Here’s a one-question nutrition pop quiz … what’s better for your health: regular soda or diet?
Clearly the answer is not regular soda, right? After all, a regular can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. And all that sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity. So even though diet soda has chemicals, it’s much better for your health to have 0 grams of sugar than all that sugar in regular soda … right?
According to recent research, artificial sweeteners may be just as bad for your health as regular sugar. In fact, this study suggests non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) damage your gut bacteria.
What does that mean for your health?
Well, I previously wrote about how your gut is like your second brain and plays a major role in your overall health. The amount of beneficial (good) bacteria versus harmful bacteria in your gut determines how effective your digestion is, how strong your immune system is functioning, and even how healthy your skin looks.
They’re Everywhere, They’re Everywhere!
As if anybody needed more convincing that artificial sweeteners are bad for you, this new research takes the cake.
If you have a diet soda once in a blue moon, I’m not suggesting that your gut bacteria will be damaged over night. But the problem is artificial sweeteners are in so many products.
Chewing gum (Any brand of sugar free). Bread (Thomas English Muffins 100% Whole Wheat) Yogurt (Yoplait Light). Iced Tea (I’m talking about you, Snapple). Popcorn (Orville Redenbacher). Hot Chocolate (Nestle). Ice cream (Breyer’s Low Carb Smart).
Getting the idea?
So if artificial sweeteners are so bad for your health, why does the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) allow it?
I’ll play devil’s advocate for a second and say that in moderation, these fake sugars probably don’t do much damage. Maybe you’ve heard about studies that feed rats or mice the equivalent of 100 cans of soda a day. Of course, the rodents are going to get sick with that much junk pumping through their tiny, sensitive systems.
But here’s the thing….
Because these artificial sweeteners are in so many foods, most people aren’t aware they are consuming so much of them.
That’s why I try to eat as much organic and all-natural foods as possible. Not that I eat bread, but if I did, I wouldn’t buy a conventional name-brand loaf; I’d be buying it from a farmer’s market, knowing that the bread has only a few ingredients with no added or fake sugars.
Artificial Sweeteners Are Making Us Sick
It’s easy to be cynical and say that I, as someone who is selling Organic Green Drinks for a living, is just trying to demonize sugar (be they real or fake) in order to make a buck. And don’t get me wrong, I am in business to make a living. But the reason I wake up excited in the morning has nothing to do with income and everything to do with the daily success stories I read on Yelp or that come in my email inbox.
The seven certified organic green leafy veggies in my Green Drink contain prebiotic fiber that result in good gut health. And as I mentioned above, your gut is in control of all aspects of your health. But millions of people who consume foods and drink with hidden artificial sweeteners have, or are in danger of having one or more metabolic diseases. What are metabolic diseases? Here’s a list:
High Blood Pressure
image courtesy healthfreedoms.org
Stay Sweet, Naturally
As a certified nutritional therapist, my advice is to have real sources of sugar in moderation, mostly from fruit. If you need your healthy morning juice with a little sweetness, try my Tropical Smoothie. It’s contains the same 7 leafy greens in Green Drink that are great for gut health. It’s sweetened with a little pineapple juice. Pineapple has an enzyme called bromelain, which is good for digestion. There’s only 3 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in an 8 oz. serving of my Tropical Smoothie. (Compare that to other leading juice brands, which contain 30 or more grams of sugar!)
There’s some controversy over stevia and whether or not it’s really all-natural. True stevia comes from a plant and is therefore natural. But some brands of stevia also contain maltodextrin (corn sweetener) and/or are made in a lab.
My take on the stevia debate? You have to pick and choose your battles. I think stevia sweetener isn’t nearly as bad as other synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (ace-K), and sucralose. That’s why I recommend avoiding as much as possible the following brand-name fake sugars: Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Nutrasweet, Equal, and Splenda.
The best natural zero-calorie sweetener in my opinion is monkfruit extract. It’s more pricey than stevia. But isn’t your health worth a couple extra bucks? Your gut will thank you in many ways.
For several years, there’s been lots of concern about the dangers of artificial sweeteners. Do they cause cancer? Can they lead to hyperactivity in kids? Do they trick the brain into eating more calories? While the FDA still maintains that fake sugars are safe in moderation, this new research tying the synthetic sweet stuff to poor gut health, in my opinion, is the nail in the coffin (no pun intended).
Stay sweet, naturally, my friends….