the same amount of calories as honey, but it doesn’t contain as many antioxidants as honey. Agave also contains more fructose than table sugar and may reduce metabolism and insulin sensitivity. If you are looking for a natural sugar substitute, stick with raw honey, rather than agave nectar.
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) — A zero-calorie sweetener, aspartame is found in gum, drinks, yogurt, and cough drops, aspartame has been blamed for many health concerns, including weight gain and cancer, though the FDA says aspartame in moderation is not dangerous.
Honey — A natural sweetener, honey contains 21 calories per teaspoon, as well as small amounts of vitamins and minerals. Studies also suggest that honey may not spike blood sugar as quickly as other sweeteners.
Rebiana (Truvia, Pure Via) — Another zero-calorie sugar substitute, rebiana is the manufactured version of Stevia.
Stevia — Derived from the stevia plant and is considered the “natural alternative” to artificial sweeteners. Stevia can be used in place of sugar when cooking or baking. There are currently no scientific studies showing that Stevia is safe.
Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) — Studies in the early 1970s suggested a link between saccharin and bladder cancer, however later studies showed a lack of evidence that saccharin causes cancer in humans. Saccharin contains no calories, and is found in drinks, canned goods, and candy.
Sucralose (Splenda) — One of the few sweeteners that is not sensitive to heat, making it safe to be used in baking. Splenda does not contain any calories and is found in fruit drinks, canned fruit, and syrups. Splenda contains approximately three calories per individual packet.
Any of the above zero or low-calorie sweeteners can aid in weight loss when used to replace sugar. If you’re looking for something that’s truly a healthier option, use small amounts of pure honey as a sweetener, rather than a manufactured sweetener.
Eating clean isn’t difficult, but like any diet, it does require diligence. Eating clean can be hard work as it almost always requires preparing a meal at home, rather than enjoying a ready-made meal. Use these steps to get started on a clean diet in 2015.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.