What once seemed like a good alternative to sugar in some foods and beverages has now been called into question.
It’s no secret that sugar leads to obesity and, in some cases, diabetes. Sugar releases opioids and dopamine in the brain that create a high like that produced by certain drugs. Sugar consumption becomes more frequent as cravings for the high increase.
Since sugar is a carbohydrate, which the body converts into energy, excessive consumption leads to weight gain over time as the body turns that extra energy into fat to be stored. If not controlled, it can lead to obesity and possibly insulin resistance, a common cause of Type 2 diabetes.
Too many carbs can cause a spike in blood sugar, making people with diabetes sick. Artificial sweeteners, however, are much sweeter than sugar and have virtually zero calories and little to no carbs. They are a good way for people with diabetes to enjoy foods and beverages they normally couldn’t due to restricting their carb intake.
While artificial sweeteners can still be a treat for people with diabetes and other dietary restrictions, it turns out that they may not be as healthy as once thought.
Recently, research has linked artificial sweeteners to diabetes and obesity through testing performed on rats. For three weeks, a rat model consumed aspartame, found in sweeteners like Equal and NutraSweet; acesulfame potassium, found in sweeteners like Sunett; and fructose.
The result was that artificial sweeteners caused disruptions in the rats’ fat and energy metabolisms, according to Dr. Brian Hoffman, one of the study’s researchers and Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Disruptions in metabolism can throw off the body’s balance of glucose, amino acids, and fats, which then alters the body’s normal functioning.
Although researchers are unsure if artificial sweeteners containing these ingredients will have the same effect on human bodies that it does on rodents, there are some healthier artificial sweeteners available that may prove useful for people with diabetes.
Stevia, made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, is high in sweetness, meaning that you can use very little to get the same taste sugar offers. Several studies have found that stevia can actually benefit health by lowering blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Erythritol, found in some fruits, and xylitol also have health benefits. Both are sugar alcohols that don’t spike blood sugar or insulin levels.
While the artificial sweeteners found on most restaurant tables may have the potential to interfere with weight and diabetes, stevia and other healthier alternatives come in packets, for when you’re on the go, and one-pound bags so you can cook them into your baked goods at home.
Having dietary restrictions doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself from time to time. But you can stick to the safe side by knowing the ingredients and effects of your artificial sweeteners, considering all options, and making healthier decisions.
Yields: 9 bars
For the oat cracker crust:
• 1½ cups Nairn’s Oat Crackers, ground (about 18 crackers)
• ¼ cup maple syrup
This crust is optional and can be substituted with an almond flour crust recipe.
For the lemon cream:
• One 15-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
• 2 cups cooked cauliflower
• ½ cup maple syrup
• ½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• 3 tablespoons arrowroot starch
• Zest from 1 lemon
• ¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional for color)
Instructions:Preheat the oven to 375 F.
For the crust, grind the crackers in a blender or food processor and slowly drizzle in the maple syrup until you have a sticky, crumbly mixture.
Press crust mixture into an 8×8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
For the filling, blend all the ingredients on high until smooth and creamy.
Pour filing mixture on top of the crust.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Cool, then chill overnight.
Written by: Leah Morton