One of our founder Ethan's main drivers when starting WHEY AHEAD® was to create a protein shake which was free from artificial sweeteners and added sugar. Today, we are focussing on the sweeteners.
It's amazing how many of our foods and drinks have artificial sweeteners added to sweeten the taste. However, there is really very little or no nutritional benefit to them. They are nick-named 'non-nutritive' or in other words, no nutritional value. So what's the point you might ask? It's purely commercial. Sweet things are more palatable and sell more.
What are artificial sweeteners? They are a low calorie, laboratory made substitute for refined sugar. They are almost entirely manufactured chemical alternatives. What are they called? Here are the most common few you'll find on the back labels of your food & drink. Seriously, take a look at the ingredients list and you'll be surprised how many times they appear (particularly in processed foods and sweets):
With most people now trying to cut down their sugar intake, sweeteners are dominating. They are found in most famous fizzy drinks which can claim to be 'diet' or 'no calories' and 'no sugar'. Sounds like a no brainer for diabetics and other people trying to keep their sugar intake to a minimum. However, are they good for you? This is surely the key question.
The answer isn't straight forward. Artificial sweeteners are actually way more potent and powerful than natural sugars. A fraction of a teaspoon gives you a massive hit of sweetness. Some people add just one tiny sweetener drop to home-made rice pudding or apple crumble mixes to give them all the sugary taste they need! As we consume more of these artificial, non-nutritive sweeteners in our diets, it is thought that we might start to change the fundamental way we taste foods. With more and more exposure to these sweeteners, we may start to find that fruit and vegetables in particular, aren't as sweet as they used to be! A doctor and obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children’s Hospital; Dr Ludwig commented that;
"Overstimulation of sugar receptors from frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes,”.
His other worry is that the the more 'diet' foods and drinks we consume, the more we make allowances to think to ourselves, "i've had a diet meal or drink so I can now have that cake". It's clearly all about moderation and adopting healthy habits but we guess he has a point about the psychological effects of sweeteners when advertised as the 'healthy, light or diet' choice.
In terms of safety, there has long been a debate about artificial sweeteners' effect on our health. In America, the studies that resulted in FDA approval of sweeteners in foods & drinks ruled out cancer to an extent. However the study was on small amounts and the truth is, we don't know how long-term exposure to these chemicals will impact us.
You might be thinking, what about increasingly popular Stevia? Well stevia is a natural sweetener but it has it's own issues. We wrote another blog article about it - why we don't use stevia.
Should we be reverting back to sugar then? Not necessarily. Don't forget that the rise of sweeteners has come about because obesity, diabetes, tooth decay were all on the up. We guess it's a case of selecting the right types of sugar from the right sources. A banana contains sugar but it's a natural sugar and has other benefits like containing fibre and other nutrients which we need. Far better than putting two heaped teaspoons of refined sugar in your tea or coffee.
It also depends on whether you need to have sugar in the first place. Some people have successfully trained their taste-buds the other way to crave less sweet nutrition. Making the switch from milk to dark chocolate for example can reeducate our palette to a less sugary taste.
At the end of the day, artificial sweeteners are chemicals. The reduction of chemical exposure is one of the main reasons that organic is becoming more and more popular. Organic certification bans artificial sweeteners and ensures nothing artificial or hidden is contained within the natural product. It is a step back to a more natural state of food and drink which is not heavily processed and certainly not artificial.
Going back to why we started WHEY AHEAD® - we wanted you to have a protein powder that was not only full of organic goodness, but free from artificial sweeteners and chemicals.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more from our Organic Academy.