There are a lot of sugar and sweetener options for you. Regular white sugar, sugar in the raw, honey, agave, Sweet’N Low, Splenda, Equal, Stevia… the list goes on.
The colors you are presented within a coffee shop to add to your black coffee can feel overwhelming.
You might think that making the choice to switch to artificial sweeteners are a better choice, but don’t be so hasty. Just because sugar is bad for you doesn’t mean the alternatives are any better!
Why Is Sugar Bad?
The average adult consumes about 94 grams of sugar a day, or over 350 calories worth of the stuff. That’s a shocking amount of sugar, but it is actually down from previous years. In 1999 the average consumption was about 111 grams, so we are at least moving in the right direction.
If you’re laughing at this number and saying that you consume nowhere near that, consider this – 94 grams of sugar is only about two and a half cans of Coke. A 1.55 oz bar of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate has 24 grams of sugar. A 16.9 fl oz bottle of Gold Peak Sweet Tea contains 44 grams of added sugar.
Sugar is directly linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more. It’s flat out not good for you, and we as a society are consuming way too much.
But Are The Alternatives Better?
If you’ve ever seen someone put a single tiny packet of artificial sweetener in their coffee then drink it, know they’re not just putting up with bitterness. The average artificial sweetener like Splenda or Stevia is between 100-600x as sweet as traditional sugar.
There hasn’t been a ton of research on exactly what the long term effects of increasing our consumption of artificial sweeteners. It’s clear that the body thinks when we consume them, it’s consuming sugar, so it gets ready for that punch. When it doesn’t come, it gets confused and often sends mixed signals. This internal confusion can cause a lot of harm.
A recent study noted that women who were 50 or older and consumed over 24 ounces of diet soda a day (about 2 cans of soda, so not an overwhelming amount) were upwards of 23% more likely to have a stroke than those who drank less than 12 ounces a week, or less than a can in a seven day period. That’s scary because 23% is a huge number.
Previous studies have also connected diet sodas and artificial sweeteners in general to type 2 diabetes and a major change in gut microbes, which is still a science that is being investigated. It’s unknown just how much the bacteria in our gut affects the health of our body, but scientists are starting to think it makes a big difference.
So What Do I Eat, Then?
This is an answer you don’t want – if you can just avoid sugar and the alternatives altogether. The studies on alternative sugar safety aren’t comprehensive enough to be conclusive, and it’s clear that regular sugar is doing you no favors.
Make sure you are reading all of the labels at the grocery store before they go into your cart because added sugar is being snuck into products like whole wheat bread and low-calorie yogurts. Almost everything prepackaged has some sort of added sugar in it!
If your goal is to lose weight or stay fit, a moderate amount of artificial sweetener is fine. But reach for sparkling waters over sodas and unsweetened teas over the sweet variety. No one needs 94 grams of sugar a day, and cutting that back will improve many different aspects of your life!