Naturally Sweetened vs. Stevia and "Natural" Flavors
We crave sweet. It's biologically wired to help us survive.
With industrialization of our food chain, big food companies have found a way to save money and get you to eat more.
How? They hack our biological wiring with high potency sweeteners both natural and artificial to drive unfulfillable food cravings that cause us to overeat.
Walking around the grocery store, you see claims of "made with real honey" don't fall for that marketing "trick". In fact, products only need a very small amount of honey to use that claim. Check the ingredient label, the taste is actually driven by refined sugar, "natural" flavors, and natural/artificial high potency sweeteners.
Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners drive inflammation and wreck havoc on your health ultimately leading to chronic diseases, which have been growing. 1 in 2 children by the time they are 16 years old will have a chronic disease. For the first time ever, our children are projected to have a shorter life span then their parents. A lot of that is driven by poor diets of refined grain, refined sugar, and vegetable oils.
However, "natural" flavors and "natural" high potency sweeteners sound innocent - right? Not exactly and they are often far from "natural".
Natural flavors are defined "as those that derive their aroma or flavor chemicals from plant or animal sources that are manipulated in a lab”. In short, they are engineered to not just replicate those "aromas or flavors" but amplify those sensations to trick your body to eat more. Legally, a "natural" flavor can contain up to 20 different ingredients/chemicals/stuff. Nobody really knows what's in these "lab manipulated" chemistry experiments.
High potency sweeteners, Stevia and Monkfruit are certainly better than refined sugar. Personally, I avoid them because they are:
- Engineered to trick your body: when you taste something sweet your body expects glucose and if it doesn’t get glucose it creates sweet cravings.
- Created in laboratories: Stevia/Monkfruit can contain other ingredients to boost sweetness and fuel cravings.
- Can cause digestive discomfort: it's easy to consume too much given that they trigger cravings but not satisfy them which can cause bloating and diarrhea.
- Limited research on their negative effects.
There isn’t a lot of research on non-caloric artificial and “natural” sweeteners like Stevia which is concerning within itself.
But the little research that does exist is even more concerning...
They have been proven to disrupt your gut health.
They present an evolutionary mismatch that may cause havoc on hunger cravings.
When you taste sweet, your body expects to receive sugar, when it doesn’t your body continues to hit the “more” button causing you to over eat but never being fulfilled.
In an experiment, fruit flies (which are a great model for humans given very similar taste receptors and preferences) were given a non caloric sweetener mixture that caused them to go haywire and not sleep. They were starving, which caused them to continue to eat more without sleeping for days until they stopped receiving the mixture.
Of course, those are fruit flies but that finding should warrant more testing on these scientist-made sweeteners. Even scientists agree “despite inclusion in thousands of products, and consumption by billions of people, the effects of ingesting synthetically sweetened food are not well understood” = “we don’t know but we probably should”.
In short, I prefer real in moderation but you should find what works for you and be mindful of what you are you putting into your body.