Foods with artificial sweeteners have the potential to help people lose weight as long as the substitution doesn’t lead to the compensation trap.
The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association said that foods with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and plant-derived stevis are good substitutes for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to shed the pounds.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes but may be derived from naturally occurring substances, including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar. One of the most appealing aspects of artificial sweeteners is that they are non-nutritive — they have virtually no calories. In contrast, each gram of regular table sugar contains 4 calories.
Artificial sweeteners currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are:
• Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
• Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
• Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low)
• Sucralose (Splenda)
Some sweeteners, such as cyclamate, are not approved in the United States but are approved for use in other countries.
Tips to manage sugar cravings
There is no doubt that artificial sweeteners do cut calories by curbing a high intake of regular table sugar. What really needs to be monitored is avoiding compensation for those saved calories. It’s a trick a lot of us play on ourselves far too often — drinking a diet soda now and then using that as an excuse to get a candy bar later.
Today, artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are found in a variety of food and beverages marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet,” including soft drinks, chewing gum, jellies, baked goods, candy, fruit juice and ice cream. In addition, other sugar substitutes are being touted as healthier sweeteners than regular sugar, even if they don’t have fewer calories, such as honey and agave nectar.
• Choose fresh fruits for snacks and desserts instead of processed, high-sugar foods: Natural sugars in foods are part of a complex carbohydrate package that provides fuel and energy for your body. Eating natural-occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and grains is a healthier way to get your sweets. Sugar combined with fibre and other solid foods metabolises more slowly and keeps your blood sugar more stable.
• Avoid adding sugar to your cereal, coffee, or other foods: Try adding fruit and nuts to cereals for a wholesome and healthy meal. Caffeine, present in coffee, tea, cola-based drinks and hot chocolate, stimulates your pancreas to secrete more insulin. This aggravates sugar sensitivities and low-sugar symptoms.
• Choose sugar-free or low-sugar varieties of soft drinks and packaged foods when you can: Studies have indicated that people consume 500-1000 calories daily in the form of soft drinks, which is one of the cause for alarming increase in obesity. Super sized ice-creams, soda shakes, coke carry excess sugar. A small portion of your favorite sweet treat, consumed with a meal, is okay on occasion. Anything in excess can lead to sugar addiction, obesity and, for some individuals, adult-onset diabetes. Sweetened products may not list sugar, or sucrose on the label because they contain other forms of sugar. Fructose and dextrose, for example, or lactose.
• Read labels and choose foods that are low in sugar: By reading and comparing Nutrition Facts labels on various foods, you can make sure that you choose foods that have enough of the nutrients you need and are low in those you wish to restrict. If you want to cut your sugar consumption, read labels and beware of words ending in ‘ose,’ because that usually means hidden sugar. Even if the label says “sugar-free,” watch out. Sugar-free products may still contain some form of sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol . These sweeteners have as many or more calories as sucrose, so your ice cream may be as fattening as the real thing. And these sweeteners can cause diarrhea.
• Try adding protein to your diet: Protein supplies the body with amino acids which help to stabilise blood sugar and reduce cravings for carbohydrates. Complete protein comes from animal sources and should be part of every meal. Protein needs for the endurance athlete: 1.2 grams/kg of wt/day. Ex: 150lbs = 68kg (¸ by 2.2) therefore, you need 80-85 grams of protein daily. Remember, 1 ounce of any type of meat has 7 grams of protein.
• Eat fats at every meal to help control your appetite: The best fats for consumption are butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, palm oil or olive oil. Good fats should be included with every meal.
The key to losing or maintaining weight is to not overcompensate by indulging in other foods that are high in calories. Non-nutritive sweeteners won’t benefit consumers who later compensate by eating other high calorie snacks.