Ditch artificial sweeteners

Using a zero-calorie substitute only increases sugar cravings.

With zero calories, artificial sugars are a tempting option over the real thing. Unfortunately, fake sweeteners might be worse for your health, says David Perlmutter, MD, author of Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers. (He points to a French study that suggests people who favored artificially-sweetened beverages over sugar-sweetened ones were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.)

Here, why you should consider eliminating artificial sugars from your diet and how to get started.

Chemical compounds interfere with bodily functions.

Although free of both sugar and calories, these sweeteners are chemical compounds, not real food, says Brian St. Pierre, RD, a Scarborough, Maine-based fitness and nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition.

Splenda, for example, is sucralose—a sugar molecule mixed with chlorine molecules in a patented process—which might increase glucose and insulin levels in the body. Research done on animals concluded that sucralose suppresses good gut bacteria.

You’ll just want more sugar.

Chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose keep the body on an artificial sugar high. “Using a substitute just reinforces our sweet tooth,” says Perlmutter.

Aspartame is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of potential carcinogens.

St. Pierre notes: “In animal models, it’s linked to leukemia in very high doses. I'm most leery of it and won’t feed it to my kids.”

To cut back on artificial sweeteners, eat more healthy fats.

“Sweet and fatty foods are our two main desires,” Perlmutter explains. “If you eat more healthy fats, you’ll crave sweets less.” Cheese, chocolate (containing 85 percent or more of cacao), nuts and seeds, olive oil, grass-fed beef, butter, and eggs are healthy fat sources that will keep you feeling full longer while combatting sugar cravings.