There is so much sugar in our diets and it’s not doing us any good. Sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes and tooth decay. So should we be switching to artificial sweetener? It seems like a simple way to reduce calories but will swapping sugar for sweeteners really improve our health? Let’s find out.
What is sugar?
It sounds basic but what is sugar? Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that tastes sweet. Because it’s a simple carbohydrate, sugar is easily broken down by our bodies into energy. That’s why we get a rush of energy after having something sugary and why you need to peel the kids off the ceiling after a can of fizzy pop. Sugar is found naturally in some foods like fruit and is added to processed foods such as pasta sauces, ready meals and fizzy drinks to make them irresistible.
What is artificial sweetener?
Artificial sweeteners have the sweet taste of sugar but with very few (or even zero) calories. Common examples of artificial sweeteners include aspartame and saccharin. They are often added to low calorie foods like diet drinks.
Which is healthier?
Unfortunately, this is a tricky question to answer. Sugar is a natural ingredient but contains a lot of calories and can damage your teeth. Sweeteners may help you to lose weight but they are an artificial chemical and we would certainly recommend that you limit them in your diet.
What are the effects on my teeth?
(Sorry, you must have known that we were going to come onto teeth sooner or later.)
Let’s start with sugar. Sugar causes tooth decay. When bacteria that live on your teeth digest sugar from your food, they make acid which is pooed onto the surface of your teeth. Over time, this acid causes a hole to form. The tooth is weakened and can become painful. This is tooth decay.
If you have sugar frequently, you are at very high risk of tooth decay. Even if you are cleaning your teeth well, you could develop holes in your teeth. This could eventually lead to infection and tooth loss. Sugar can do huge amounts of damage to your teeth.
The possible effects of artificial sweeteners on your teeth are a little more subtle. Artificial sweeteners alone will not cause damage to your teeth. However, artificial sweeteners are used in diet foods such as diet fizzy drinks.
If you aren’t aware of the possible damage that diet fizzy drinks can do, you may be tempted to have them all of the time. There are no calories in these drinks so what’s the problem?
The issue with diet fizzy drinks is that they are still very, very acidic. They are so acidic that they will gradually wash away the surface of your teeth. The enamel is dissolved by the diet drink and your teeth become thin, weak and brittle.
So sweeteners alone will not do any damage to your teeth. But if you think that you can have these diet drinks all of the time because they don’t contain sugar, you may be unknowingly causing lots of damage to your mouth.
Are there different types of sugar?
Yes, there are. To keep it simple, I will divide sugars into two types. There is the sugar that occurs naturally in the food that we eat (like in fruit) and there is the sugar that is added to processed foods.
Fruits and vegetables are important as part of a balanced diet. Even though they contain sugar, we would recommend you keep chomping away on those apples.
Sugar in processed foods is a different matter. These types of hidden sugars contribute massively to obesity and diabetes as well as tooth decay. We recommend that you keep processed foods to a minimum. A good rule to follow is that if it comes in a box or lots of packaging, it’s processed food.
I hope that helps a bit. Sugars are a great source of energy but can cause obesity and other health issues such as tooth decay when consumed in excess. Fruit contains natural sugars that should be eaten as part of a balanced diet. Artificial sweeteners can be a good way to remove calories from your diet and may help you to lose weight. However, they are an artificial chemical that we believe you should limit. You can have some of whatever you like to eat but you must remember that you should not consume anything to excess. Everything in moderation.