Curious about artificial sweeteners?

There are often many questions around the use of artificial sweeteners. The Food, Drug and Administration (FDA) has given their nod of approval on a number of these highly intense sweeteners, including saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, and advantame. They’re generally recognized as safe (GRAS). But we still wonder what effect do they have on our health? Are they good or bad for our health?

Thanks to guest blogger, Sierra King, we’ll take a closer review on artificial sweeteners. Sierra is currently an undergraduate student at California State University Northridge studying to get her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a focus on Nutrition & Dietetics. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian after she completes her education and training.

The Scoop on Artificial Sweeteners

Guest blog by Sierra King
Reviewed by Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC

Have you ever wondered if artificial sweeteners are good or bad for you? Well you are not alone. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what they are and how they affect a person’s body. We’ll need to first take into account that artificial sweeteners and even sugar affects everyone’s bodies differently. This blog is meant to be informational, but not intended to replace your provider’s medical advice.

To begin, there is a difference between low calorie sweeteners and zero calorie sweeteners. Low calorie sweeteners are modified natural sugars; they are also known as sugar alcohols and they usually have an “ol” at the end of their names. For instance, some common sugar alcohols are sorbitol, maltitol, and lactitol. Sugar alcohols are naturally derived from fruits and vegetables. Due to their chemical structure, they are partially resistant to digestion. While they provide some calories, they provide fewer calories than regular sugar such as sucrose. Sugar alcohols also affect the blood sugar levels less than regular sugar. Zero calorie sweeteners, also known as artificial sweeteners, are sugar substitutes that are synthesized in laboratories.These sweeteners have no calories and will not raise a person’s blood glucose level due to the fact that the body is unable to digest them. The artificial sweeteners that are commonly used are saccharin (Sweet ‘N’ Low), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), and sucralose (Splenda). These sweeteners can be found added to foods such as desserts, gums, and drinks to make them taste sweet. Compared to regular sugar, artificial sweeteners are 180 times to 8000 times sweeter.

Some people may choose to use artificial sweeteners if they have diabetes or if they are trying to manage their weight. When a person eats carbohydrates, the body breaks it down into sugars. This increases the sugar levels in the bloodstream which signals the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps lower blood sugar by bringing the sugar into the cells to be used primarily for energy, but also for many other different body functions. The liver stores the excess sugars as glycogen to use as energy when needed. However, if a person has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, their body is unable to process sugar properly due to lack of insulin production (type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes) which can lead to a build up of sugar in their bloodstream. When artificial sweeteners are consumed,the sweetener goes through the body and is not absorbed. There are no sugars that can build up and cause the blood sugar levels to rise. For those managing their weight, artificial sweeteners may be commonly used based on the theory that they can continue to enjoy sweetened foods and beverages without the calories.

Even though artificial sweeteners do not have calories or raise blood sugar levels, there are still some concerns when people consume them. Some research indicates that when people eat artificial sweeteners regularly, it can cause them to have side effects such as headaches, nausea, stomach cramps, anxiety, diarrhea, or complications with vision. It is good to keep this in mind if you are considering drinking a diet soda or eating sugar free foods, as these potential side effects are not great to have. Due to the fact that artificial sweeteners can be intensely sweet, another concern is they can trick our brains. Our brains enjoy eating sweets because it signals to them that this food provides calories to keep us full and satisfied. By consuming artificial sweeteners, a person’s palate might change. When they eat foods with natural sugars such as fruits or vegetables, it can leave that person feeling unsatisfied and desiring more sweets because their palate has developed a tolerance for the intense sweeteners from artificial sweeteners. In addition, because artificial sweeteners are technically calorie free, there is the potential to overcompensate with other high caloric foods in the diet and ultimately disrupt natural hunger and satiety signals. These factors can potentially lead to overeating and unintended weight gain.


Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols approved by the FDA are generally indicated safe to consume, however, because side effects and long term use of artificial sweeteners are still being researched, we still do not truly know how they affect a person’s body long term. In addition, certain groups including pregnant and lactating women, children and those with Phenylketonuria (PKU) may be advised to stay away from all or some artificial sweeteners due to harmful effects. When unsure, it is best to check with your provider and a Registered Dietitian.

healthy living resource blog

Want to stay educated with healthy living resources created by Registered Dietitians?

