Thinking of cutting sugar from your diet? When people want to start eating and drinking healthier, cutting sugar is often the first step. Why? Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, among other health risks.
One of the biggest misconceptions about cutting sugar out of your diet is to start consuming sugar-free drinks. Unfortunately, most of the sugar-free and diet drinks you’re finding on shelves at the grocery store add other ingredients in order to maintain favorable, flavorful tastes.
What is Added to Sugar-Free Drinks?
Take a closer look at the ingredients listed on the nutrition label the next time you pick up a sugar-free drink. Artificial sweeteners, which are chemically-based sugar substitutes that contain less food energy (low or zero calories), can be disguised with strange, hard-to-read names. If you see any of the following artificial sweeteners listed (provided by Healthline), leave it at the store.
- Aspartame: a chemical that is actually 200 times sweeter than table sugar
- Cyclamate: 50 times sweeter than table sugar and has been banned in the U.S. since 1970
- Saccharin: 700 times sweeter than table sugar
- Acesulfame-K: 200 times sweeter than table sugar
- Sucralose: 600 times sweeter than table sugar
- Advantame: 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar
- Neotame: 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar
- Neohesperidin: 340 times sweeter than table sugar and not approved for use in the U.S.
What are the Risks Associated with Artificial Sweeteners?
You may be reassuring yourself that you’ve consumed many sugar-free and diet drinks and have not felt any difference in your health. However, the effects of artificial sweeteners don’t strike immediately. Over time, there are many serious health risks that can develop. Consider cutting sugar-free and diet drinks out of your diet before your health takes a turn for the worst.
Here are some of the major risks associated with frequent consumption of sugar-free and diet drinks:
- Effects on Appetite: Because artificial sweeteners still taste sweet but contain little to no calories, your brain will often tell your body you are still hungry. Instead of accomplishing your initial goal of losing weight, you are at higher risk for gaining weight by eating more often.
- Increased Risk of Diabetes: A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that drinking diet soda may increase the risk of developing diabetes by 6% to 121%.
- Metabolic Syndrome: A combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol
- Dental Health: Acids added to sugar-free drinks can cause cavities and tooth decay.
- Mental Health: Artificial sweeteners can cause headaches, depression and even seizures in some individuals.
- Death from Cardiovascular Disease: A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association of nearly 452,000 people found sugar-free diet sodas are linked to a higher risk of death. The conclusion determined that “people who consumed two or more glasses of either artificially-sweetened or sugar-sweetened soft drinks per day were found to have a higher risk of death, compared to those who drank one glass or less per day.”
Healthy Alternatives to Sugar-Free Drinks
Now that you understand the health risks associated with consuming too many sugar-free and diet beverages, you can turn to healthy alternatives. Here are some options:
- Water, water, and more water: Water is by far the No.1 healthy drink choice. It helps dissolve minerals and nutrients, removes waste and is essential for kidney function. If you still need a hint of flavor and fizz, try coconut water, club soda or seltzer water!
- Black Coffee: Don’t add sugar or cream and you’ll have that natural caffeine boost with no funny ingredients.
- Fruit and Herbal Teas: Teas are sugar-free. Try this natural alternative that provides flavor and in some cases caffeine.
It’s time to ditch the artificial sweeteners and start maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Alternatives with just as much flavor and carbonation exist without all the additives you can’t even pronounce. Download our Know Your Numbers guide to learn how sugar-free drinks contribute to your weight and more. Or if you have questions about losing weight and cutting sugar out of your diet in a healthy way, make an appointment with your doctor today.