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Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners?

A couple weeks ago I posted a question on Facebook …

Sugar or artificial sweeteners.  Which do YOU choose?

The answers ranged from NEITHER to ONLY stevia to regular sugar, brown sugar and so on.  In other words, they ran the gamut.

Here’s our take.

IDEALLY, we’d say neither.

But since this is the real world, we’ll pick.  And we’d say SUGAR. 

Say WHAT?

Sit tight.  More specifically than sugar, we’d first say local honey. 

Is it magical with loads of powerful nutrients like some profess?  Nope.

BUT, at least it’s more slowly absorbed than regular sugar and there are actually some interesting data showing local honey (local to your area) may help with allergies and they’re also experimenting with it in healing wounds.  NOTE, we don’t suggest pouring honey on an open wound and hoping for the best.  There’s certainly more to it than that.

Let’s explore this a bit further.

First, adults eat about 22 teaspoons of ADDED sugar each day. That’s equal to washing down a candy bar by guzzling down two 12 oz cans of soda.

Teens are even worse with 34 tsp of added sugar per day.

So instead of washing that candy bar down with 2 cans of soda, add another can on top of that for teens.  EACH day.

Soft drinks are the #1 contributor to this glut of sugar, followed by candy, cakes, cookies and pie.  Sad.

Is it weird, then, that our answer to "Sugar vs. Artificial Sweeteners" is "sugar?"

Let’s step back for a second.

Added sugars are horrible for you.  The majority of the population eats WAY too many.

But we’re not so keen on artificial sweeteners either.  Why?  Well, they’re artificial chemicals that we’re dumping into our bodies and while data is out there that these are safe in certain doses, there’s also been a lot of safety data for pharmaceutical medications like Vioxx, which they ended up pulling off the market for a variety of safety concerns.  Maybe less severe, but certain artificial sweeteners are triggers for migraines and more recently, some data suggests artificial sweeteners affect body weight and blood sugar.

Again, you see the dilemma in that it’s a hard question to answer.

What makes it particularly difficult is the answer "neither" is not practical.

Case in point.  In Louisville yesterday nearly 3000 athletes competed in the Ironman — an event where you swim, bike and run a total of 140.6 miles.  I did it 3 years ago.  It’s certainly not easy.

But you wouldn’t decide on Saturday that you were going to participate in this race the next day.

Likewise, it’s not practical to take someone with a several soda per day habit and say NEVER again will you drink soda.  And don’t think about replacing it with the diet alternative … just drink water from this point forward!

Small Steps = Big Results!

We believe if you currently use a lot of added sugars — soda, candy, cakes, cookies, etc — target ONE of those and change that.

Currently drink a can of coke each morning?

The switch to Diet Coke is a good small step.

Work with that for 1 week. 

The following week, continue with that first step and improve something else too.

Maybe if you’re a vending machine person in the afternoon where you typically grab a candy bar, plan ahead and choose a piece of fruit instead.

Small Changes = Big Results!

Ultimately, continue to drink less and less of the soft drinks and replace them with their diet alternatives.  Then, down the road, again, replace those diet alternatives with something like water with fresh fruit cut up, or use a berry green tea and make unsweetened iced tea.

Lots of options, you just have to think outside the box.

The key overall with sugar OR artificial sweeteners is moderation.  Like we said, neither are great.  Is having 1 sweet treat on occasion going to kill you?  Of course not.

At the same time, don’t rationalize your daily soda and cookie habit as "moderation."

What do YOU think?  Sugar or artificial sweeteners?

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

 

 

8 Responses to Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners?

  1. Susie August 29, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    What about Xylitol (from birch, not corn)? Prevents cavities as well…
    Thanks

    • Chris and Kara Mohr August 29, 2011 at 10:37 am #

      Fine is small doses, but sugar alcohols (anything ending in ‘ol, like xylitol, malitol, etc) can have serious GI effects in higher doses. I’ve heard of this more than once with folks eating “low carb” bars that are just loaded with sugar alcohols instead.

  2. Ruston Body Works August 29, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    First let me say, “Thanks for bringing up this subject.” I try to limit the amount of sugar I get on a daily basis. It started off pretty hard but became a part of who I am as time went on.

    I recently conducted a personal experiment. I was a big diet drink drinker. I run, swim, work out, and I am extremely active. I often was very sore in the morning and just kinda chaulked it up to my lifestyle. My feet, knees and back were also very stiff and achy in the morning. I cut out about 90% of the aspartame in my diet. About seven days of being off “the stuff” I noticed my joint pain and muscle soreness was almost non-existent. I also notice that I was not as hungry or craving that afternoon junk snack. Maybe it was due to the extra water I started drinking but I firmly believe that adding chemicals (aspartame) has a negative effect towards the goals I have in mind.

  3. Ruston Body Works August 29, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    First let me say, "Thanks for bringing up this subject." I try to limit the amount of sugar I get on a daily basis. It started off pretty hard but became a part of who I am as time went on.

    I recently conducted a personal experiment. I was a big diet drink drinker. I run, swim, work out, and I am extremely active. I often was very sore in the morning and just kinda chaulked it up to my lifestyle. My feet, knees and back were also very stiff and achy in the morning. I cut out about 90% of the aspartame in my diet. About seven days of being off "the stuff" I noticed my joint pain and muscle soreness was almost non-existent. I also notice that I was not as hungry or craving that afternoon junk snack. Maybe it was due to the extra water I started drinking but I firmly believe that adding chemicals (aspartame) has a negative effect towards the goals I have in mind.

  4. Cheryl August 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I am glad to read this post. I have recently switched to stevia instead of sugar in my tea and coffee. I though stevia was ‘not like’ those other fake sweeteners. What do you think – should I just use sugar? (It does seem like that’s what your saying but I need to know if stevia fits in there too.)

    Thanks!

    • Chris and Kara Mohr August 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

      Stevia is fairly new on the market and does seem to be a better alternative. Just not a fan of the flavor!

  5. Selene Kumin Vega September 3, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks again for your emphasis on moderation! Making long-term shifts in behavior does happen best in small, doable steps that add up over time – and yet our culture leads people to want immediate results and to attempt extreme measures trying to get them. You are a wonderful voice of reason and a support for nutritional changes leading to health and fitness for the rest of one’s life!

  6. Nathan September 7, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Just curious as to why you choose sugar and then advise swapping in diet sodas (artificial sweetener) for regular sodas (sugar). I agree with this recommendation, but it also goes against what you say in the whole first half of the post. By the way, herbal teas can be a great soda replacement. A brand called Pukka makes delicious blends, and I find that blends including licorice will satisfy that craving for a soda.

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