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Minimize Sugar Substitutes to Boost Your Metabolism

Your food supply is rampant with a variety of sugar substitutes that aren’t metabolized the same way as sugar. Sugar substitutes can have a negative effect depending on whether they come from natural or artificial sources. Different types of substitutes are used for a variety of reasons:

  • For weight loss: They provide fewer calories.

  • For diabetes: They have less of an effect on blood sugar levels.

  • To minimize dental cavities: They don’t stick to the teeth and cause plaque like regular sugar.

  • To avoid processed foods: For a more wholesome, natural diet.

Artificial sweeteners

Although sugar alcohols provide some calories, artificial sweeteners provide essentially none at all. They are not metabolized by any of the normal processes of your metabolism, and they aren’t absorbed — but you still get that sweetness when it hits your taste buds.

Artificial sweeteners also typically provide much more sweetness per gram than table sugar, so you need to use only a fraction of what you’d use with sugar. However, whenever something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

A study out of the University of Texas found, by looking at the diets of 500 adults, that those who drank diet soda had 70 percent greater increase in their waistlines than non-drinkers close to a decade later. Another study found that for each can of diet soda you drink per day, your risk for obesity increase 41 percent.

However, are these people drinking diet soda because they are overweight already and attempting to save calories? It’s unclear what’s first, the chicken or the egg.

Some additional research found that increased weight with diet sodas could be due to the disconnect between our brains and metabolism. Your taste buds taste sweet, so your body gears up for a load of calories to be delivered, but is confused when it doesn’t receive it. Your body releases insulin but arrives at your blood empty-handed with nothing to act upon, leading to cravings.

You go out and look for calorie-dense food later on to make up for that and overall eat more than you would if you had just chosen regular sugar in the first place. A number of studies have found little or no effect of diet sodas on weight when all factors are taken into account.

Therefore, more research needs to be performed, but be aware of artificial sweeteners in your food and in your beverages so you can be mindful of how it affects you, if at all.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding artificial sweeteners and cancer, but in the amounts people typically consume, there’s no compelling evidence that risk of cancer is a reason to avoid them. The FDA has established guidelines for acceptable daily intake of these “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) additives.

Here are the three main artificial sweeteners you’ll see on the marketplace and listed in foods:

  • Aspartame: Equal, NutraSweet (blue packet)

  • Saccharin: Sweet ’N Low (pink packet)

  • Sucralose: Splenda (yellow packet)

Although it’s true that using artificial sweeteners can help keep your caloric intake down in the short term, evidence suggests that you negate those benefits in the long term. Also, food products that contain artificial sweeteners likely contain other additives and preservatives for shelf life stability, taste, and texture.

Whenever possible, keep your use of artificial sweeteners to a minimum so that you can be more in tune with your true physical hunger cues.

Natural sweeteners

Natural sweeteners are less refined or processed than artificial sweeteners and are typically made from a plant or fruit. Just because they’re natural, though, doesn’t make them a healthy option. You’ll still get calories and increases in blood sugar and insulin levels with these common natural sugar substitutes:

  • Honey

  • Molasses

  • Maple syrup

  • Agave syrup

Honey does contain antioxidants, and honey and molasses are actually sources of trace minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, and selenium. But don’t choose these alternates for those reasons — you can get those minerals and nutrients with true metabolism-boosting foods.

That being said, consuming small amounts of natural sweeteners is better than the processed or artificial stuff. Some research shows that your body breaks it down more seamlessly than a manmade product. But always keep in mind that any sugar in excess of what your body needs gets stored as fat and can slow your metabolic rate.

“Stevia” is an increasingly popular sweetener, sold in packets in grocery stores and coffee shops under various brand names, including Truvia and Pure Via. Stevia is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener processed from the leaves of the South American Stevia rebaudiana plant that is 250 times sweeter than sugar.

To save calories, stevia is a better addition to your diet than either the artificial or natural-but-still-increases-blood-sugar substitutes. In addition, some studies have found that stevia can actually improve insulin sensitivity and reduce your risk for high blood pressure.

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