Most people love the taste of sweetness and there is nothing wrong with it. As people start to pay more attention to their health and recognize the negative health impacts of added sugar, artificial sweeteners became more popular. However, are artificial sweeteners really beneficial to your health and what else do you need to know about this sugar substitute?
There are two categories of artificial sweeteners. The ones that have calories and the ones that do not. You could find them in drinks and pre-packaged foods and could purchase them separately to add in your coffee, baking or cooking. Sugar alcohols are sweeteners with calories, but they have fewer calories than table sugar and do not have much impact on your blood glucose level. Sweeteners with no calories do not impact your blood glucose level and are usually used in very small amounts as they can be 30 to 3000 times sweeter than table sugar. Check the ingredient list to know if a food contains an artificial sweetener.
So, are artificial sweeteners safe to consume and any precautions needed to be taken? All the sweeteners that are used and sold in Canada are regulated by Health Canada. Only the scientifically proven safe sweeteners are allowed in the market, so artificial sweeteners are safe to consume within recommended amounts. However, be sure to avoid foods that have aspartame if you have a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU).
For pregnant and breastfeeding women, moderate consumption of sugar substitute is safe, but more nutritious options should not be replaced by foods and drinks containing these. For infants and children, sweeteners are recommended to be avoided as they are likely to reduce the amount of nutritious food that is consumed. Foods like cereals, canned fruit, yogurt and cookies are likely to contain sweeteners, so make sure to read the ingredient list. For people with diabetes, you could choose to use sweeteners as part of your diabetes management if you like to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. Studies have shown that the consumption of artificial sweeteners may not help with weight loss in the long run.
As always, if you have concerns or questions about using sweeteners, talk to your health care provider or a dietitian.