In trying to lose weight, many people turn to “diet” foods. These include snacks and prepackaged foods claiming to be “low-calorie”, “low-fat”, and “sugar-free”. The problem is, these foods usually put in more of another ingredient to increase the flavor. For instance, low-fat and sugar-free foods may be higher in sodium or incorporate the use of artificial sweeteners into their products to enhance the taste that was lost when altering the food.
Artificial sweeteners are known to be calorie-free, and many people find them as helpful alternatives when it comes to trying to stay away from sugar and lose weight.
Here’s why that’s not helping.
Not only do artificial sweeteners contain chemical substances that are completely foreign to our bodies, but they also trigger a brain response that says “sugar is coming!” due to their sweetness. The body then prepares itself to receive sugar. When no sugar is actually received, the body still has the same physiological response as it would if sugar was being given to the body. However, when the body doesn’t receive any sugar, it then feels the need to consume more calories to compensate for the missing sugar it was ready for. Therefore, you may feel hungrier on top of the fact that your body has already had the same response as it would if it was eating sugar.
Dr. Jakob Taylor of True Weightloss Solutions explains why chemicals were considered a popular sugar replacement: “One reason so many people turn to artificial sweeteners is because they are technically zero calories. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the only reason these supposed zero-calorie artificial sweeteners don’t technically count as calories is because technically they are not food, they’re chemicals. For instance, bleach doesn’t have any calories on the label but we don’t recommend adding that to your food.”
Artificial sweeteners have grown to be very controversial over their years of use. The chemicals they incorporate—most notably aspartame, which Diet Pepsi recently discontinued its use of—have had a range of unpleasant side effects, from tumors to severe headaches to diarrhea among their consumers.
Your weight loss journey is more than just about weight loss—it’s about getting healthier and creating habits that will ensure you have a healthy and happy body for life. Artificial sweeteners are introducing odd chemicals into your body that can actually hinder your goal to lose weight.
So what can you do?
Here’s some alternatives that can actually help keep you full, provide your body with fiber and other great nutrients, and best of all, they’re not laden with fake chemicals.
Dates – Dates are awesome because you can blend them up with some water to make a paste and use this mixture in your baked goods or smoothies to create sweetness without sugar. Date paste contains all the fiber of dates and can be used in baked goods such as donuts or cookies, so you’ll be annexing the sugar and saying hello to fiber.
Bananas – Bananas are really sweet and are great in smoothies, but they also make a good paste as well to use in place of sugar while keeping the fiber and getting some great potassium.
Maple syrup – Your body will still treat this as a sugar, so limit its use. Use sparingly in recipes that call for sugar or a sugar replacer.
Honey – Honey is full of great enzymes and has been known as a healer for centuries. Limit its use as well—while it’s a great natural sugar replacer, your body still processes it as a simple sugar without any fiber to help it along throughout digestion.
Agave – Agave has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar in the same way maple syrup or honey might, but it’s sweetness is concentrated, so use sparingly!
Stevia – Stevia is a plant that is actually really sweet—these leaves can be used in teas or in other recipes. Their concentrated sweetness can be overwhelming at first, so use in small doses until you find the one that’s best for you.
While natural raw sugar is great, such as date sugar or coconut palm sugar, the body still sees them as sugar. By incorporating natural alternatives into your diet when you’re craving something sweet, or to help wean your sweet tooth altogether, consider these alternatives in place of artificial sweeteners.
Kicking artificial sweeteners out of your diet can encourage healthy, natural weight loss without the side effects of the unnatural chemicals you’re putting into your body. Try some of these natural alternatives!