Artificial Sweeteners: Can you have your cake and eat it too?

  • By Alyssa Grams
  • 06 Jun, 2017
https://www.flickr.com/photos/nillanilzon/25482907745/in/photolist-EPQyEn-SUy9W1-fqvLp-fquCm-fqujk-fqucD-5PRLqN-fqvTi-E1WGq-dKUY3A-3hYwBX-7yYGzD-cjPUR-ovBENQ-8FFFaA-92wWae-skqL1R-si8ckN-oL5bqh-7kbAaU-kjUqMX-E1X2A-E1XdT-E1X2x-E1WGp-nAoaSC-8tEzT4-2asnzP-9YPxpE-9XPze-7fKfLr-5UyouU-E1WGk-cjMDH-8Hyrqi-5VBBvy-oiTYr2-6hFpW1-eWoZHw-ovBbNn-E1WGm-oMQ8t6-Uf5sDE-E1X33-4JFj7B-4nEgdW-zQXPi-SZAcVi-nzmBws-ovBi51
Credit to Gunilla G. Creative Commons.

If you live with diabetes, or you have recently been diagnosed, you understand how much of a struggle food can be. This is especially true when it comes to keeping track of your carbohydrate intake. Blood glucose levels can spike if you consume too many carbohydrates or sources of glucose in high amounts in one sitting. That means pie, chocolate, and those beloved brownies are better left off your plate, which can be disheartening for those of us with a sweet tooth.

Is there any possible way I can have my cake and eat it too?

The common answer? Yes, thanks to sugar substitutes called artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes, but may be derived from naturally occurring substances including herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than regular sugar.

The FDA has approved artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute in healthy individuals and those living with diabetes. With the stamp of approval, a variety of sweeteners are on grocery store shelves in the form of tablets, quick dissolve pills, liquid drops, and the most popular: single-use sugar packets. The most popular brands of artificial sweetener include Sweet ‘N Low, Splenda, and Sugar Twin.

Other sugar substitutes include sugar alcohol-based products. Sugar alcohols are a family of sweetening agents that naturally occur in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, but are mainly manufactured for large scale commercial use.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular sugar substitutes for diabetics.

Product Profile

Brand Name

Classification 

Ingredient List

Ingredient Profiles

Product Varieties

Sweet ‘N Low

Artificial Sweetener

For single use packets: saccharin

Saccharin is a non-nutritive sweetener that is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sucrose and does not raise blood glucose levels. At high concentrations saccharin has a bitter or metallic taste.

Single use packets, liquid drops, tablets, and kosher

Splenda

Artificial Sweetener

For single use packets: Sucralose, dextrose, and maltodextrin

Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sucrose. Dextrose and maltodextrin raise blood glucose levels .

Liquid sweetener, granulated, brown sugar blend, single packets, etc.

Sugar Twin

Artificial Sweetener

For single use packets: Dextrose, sodium, saccharin, and artificial flavour

Sodium saccharin is the solid form of saccharin. The acceptable daily amount is 5 mg per kilogram of body mass as approved by the FDA.

Single use packets, original granulated white

NOW Real Food Erythritol

 Sugar  Alcohol

 Pure Erythritol  Crystalline Powder

Erythritol occurs naturally in fruits such as pears, melons and grapes. It is only 50% to 70% as sweet as sucrose.

Granulated white

NOW Real Foods Xylitol

Sugar Alcohol

  Xylitol and Silica

Xylitol naturally occurs in fruit and vegetables. It has the same relative sweetness as sucrose (table sugar).

Granulated white, single use packets

Even though these products are thought of as generally safe for people who have diabetes, recent studies have indicated new health concerns surrounding artificial sweeteners.

The American Diabetes Foundation explains that artificial sweeteners may be a way to satisfy your sweet tooth and curb your cravings because most low-calorie sweeteners are much more intense than regular sugar, so you need only a small amount.

The case against artificial sweeteners comes from a variety of sources. The first concern arises from how artificial sweeteners affect the way you taste food. Artificial sweeteners are far sweetener than table sugar. This means that your sugar receptors are overstimulated if you frequently ingest artificial sweeteners, and you might be less likely to reach for those healthy, but not as sweet, fruits and vegetables.

If you're looking for a natural alternative to sweeteners, check out our post on Stevia.

Secondly, this study shows us that you’re at greater risk of type 2 diabetes by having a daily diet coke which uses artificial sweeteners. In fact, this study showed as much as a 67% greater risk of type 2 diabetes due to that pesky diet soda—so much for artificial sweeteners helping to prevent diabetes when they may actually be a contributing factor!