Hello! I hope you’re staying safe and healthy. In light of COVID, many of us are going through a shift in schedule and routine. Please take time for wellness by staying in touch with loved ones, staying active and eating healthy. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, I’m happy to help. I am still offering 1-on-1 nutrition coaching services, however they are all conducted virtually until further notice. In the meantime, if you are looking for some light reading on healthy diet and lifestyle, including tips on meal prepping, grocery shopping, plant protein and much more, check out Meta Nutrition Healthy Living Blog. In collaboration with Meta Nutrition, I, along with other registered dietitians, cover some of the most popular nutrition topics and questions that you might also have! If you have suggestions on what you’d like to learn more about, send me a message. I hope you enjoy.

Until next time,

Julie

How to organize the fridge for better food storage

Top Shelf: Ready to eat foods, leftovers, prepared salads, cooked meats, herbs. They should be covered or placed in sealed containers. They’re stored away from raw foods to prevent cross contamination.

Middle Shelf (Shelves): Continuing with leftovers, dairy products, eggs, cream, yogurts, cooked meats.

Lower Shelf: Raw meats, poultry, fish. They should be individually wrapped or in sealed containers. These foods should be stored at the lower shelf to prevent drippings and cross contamination into other foods.

Fruit and Vegetable Crisper: Fruits and vegetables. Drawer should be kept closed. The crisper drawer is intended to extend the life of your fruits and vegetables. Be careful not to stock this drawer too tightly to allow adequate ventilation.

eggs nutrition

Demystifying common questions about eggs

Common question about eggs #1: “Is it healthier to only eat the egg white?”

It’s neither healthier nor unhealthy to only eat the egg whites. The reason is the egg white and yolk provide different nutrients. Their nutrients really don’t overlap (except for protein and small amounts of Vitamin B’s). If you’re only eating one part of the egg, you’re missing out on the other nutrients. Your decision to eat different parts of the egg may be influenced by what it’s been said about egg’s cholesterol content and their risk to disease, but it should also depend on the overall nutritional quality of your diet. To further clarify egg’s role in disease risk and to answer the burning question of how many eggs should you eat in a day, keep reading.

To help visualize the difference in nutrients, look at the comparison below. It’s obvious that the egg white is low in calories due to the fat free content and it’s a good source of protein, but it doesn’t provide many vitamins or minerals. On the other hand, a whole egg provides more calories (nearly 4x more than the egg white alone) and it has a substantial amount of cholesterol, but it has many more vitamins and minerals.

Common question about eggs #2: “How many whole eggs can I safely eat in a day?”

Most people’s concern with eating whole eggs is due to the egg yolk’s high cholesterol content. It’s an understandable concern, considering one egg yolk has 187 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol. Some health experts recommend a healthy adult to have under 300 mg of dietary cholesterol a day, so an egg yolk would provide more than half of the day’s worth, seems like a lot right? While older dietary recommendations have mostly given cholesterol a bad reputation, it’s important to keep in mind cholesterol is necessary for many of our body’s physiological and structural functions, including construction of the cell membrane, hormone production and other vital functions. For the most part, our body can produce its own cholesterol. We also get some dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs. But don’t lay off the eggs just yet. Eggs are a tasty and affordable source of high quality protein with many healthful vitamins and minerals. Sure, they have cholesterol however, more recent studies have suggested that the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t seem to stimulate an increase in cholesterol levels the way foods with saturated fat and trans fat do (saturated and trans are often found in processed foods such as desserts, baked goods: cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts and croissants, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs or ice cream — foods that are best eaten in modest portions, sparingly).

Getting back to the question, most healthy adults can safely eat up to 7 whole eggs a week. For egg whites only, more could be safely eaten since it’s a great source of protein. Additionally, I recommend to consider one’s health history and look at the other sources of dietary cholesterol in the diet. If not contraindicated by medical conditions and your diet consists majority of whole foods, minimal processed foods and mostly limiting added sugars, trans fat or saturated fat, you might even consider having 1-2 whole eggs a day without a problem.

