Are diet foods the best choice?

If you are conscious about your food choices, and you try to eat healthy as much as you can, then you probably like to choose foods that are low in fat and with no added sugar.

But did you know that many studies are now showing that this may not be the best option?

Yes, many food companies want to offer healthy options. But most important for them is that they make delicious products, that you’ll buy again and again. And what makes most foods delicious? Sugar! So if they’re taking out the sugar, they will often replace it with artificial sweeteners. Why? Because they’re cheap and in some cases almost 200 times sweeter than regular sugar.

Artificial sweeteners have many names, the most popular ones include Equal, Splenda, Aspartame, Sweet’n low, Xylitol, and Stevia. Most of these are zero calories, but they will make you gain weight. Yes, that’s correct — you can gain weight even with zero calorie products.

Artificial sweeteners are most commonly used in carbonated drinks and also baby food, dairy, gum, frozen foods and pharmacy products too.

One of the largest studies, conducted by The University of Iowa, showed that people who consume two or more diet drinks each day are 30 percent more likely to develop heart problems, and have a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

So what’s happening in your body when you consume artificial sweeteners?

When you eat or drink something sweet, it has an effect on your blood sugar. Your body releases insulin (the fat storage hormone) and dopamine (which sends feelings of pleasure to your brain). As you eat more, your body will start releasing the appetite-regulating hormone leptin, which informs your brain that you are “full.”

But if you’re consuming artificial, non-calorie sweeteners instead of real sugar, then your body is reacting in the same way, but it’s not getting the calories and nutrients it needs so it doesn’t regulate your hunger in the same way. This will most likely lead to overeating.

What you can do?

You will hear this from me over and over again: just eat real food!

Look for single ingredient foods, so for example when you want something sweet you can try whole fruit, raw honey, coconut sugar or real maple syrup. This can help you decrease your hunger and sugar cravings.

If you want to learn more then I recommend you watch the documentary “Sweet Misery: A Poisoned World” (you can find it online). Also feel free to contact me, I love to hear feedback!

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com; Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com and (808) 276-6892.

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