Zero-calorie, intensely sweet artificial sweeteners can look like a miracle ingredient to those who want to ditch sugar, but not their sweet tooth. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple – here’s why, and what to do instead.
First, let’s unpack what actually constitutes an artificial sweetener – they’re synthetic sugar substitutes often used to add sweetness to processed foods like confectionery, muesli bars and condiments. Many of them add no calories, which makes for an attractive alternative to sugar for those looking to lose weight. Here are a few of the common sweeteners on the market:
- Acesulfame K
Xylitol is commonly used in peanut butter and chocolate, and while it makes for a popular sweetener for us, it's also a well-known toxin for our canine friends. Saccharin is another one on the list you probably recognise, as it's found in medication. It's also 550 times sweeter than regular sugar – yep, a lot of these artificial sweeteners are extremely sweet – without the calories that sugar usually packs. But this doesn’t mean we should all load up on the stuff in our bid to ditch sugar.
Here’s why they won’t help you quit sugar
Artificial sweeteners are hard on our digestive tracts, often causing bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Studies show these sweeteners can even lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis, which is a condition characterised by a dysregulated gut microbiome, can then increase your chances for inflammation and infection. With your gut health out of whack, you may have difficulty regulating your appetite and battling sugar cravings – after all, your gut is responsible for the kinds of foods you crave.
You might think artificial sweeteners will help you ease off the sweet stuff and curb your cravings, but these sweeteners can actually have the opposite effect. Considering artificial sweeteners can be hundreds of times as intense as natural sugars, we often become accustomed to the intense sweetness and, as a result, other sweet foods start to taste less sweet. This can include regular confectionery – the stuff you may have been trying to cut out – and even the healthy stuff you’ll want to prioritise in your diet: fruit. If we stop eating fibrous foods like fruit, we’ll be missing out on that slow-release energy, along with struggling to curb sugar cravings.
What you can do about it
Eat more healthy fats: The trick to kicking your sugar addiction is to eat foods that keep you fuller for longer and reduce your frequency of eating. Sugar – and artificial sugars – don’t help us in this way. Fructose in sugar is especially dangerous as studies show it makes us ravenous and stokes the flames of our appetites instead of satisfying them. Here’s where healthy fats come in: they satiate our appetites. One type, known as monounsaturated fats, were found to balance blood sugars and prevent insulin resistance, according to studies. Medium chain triglycerides, which you’ll find in coconuts, yoghurt and cheese, have been found to decrease appetite and curb sugar cravings.
Eat more fibre and slow-release carbs: Unbalanced blood-sugar levels can cause fatigue, sugar cravings and out-of-control hunger. Fibre is your secret weapon to battle these symptoms, and this is because our bodies digest fibrous foods slower, therefore keeping our blood-sugar levels stable. Plus, their prebiotic content means they support gut health, protecting us from inflammation and hormonal imbalances – both of which can also send our hunger signals into chaos.
Try these foods:
- Whole fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Wholemeal bread, quinoa, brown rice and other whole grains
Get your 5 serves of veggies: Adding veggies to your meals will ensure you get those vitamins and minerals which are essential for mental clarity and gut health. Leafy veggies are easy to drop into your curries and soups, and they’ll provide you with vitamin K, vitamin C and iron.
Take on the 8-Week Program: There’s no need to go it alone – quitting sugar is hard, but when you have a team of experts and a like-minded community rallying behind you, it becomes a lot easier to reach your goals. We ditch sugar as a team during the 8-Week Program, with access to extensive plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. The following features make quitting sugar easier than ever:
- Expert-crafted meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support from the I Quit Sugar team, plus our panel of experts.
- Mental and physical health benefits that last a lifetime.
So, if you haven’t already signed up, get ready to transform your health and say goodbye to sugar crashes – JOIN NOW!