Eggs are a natural powerhouse of nutrients, so enjoy some eggs in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

10 ways to use avocado in your next recipe

Who doesn’t love avocados? This fruit is loaded with nutrients, uniquely creamy and delicious and it’s versatile for so many tasty dishes. We’ll start with the nutrition it offers and then get into a list of 10 easy avocado recipes to highlight this amazing fruit that many of us love.

Nutrition
According to Haas Avocado Board, 1/4 of a whole avocado provides 60 calories, 6 g fat (which 3.5 g are monounsaturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 0 g trans fat), 0 g sodium, 190 mg potassium, 3 g total carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber and 1 g protein. It also provides magnesium, iron, Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin B’s, Vitamin E.

Some of its health top benefits include:
Monounsaturated fat content: The heart healthy fat that is also found in olive oil, sesame oil and nuts. Include monounsaturated fats in your diet to help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, lower the bad cholesterol, and raise the good cholesterol. A quick tip on identifying unsaturated fats from saturated and trans fat (unhealthy fats) is to look at their ability to solidify at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are liquids at room temperature while saturated fats are solids at room temperature.
Vitamins and nutrients: Avocados provide the antioxidants vitamin E and C that are great for the skin and decreasing inflammation. They also provide tryptophan, a precursor to the “happy chemical” called serotonin that helps regulate mood. The combination of tryptophan, antioxidants and healthy fats makes it a powerful food for our brain and potentially can help with mood and depression (to learn more about the bidirectional relationship food and mood have, follow this link to todaysdietitian.com)
Satiety factor: Avocados contain both healthy fat and fiber, which can help you feel fuller for longer. A whole avocado provides about 10 grams of fiber, making it an excellent source of fiber. (To read more about the benefits of fiber, follow this link to eatright.org). For those of us who are cautious about portions and calories, don’t be afraid of avocados for its touted high caloric content. It’s really a nutrient dense food! There are many other less healthy foods that provide just the same amount of calories, if not more, that don’t provide quite as many nutrients as an avocado. And the best part is avocados are easily shareable with others by cutting them into half or quarter sections, so do include this healthy and nutritious fruit in your diet.

Avocado recipe ideas
1. Guacamole
Easy guacamole recipe (source: thesassydietitian.com)
Fire Roasted Corn Guacamole (source: californiaavocado.com)
Creamy Greek Yogurt Guacamole (source: justataste.com
Kale Guacamole (source: makingthymeforhealth.com)
Tropical Guacamole (source: tasteandtellblog.com)

2. Avocado appetizers:
Avocado Cucumber Shrimp (source: natashaskitchen.com)
Avocado Crostini (source: joyfulhealthyeats.com)
Avocado Black Bean Dip (source: allrecipes.com)

3. Avocado Sushi
Avocado Cucumber Roll (source: loveandlemons.com)
Smoked Salmon and Avocado Roll (source: bbcgoodfood.com)
Crab and Avocado Hand Roll (source: thekitchn.com)

4. Avocado ice cream (source: asweetpeachef.com)

5. Avocado Salads
Avocado Tuna Salad (source: natashaskitchen.com)
Avocado Chicken Salad (source: healthystepsnutrition.com)
Mango Avocado Chicken Salad (source: therealfoodrds.com)
Chopped Avocado Salad with Eggs and Toasted Walnuts (source: jackieunfiltered.com)
Avocado and Grapefruit Salad (source: todaysdietitian.com)

6. Avocado Pesto Sauce (source: eatingwell.com)

7. Blueberry Avocado Pancakes (source: californiaavocado.com)

8. Avocado Yogurt Dressing (source: californiaavocado.com)

9. Avocado Smoothie Bowl Recipe (source: betternutrition.com)

10. Grilled Avocado Pizza (source: californiaavocado.com)

For the best avocados to eat alone or use in your recipes, follow this link to learn about how to choose, use and store avocados properly. It includes useful instructions and video tutorials (source: californiaavocado.com).

If you love avocados as much as I do and have some favorite avocado recipes you can share, message me! Thanks for reading.