While there are many myths and debate surrounding low-calorie sweeteners, they are safe and can be beneficial to your diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirmed this position on Tuesday.
Using current federal nutrition recommendations as a guideline, sweeteners can be enjoyed and are safe for consumption. The sweeteners include those that add calories, such as sucrose and fructose, as well as non-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin and stevia.
The Academy confirmed this position based on studies led by Cindy Fitch from West Virginia University and Kathryn S. Keim from Rush University. While the sweeteners are safe to use, there is always concern about moderation and understanding the role of sweeteners in your diet.
Diets that are high in sugar lead to higher calorie intake but poorer overall diet quality, notes the Academy. For Americans, approximately 14.6 percent of calorie intake is from sweeteners. Enjoying sweet-tasting food is innate, and possibly genetic, and sugars are sources of carbohydrates and can provide energy.
Sugars like fructose or sucrose are found naturally while high fructose corn syrup may be added later. These sugars add calories and diets that are high in calories but low in quality can increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular disease.
Because everyone loves sweet-tasting foods, incorporating no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and stevia can fulfill that craving while also reducing calories.
In addition to reducing the number of calorie-containing sweeteners, the Academy recommends decreasing cake, cookie and pastry consumption and grain-based desserts. The Academy also recommends following the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The guideline includes tips on how to eat better and incorporate more healthy choices as part of your daily diet. People can enjoy food but should steer clear of giant portions and eating less. Making sure fruits and vegetables are a part of your diet is also important. Switching to fat-free or low-fat milk from whole milk can also improve your diet. For protein, incorporate seafood, beans, soy, poultry and eggs to your diet in addition to meat.
The guidelines also recommend checking sodium levels in foods and getting lower-sodium items. Lastly, don't always go for the sweetened beverage option, instead drink water to quench your thirst.
Natural and artificial sweeteners are safe to use and have some benefits for you but that does not mean there are no negative side effects to too much sweetener intake. You can enjoy that cookie or soda but make sure you balance it out with healthy choices which include eating more fruits and vegetables, eating less and choosing no-calorie sweetener products if you want a sweet snack.
The report was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.