Think that artificial sweetener’s keeping the pounds down? Think again, as we’re explaining why it might be sabotaging all your weightloss efforts.
Bombarded by messages from the booming diet industry, struggling with endless articles about how sugar is the enemy and battling the bulge to boot, when it comes to keeping our waistlines in check, lots of us are turning to synthetic sweeteners to satisfy our cravings. But, hang on: are they safe, how do they really work, and could you end up actually gaining weight by using them? We’re delving into the details to distinguish what’s safe, what’s not, and what’s the very best way to stay fuller for longer.
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Bad news for fans of popping a pill into their A.M. coffee: artificial sweeteners aren’t great for anyone looking to drop a few kilos – and keep it off. And it’s highly likely that you’re consuming some of them on a daily basis. From diet drinks to low fat yoghurts – and even chewing gum – it’s not obvious what’s what unless you read the labels. Then there’s your choice of adding Splenda or Sweet’N Low to your hot drinks, which experts say can cause anxiety, headaches and nausea. Yikes.
Alan Agusta, a trainer, rehab coach and sports nutritionist who owns and runs Alan Agusta Fitness and Rehab in Dublin 2, says: “There’s no doubt that sweeteners and sugar can lead to serious health complications and weight gain. The problem is, both have addictive properties that lead to withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to cut them from your diet.”
Aine Mullen, nutritionist and owner of Terenure’s AppleJacks Party Service [www.applejacks.ie], agrees, “Aspartame can cause the body to mimic the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. The reality is, drinking diet soda thinking it’s a healthier option couldn’t be further from the truth.” Why? Because things like aspartame, acesulphame K, sucralose (Splenda) and saccharin (Sweet’N Low), which we think are better than their sugary alternative, actually top many experts’ lists of sweeteners to avoid.
This is because many have no nutritional benefit and can’t be metabolised, plus their carb content is higher, which converts into more sugar for your body to process. So if you’ve been fooling yourself with low-fat yoghurts, or filling your kids with concentrated no added sugar drinks, then maybe it’s time to reassess your choices. Alan’s take? “Ignore low-fat and fat-free because they are laced with sweeteners and you will gain weight, it’s inevitable.”
So, what should you do? Going cold turkey can set you up to fail, so look at natural alternatives to sugar and sweeteners, like maple syrup, honey and Stevia (a dietary supplement made from a natural herb) which are considered to be the safest natural options. While they all end up in your body as fructose and glucose, they’re way sweeter to taste, so you’ll find you use less, and you’ll also benefit from the extra vitamins and minerals you’ll gain from making the switch.
At mealtimes, the ideal scenario is to aim for a combination that contains fibrous carbs like wholegrain rice or oatmeal, a lean protein source such as beef or chicken, along with a helping of healthy fats in the form of nuts, olive oil or avocado. It’s this triple treat that’ll give your body the balance to reduce its craving for sugary snacks. Now, that sounds pretty sweet to us.
by Robert O’Connor