You see them on the table at almost every restaurant you visit. Tiny white, pink, yellow, and blue packets waiting for you to use them to sweeten your food and drinks. Sugar addiction is a huge issue currently plaguing the U.S. and we all know sugar is anything but good for us. It makes sense that we would turn to alternatives to get our sweet fix. But are these sugar alternatives even safe, healthy or less addictive?
First, let’s take a look at that little pink packet. Those packets contain saccharin, dextrose, and cream of tartar. Saccharin was discovered in 1878 by Constantin Fahlberg. It can be 300-400 times sweeter than sugar and has no nutritional value. The sulfonamides from this chemical can cause extreme allergic reactions in some people. On a less scary note, Saccharin is no longer listed as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research of Cancer.
Moving on to the little yellow packet and its contents. Sucralose was discovered by a group of scientist in 1976. It is 300-1,000 times sweeter than regular ‘ole table sugar. Sucralose is made by adding chlorine atoms to sucrose (sugar). The body can’t completely break down the resulting chemical. This allows sucralose to be free of calories. Sucralose also has a reputation as the alternative sweetener that kills ants and gives mice cancer.
The last packet is one you don’t see often in restaurants, the green packet. Stevia has been used for 1,000’s of years by the Guarani people of South America. The powdered or liquid stevia we know is extracted from the leaves of stevia plants. This plant is related to ragweed and daisies. Stevia is 150 times sweeter than sugar. Some research suggests that stevia could interact with certain medications. Be careful if you take medications for diabetes or hypertension.
The main thing you must be careful of when eating sugar alternatives is that they can cause your body to store fat. When the tongue senses that you have eating something sweet, your body reacts to prepare for a large caloric intake. Since artificial sweeteners don’t have any nutritional value, the body releases insulin unnecessarily. This leads to insulin resistance and fat storage. If you want to avoid this issue while also ditching sugar, try natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. In the end, your best bet will be to simply avoid sweetening your foods too often. You’re sweet enough already!