Here’s what we know about artificial sweeteners: they’re not good for you. The average American consumes 24 pounds of artificial sugar each year. Researchers have linked sweeteners — which have long been popular low-calorie substitutes for sugar — to diabetes and heart disease. Some studies have even associated them with weight gain. I’ve discussed how these sweeteners can harm your bladder and cause diarrhea. Still, misconceptions about artificial sweeteners still exist. I often hear from folks who believe they’ve found the “healthy” sweetener. The truth is, these sweeteners are unhealthy across the board. A closer look at what each consists of will help to highlight how your preferred sweetener might affect you.
Let’s consider three of the most popular varieties:
- Sweet‘N Low: This sugar substitute has 0 calories. It’s about 300 times sweeter than sugar. Its main ingredient, saccharin, comes from a chemical called toluene, which is found in petroleum.
- Equal, or NutraSweet: This sweetener has 4 calories per gram. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Its main ingredient, aspartame, can cause headaches and dizziness for people who are sensitive to it.
- Splenda: This artificial sweetener has 0 calories. It’s 600 times sweeter than sugar. Its main ingredient is sucralose, but a compound called maltodextrin (often used in diet soda and snack foods) is added to dilute the extreme sweetness of sucralose.
Fortunately, there’s a solution. To satisfy your taste for sweet drinks and foods, you don’t have to choose only between sugar and artificial sugar. Try healthier natural alternatives to sugar, such as honey and coconut sugar, among others. And consider these steps to equip yourself with the information you’ll need to maintain healthier habits:
- If you’re looking to lose weight, see how powerful portion control can be.
- Become familiar with the many names for artificial sugars so you can spot them listed on the boxes of your favorite products.
- When you’re ready to expand your new habits, make note of these other harmful additives.
- Make the swap to sugar substitutes and get started with these sweet recipes.