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Work On It Wednesday - Artificial Sweeteners

Since Work On It Wednesday is a new series, I thought we would start off with some thing relatively easy to work on. Not so much easy in terms of how much you love the food and don't want to give it up, but more so easy in terms of recognizing it in the foods that you are eating and being able to identify it on the nutrition label.

This week, it will be working on removing the artificial sweeteners from you life (eek!) If an effort to eat more whole, fresh, clean foods, artificial sweeteners have been the thorn in my side.  As I mentioned in my article about the definition of healthy, for much of my life I defined eating healthy as eating less calories, and in that regard artificial sweeteners are a godsend.

However, with my new definition of healthy in hand, I am working towards eliminating all artificial sweeteners out of my life. You will find the artificial sweeteners labeled on the nutrition panel as saccharin, aspartame (the most common),  sucralose (Splenda), neotame (newest version of aspartame), acesulfame, acesulfame K, acesulfame potassium.

Here are just a few reasons to eliminate them from your diet, if you haven't already:

1) Although it seems counter intuitive, artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain. A study at Purdue University said that rats that were given saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary foods. It claimed that rats whose diet contained artificial sweeteners experienced a physiological connection between sweet tastes and calories, which in the end drove them to overeat and actually consume more calories than they would have if they had just eaten the sugary food to begin with. Although I am only one person, and certainly this is not a scientific experiment, I have found this to be true in my own life. When I drink something like Diet Coke, I experience very intense sugar cravings for days following. The cravings are extremely hard to satiate, thus I end up eating more sweets and carbs trying to make them go away. This is but one good reason to eliminate artificial sweeteners.

2) The jury is still out on the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer. It seems they go back and forth between whether or not it causes (or at least contributes) to cancer, but I'd rather not take my chances.

3) They are just plain artificial. In my quest to be eating more whole foods, artificial sweeteners have absolutely no place. Eventually, I'm going to Work On eliminating all refined sugars from my life, but I think artificial sweeteners are the first stepping stone toward that goal.

Most Common Foods with Artificial Sweeteners:

Diet Soft Drinks
Chewing Gum
Breath Mints
Some Cereals
Ice Cream Novelties
Jams and Jellies
Nutrition Bars
Ready to Mix Drinks
Ready to Mix Meal Replacements (like Slim Fast)
Yogurt (this is a big one in my house...)
Anything that is labeled "sugar free"
Some chewable vitamins

There is much controversy about whether or not artificial sweeteners actually cause anything that I've talked about above. It seems every time I read an article about the topic, there are multiple comments saying that artificial sweeteners are fine, the government has studied them, and we're all overreacting. That's all fine and dandy in my opinion, but this is just a personal choice that I myself am making to remove them from my life. I know that they have negative side effects for me (headaches, excessive thirst, the aforementioned sugar cravings), and since I am making this effort to change my diet, this is something that I want to do for me.

As always, I would love to have you join me on this journey! Are you working on eliminating artificial sweeteners from your own life? What is going to be the most difficult food for you to give up? (Let me just lay it out there - diet coke is it for me!)

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