I’m not really a frequent TV watcher, but for the past few days, my family and I have been spending a lot of time indoors because of a recent snow storm that hit the New Jersey/New York area.
As I was relaxing on the couch with my mom, we were flipping through the channels and we came across “The Dr. OZ Show”. Without even knowing what the topic of the day was, the first thing I saw was Dr. Oz rolling out a cart filled with pink, blue, and yellow packets…yes, a huge cart filled with packets of artificial sweeteners.
The topic of the show on that particular day was whether or not artificial sweeteners are really harmful and what are some good alternatives to use. Dr. Oz had 2 other physicians on the show with him to discuss some recent research and facts….you better believe I kept the TV on (and my mom was all ears as well).
Yes, I pretty much know what the real answer is…artificial sweeteners are nothing but BAD news and I cover the reasons why pretty extensively in The Diet Solution Program, but I really wanted to see what type of studies have been done most recently on the topic and where some doctors (well at least these 3 doctors) currently stand on the whole artificial sweetener debate.
They stated some great facts that are backed up by piles of research. Mainly…
- People who use artificial sweeteners are usually heavier than those who don’t use them. This may be linked to increased hunger signals that are sent to the brain and increased “sweet cravings” that lead to overeating.
- People who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to be “insulin resistant” because their insulin receptors are (in a sense) confused all the time. Your body is thinking “What is this fake stuff you’re giving me? Is it food? Is it not? I don’t know what you want me to do with it?”…leading to blood sugar and insulin imbalance. This one leads to the third and most shocking finding for many people in the audience….
- People who use artificial sweeteners are TWICE as likely to get Type 2 Diabetes than people who don’t use artificial sweeteners. TWICE? Oh goodness. I knew that artificial sweeteners had been directly linked to Diabetes but I did not know that the number was so high. I decided to look up this fact myself and YES, studies have shown (as presented in the most recent annual meeting of the Endocrine Society) “People who use artificial sweeteners are heavier, twice as likely to have diabetes, and more likely to be insulin-resistant compared with nonusers.”
My mom, who was sitting right next to me is a Type 2 Diabetic and has had her fair share of health complications due to her Diabetes. She said, “I sure wish my doctor would have told me these facts years ago when we discussed my Diabetes. Actually, the hospital dietician encouraged me to use those artificial sweeteners in an effort to decrease my sugar and calorie consumption.”
Well, that was many years ago and I do believe our medical community is a lot more informed on these nutrition topics now than ever before, BUT even with this increased research and knowledge I still see people using those little pink, blue and yellow sweetener packets everywhere I go. Uggghhhh!
Next, the 3 doctors began discussing healthier alternatives and one of the first things said was…
“If you’re going to choose from these 3 packets, I would choose Splenda (yellow packet) since it is the only one, up to this point, that has not been linked to Cancer yet”.
Dr. Oz quickly came back with “Well, wouldn’t you say that could be because it has been on the market the least amount of time and has been studied the least? We do not have any long term studies on its long term effects because it just has not been around long enough.”
Yeah Dr. Oz! I couldn’t agree more (not that I agree with everything he says, but this is a great point). Let’s not let manufacturers and food companies use us as their guinea pigs. We really have no idea what the long term damage of Splenda is, but what we do know is that it will increase appetite and disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels…2 things we absolutely DON’T want when attempting to lose weight and achieve ideal health.
Now, what were some of the healthy alternatives to artificial sweeteners? They laid out 3 choices that I thought were actually pretty good…
Honey is a wonderful and natural alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar, but it must be RAW. All 3 doctors kept going on and on about how healthy honey is and that it contained many health benefits (it is a great immune system booster, has been found to contain anti-cancer properties, helps relieve arthritis pain and assists in relieving ailments like yeast infection and athletes foot), but they did not emphasize enough that these properties have only been found in RAW honey and not pasteurized and processed honey.
Look for honey that looks thick and cloudy and specifically says “RAW” on the label. As with absolutely every food, be sure to use it in moderation and pay close attention to your body’s response after consuming it. I use approximately 1-2 tsps of raw honey each day in my tea or on Ezekiel bread toast with almond butter…one of my favorite pre-workout snacks.
Truvia has gotten quite a bit of attention in the media lately because it contains Stevia (a natural and healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners) but can be found at almost any local supermarket and is much cheaper than Stevia. But there is a reason why. It is not pure and contains other ingredients.
When I read the label on the Truvia box it says…
Erythritol, Rebiana, and Natural Flavors
Erythritol is a natural sugar alcohol and Rebiana comes directly from the Stevia plant, but what makes me a little reluctant to use Truvia is the “Natural Flavors”. When you click on the “natural flavors” link on Truvia’s website to get a better explanation of what these natural flavors really are, all it says is..
“Natural Flavors are used to bring out the best of our natural sweetness, like pepper or salt would be used to heighten the taste of a meal.”
What? What does that mean? That doesn’t tell me anything or indicate exactly what these natural flavors are and whether or not it could be harmful to our health.
So I don’t recommend Truvia. What I recommend is natural, 100% pure Stevia (which can be found at www.stevivasweetener.com). That is the brand I use and feel safe and confident using and recommending it.
Agave Nectar and/or Syrup
The most recent research on Agave is quite extensive and somewhat controversial. Because this is a very important topic and one that contains loads of great information, I am going to cover it all on its own in tomorrow’s newsletter.
1. Be sure to read the labels of every food you may think may contain artificial sweeteners (this is many more products than you would expect)…bread, yogurt, cereal, low sugar drinks…look for saccharin, aspartame, and/or sucralose and if you see one of these in the ingredients list, avoid it at all costs.
2. Use natural RAW honey and/or 100% pure Stevia for all of your sweetening needs. A little of each goes a really long way and you’ll find that the less you use, the less you’ll desire that sweet taste.
3. Embrace foods in their natural state. I now find herbal teas and hot oatmeal are delicious unsweetened, 2 things I used to sweeten with a ton of sweetener. Once you become accustomed to eating many foods without adding any sweetener, you’ll find that any “sweet food” is just too sweet for your new palate and you’ll actually enjoy natural foods much more.
Stay tuned for my next newsletter covering the good and bad about Agave and whether or not it is a good choice when choosing a sweetener.
Isabel De Los Rios
The Diet Solution Program