Tip Tuesday: Artificial Sweetener Awareness

Last month, the blog featured a post on avoiding hidden sugars. It's just as important, however, to watch out for artificial sweeteners - chemical additives that provide sweet flavor without caloric impact. Today, we're taking a look at these artificial sweeteners! 

When you begin making changes to your diet, your inclination might be to find alternatives to your normal comfort foods. Hooked on soda? You might find yourself reaching for diet versions instead. Can't live without sugar in your coffee? You'll reach for the Equal instead. But are these alternatives really "healthier," or are they just the lesser of two evils?

As it turns out, diet soda, and other drinks with artificial sweeteners, have a whole host of negative side effects. A study out of the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio found that study participants who drank diet soda were more likely to gain weight than to lose it. The study found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda caused the metabolic signals in the body to malfunction, and put users at a higher risk for obesity. A 2013 study out of Purdue University, published in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism [author manuscript full text available here, through PubMed Central], provides an overview of research that demonstrates a link between the consumption of artificially sweetened beverages and obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.

What does all that research mean? Basically, the sweet flavor from these chemical additives tricks your brain into craving more sugar. Your body also reacts to the artificial sweeteners in the same way as it does to real sugar, so you can actually be counteracting all of your healthy habits by adding that pink packet to your daily coffee. 

So, what's a girl to do? Luckily, we have some tips on refreshing drinks that can help to fill the soda void in your life!

Flavored soda waters

Soda water, seltzer, club soda - they all basically mean the same thing, water with carbonation added. There are a number of brands that offer flavored soda waters that don't have any added sweeteners. Polar Beverages is based here in Massachusetts, and they offer great seasonal options, like Blueberry Lemonade or Pomegranate Sangria. However, make sure to read the label before you buy! You want to find a brand that only adds flavoring; check for added sweeteners to avoid an unpleasant surprise. Also, this shouldn't replace the regular H2O you're consuming throughout the day! Too much carbonation can lead to bloating, so treat this as just that - a treat. 

Iced green tea

Green tea is a great alternative to coffee. It has a whole range of benefits that can help to improve your efforts at living a healthier lifestyle, and it tastes great! If you don't enjoy the flavor of green tea on its own, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, or add a few pieces of frozen fruit - frozen raspberries or peach slices are my favorite options! You can also find great tea blends that include fruit flavors; Whole Foods has an extensive selection to explore! Word of caution: Caffeine can be dehydrating, so make sure that you're drinking water alongside your iced tea. 

Infused water

Any graduate of the Six Weeks to Chic program knows that drinking water continuously throughout the day is a huge factor in improving overall health. However, plain old water can definitely get boring at times. Infusing your water with natural flavors can help to add interest to your daily water intake, and as long as you choose the right additions, you won't be negating your efforts at the studio. Pitchers and water bottles with infusers are easy to find these days - try this model as an example. Some of our favorite combinations here at SP include strawberry & basil, cucumber & mint, grapefruit & lemon slices, or mixed berry.

What are your favorite healthy beverage options? Any tips for breaking the artificial sweetener habit? Let us know in the comments!