I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with artificial sweeteners.
For one thing, they’re artificial chemicals. And they wreak havoc both on your health and your metabolism.
Which is why, obviously, my end goal is to get my patients to kick sugar and drink nothing but water. It helps speed up metabolism, it flushes the body of toxins, and it keeps everything doing what it needs to do.
But on the other hand, let’s face it. If asked to choose between water and soda, most people in this country would choose the latter. And we have the obesity rates to prove it.
So many of my patients are addicted to the stuff. That’s why I usually tell them that they can use “diet” products in moderation. Most people have to start with baby steps, and given the severity of the diabesity epidemic, any move in the right direction is a good one.
But again, there’s the other side of the coin. For years, I’ve warned that consuming too many artificial sweeteners could make you fat. I believe that they stimulate hunger and appetite in a way similar to sucrose and fructose.
The results of a new study bear that theory out. Researchers found that rats fed with non-nutritive sweeteners (in this case, saccharin and aspartame) gained more weight than sugar-fed rats…even with similar caloric intakes.
So let’s talk for a brief moment about the sweetener I really do like. Stevia.
Stevia is an all-natural, non-caloric sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Its active component, stevioside, is up to 300 times sweeter than regular table sugar (so you need much, much less of it). And people across the world have been safely using it as a sweetener for ages.
Yet Stevia is only now gaining popularity in the U.S. Why? Because for years, the FDA refused to grant it GRAS–generally recognized as safe–status. And this meant that you could only buy stevia as a nutritional supplement.
Monsanto, that evil chemical company that controls the artificial sweetener industry, lobbied hard against stevia for years. And they won… at least, until they sold the blue packet business to someone else.
Then, miraculously, stevia became “safe” to use. Go figure… But better late than never.
So stevia is much easier to find these days. But you do need to be careful. Those hyped-up brand name products you see ads for all the time aren’t pure stevia. They’re chemically altered versions of the natural herb–and are often combined with sugar alcohols (which can impact your blood sugar–and your gastrointestinal tract).
I recommend sticking with the “real deal.” Luckily, these are also becoming easier to find–even in many regular supermarkets. Personally, I like Sweet Leaf the best, but you might find another version you like just as much.