Yorkshire Times
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12:00 AM 6th July 2024

Healthy Heart Tip: Artificial Sweetener Vs Sugar

Heart Research UK Healthy Heart Tip, written by the Health Promotion and Education Team at Heart Research UK

Many people think that artificial sweeteners are a healthy and safe alternative to sugar, but is this the case? Research shows that both artificial sweeteners and sugar can be a problem for your health.

Most adults in the UK eat too much sugar and it is often responsible for increasing blood pressure, causing excess weight gain and tooth decay. Artificial sweeteners are used as alternatives to sugar in many foods, most commonly in foods labelled as diet friendly, low calorie or sugar-free. However, recent studies suggest these can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which worsen blood sugar control and are risk factors for heart disease. Although more research needs to be done into the effects of artificial sweeteners, it is possible that, like sugar, it can also increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases.

Here we share some tips on how to reduce your intake of both sugars and artificial sweeteners.

Train your tastebuds

When you regularly consume sweet foods and drinks, your brain begins to recognise highly sweetened products as a positive reward. The phrase ‘sweet tooth’ means that you crave sweet foods and drinks, which satisfies your need or want when you consume them. Those people who have a sweet tooth are often those who have been exposed to sweet foods in their early life.

Removing sweet foods and drinks from your daily diet may result in you feeling withdrawal symptoms for a short period of time. However, this will allow you to retrain your tastebuds and reduce your cravings for highly sweetened products. Replacing unhealthy snacks with healthier versions, such as fruit and nuts with a small amount of dark chocolate, will lead you to gain similar satisfaction from these healthy foods that support heart health.

Dietary changes

Cooking foods from scratch will allow you to be aware of the amount of sugars and sweeteners within your meals. Often pre-made, processed foods such as ready meals and pasta sauces contain sugar. By making these meals from scratch and adapting your recipes to contain little to no added sugar, you’ll be helping to keep your blood pressure healthy.

Experiment using spices and seasoning such as cinnamon and vanilla to sweeten foods and drinks without negatively affecting your health.

Fruits are a good natural way to satisfy your sweet cravings whilst counting towards your five-a-day. However, some fruits are high in natural sugars and consuming them in excess can have a negative impact on your health. If you consume high amounts of fruit, try and replace some with snack friendly vegetables such as carrot and cucumber sticks.

Swap your usual fizzy drinks for water. This includes your ‘diet’ versions too, as these contain artificial sweetener which could also negatively affect your heart.

Check food labels

Many foods often have hidden sugars in them, and checking your food labels whilst you are shopping is the easiest way to know how much you’re consuming. If you find that your usual choices have high amounts of sugar in them or have red traffic light food labels on the front, then its best to avoid these. Have a look for other alternatives that have lower quantities of sugar in them and choose these.

Yoghurts, condiments and jars of sauce are often high in sugar. Try and use the no-added sugar versions where possible and be mindful of food manufacturers swapping out the sugar for artificial sweetener in products. Common artificial sweeteners include Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, Erythritol and Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K).

Both sugar and artificial sweetener intake should be limited as much as possible and you should be mindful of your intake. Consuming these on occasion is alright and won’t have a detrimental effect on your health. It’s important to make sure that you do not exceed the sugar guidelines of 30g of free sugars per day or the equivalent of seven sugar cubes to keep your heart health in check.

Heart Research UK
Proud to stand out from the crowd, Heart Research UK is the charity dedicated to your heart. They inspire and invest in pioneering medical research, ground-breaking training and education, and in communities to improve their heart health for themselves. For over 50 years they have driven advancements in the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease to benefit patients as soon as possible.

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