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According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey, 57% of Americans are trying to lose weight, and to do so, 31% have been making small changes in their diet, such as using low-calorie sweeteners or natural sugars.

The reason is simple, low-calorie sweeteners are sugar substitutes with zero calories that do not raise blood glucose levels, which makes them a preferable choice if you’re trying to lose weight, keep fit, or if you have diabetes or high-blood pressure.

So far, so good, but the real issue is whether these “healthier” options are really healthy and are not damaging our health instead. That’s why we made some research on the most popular low-calorie sweeteners around America and put their nutritional labels over the table.

Evrything you need to know about Low-Calorie Sweeteners

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 6 teaspoons of table sugar per day for women, and 9 teaspoons per day for men. Face the Facts USA states that average Americans consume almost 30 tablespoons of table sugar per day! Which explains why low-calorie sweeteners are attractive.

Most sugar substitutes are, by far, sweetener than table sugar: from 100 times to 13,000 times depending on the substance!) so just a little amount is needed to make any food really sweet without the 16 calories in 1 teaspoon of table sugar.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as sweet as it sounds. Recent studies from Harvard Medical School have found that consuming low-calorie sweeteners prevent us from relating sweetness with calorie intake. Thus, we crave more sweets and we choose sweet food over nutritious food, gaining weight.

On top of that, since sugar substitutes are more potent, we gradually find normal sweet food, such as fruit, less attractive, and unsweet foods, such as vegetables, completely unpalatable.

Simply put by Dr. Ludwig, an obesity and weight-loss specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, the “use of artificial sweeteners can make you shun healthy, filling, and highly nutritious foods while consuming more artificially flavored foods with less nutritional value.”

The difference between “Sugar-free”, “No-added sugar”, and “Unsweetened”

When we go around the supermarket, there is an incredible amount of low-calorie products whose labels claim they are “sugar-free”, “unsweetened” or “no-added sugar”. The problem is that most of us think those names are interchangeably, and even worse, that it means they’re healthy.

Sugar-free

According to the FDA, sugar-free food contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. That means it may include other kind of artificial sweeteners to make it sweeter or to enhance its flavor. A review in the British Dental Journal found that sugar-free gum, sweets and soft drinks contain acidic acids that can damage teeth and cause gastric problems, even if they are marketed as healthy alternatives to sugary products.

No-added sugar

This is not the same as “sugar-free”, since no natural sweeteners, including ingredients as juice or dry fruit, were added during its processing. But, they might include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which might cause gastric and dental problems, among other. Common no-added sugar products include granola, peanut butter, fruit juice, fruit preservatives, among other.

Unsweetened

Unsweetened food has neither natural nor artificial sweeteners added. That is, the only sweetness in them is what they naturally have, that is, naturally occurring sugars. Unsweetened food includes almond milk, coconut milk, apple sauce, iced tea, and more. If you’re trying to lose weight or simply avoid sweeteners negative effects, this is your choice.

Sugar Substitutes Approved by the FDA

The FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia. However, researchers have not yet agreed on how healthy or harmful they are.

Therefore, and to avoid any risks, it’s recommendable to use them moderately while dieting. If you have already achieved your ideal weight, it’s better to use natural sweeteners; moderately too, so you won’t regain weight.

If you consume them because you’ve got diabetes or high-blood pressure, ask your physician which natural or artificial sweeteners are better for you, and in which amount. You should also include some physical activity in your daily routine to counteract the calories you’ve consumed.

Remember that it’s not only about “keeping fit”, but, mostly, about your health. So, #DecideItNow and start changing your habits.