The final concern has to do with the balance of the microbiome in your gut. Microbiomes refer to the microorganisms living in a particular area—in this case, your digestive organs. Several recent health studies have focused on the microbiome, which may lead to new opportunities for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of a variety of human diseases! Research suggested that non-caloric artificial sweeteners create a glucose intolerance by altering the state of intestinal microbiota. The artificial sweeteners caused the bacteria to change their state, and these newly changed bacteria have been associated with type 2 diabetes.

The third and final concern is with the balance of the microbiome in your gut—how bacteria are impacted in your intestines. A study conducted by Dr. Eran Elinav suggested that non-caloric artificial sweeteners develop a glucose intolerance by altering the state of intestinal microbiota. Several of the bacteria that changed their state after ingesting non-caloric artificial sweeteners have been found to be associated with type 2 diabetes.

The Take(Cake)away

Although there may not be a consensus on the debate of artificial sweeteners, there are some precautions you can take if you use artificial sweeteners:

  • Talk to your physician or dietitian and establish a maximum daily consumption of artificial sweeteners appropriate for you.
  • Know that a minimal amount of sucrose—regular table sugar—is okay to consume for the average individual. Diabetes Canada recommends that no more than 10 per cent of your daily caloric intake come from sugar.
  • If frequent consumption of intensely sweet artificial sweeteners does affect how palatable less intensely sweet foods are to us, look for artificial sweeteners with a low or comparable relative sweetness to sucrose (regular table sugar). For example, if sucralose is 600 times sweeter than sucrose, and erythritol is only 50 to 70 times as sweet as sucrose, choose the latter as a sugar substitute.
  • Finally, if artificial sweeteners can negatively impact the balance of your microbiome, it may be beneficial for you to take a premium quality probiotic for your gut (always talk with your doctor or physician before adding any pill to your regimen).

Diabetes doesn’t mean a life without sweets! With our tips on artificial sweeteners, you can still have your cake and eat it too!

#ABfoodfight

By Alyssa Grams 13 Nov, 2017

So you’ve been recently diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. It can be a scary and confusing time, with lots of information to take in. Of course, many people are afraid of what that means for their eating. Am I doomed to a life free of dining delights, you may wonder.

While it’s no surprise diet is of the essence, diabetes isn’t a life sentence of bland food.  Truth is, a healthy eating plan for diabetes is a healthy eating plan for everyone. And it doesn’t mean a lifetime of choosing cardboard over carbonara and never enjoying another meal again.

By following a simple recipe at each meal and snack you can enjoy delicious, nourishing food while still managing your blood sugars.

All you have to do is toss in the right ingredients, whip them up with the proper amounts, add a pinch of good timing and season to taste.

 Step One: Ingredients

This may take just a dash of patience, but bear with me—and trust me when I say there are no secret ingredients. All you need is real, wholesome foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, fish, lean meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Just eat and repeat.

Eating nutritious whole foods at every meal will go a long way in ensuring you get the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Don’t forget, all these foods come with a generous side of vitamins, minerals and fibre!

Step Two: Portions

There are a few different steps to this, but I promise it’s as easy as 1,2,3. How much of each ingredient may vary depending on your age, gender and activity level. But in general, there are two ways to be sure the recipe can’t be beat.

1.    Plate method

Using a 9-inch plate, fill half your plate with vegetables, fill one quarter with meat or another protein and finish it off with a whole grain or fibre-rich starch. Bon appetit! Feel free to add a small piece of fruit and a small glass of milk into the mix, depending on appetite.

2.  Portion it yourself

Sometimes the best solution is right in the palm of your hands; other times, the best solution is  your hands. Here are a couple good rules of thumb that will have you eating well-portioned meals in a pinch:

  • Aim for the size of your fist in grains, starches & fruit
  • Eat as many vegetables as you can hold in both hands
  • Look to your palm when it comes to meat, fish and poultry (thickness of your little finger)
  • Add just the tip of your thumb in fats & oils

Step Three: Timing

It’s not as simple as setting a timer, but eating regularly during the day helps stabilize your blood sugars, helping you rise to any occasion. It also prevents overeating by managing your hunger.

You’ve heard the advice before, but it’s as simple as this: Eat three meals a day at regular times and space them no more than six hours apart. Make sure to eat breakfast every day and include 1 – 2 small snacks as needed.

Step Four: Season to Taste

Just like any good recipe, this one also leaves room for a pinch of your favourite flavours. While it’s important to watch added sugar, salt and fat, that doesn’t mean they’re completely off the table. Just save them for special occasions, be sure to monitor your portions and savour every last bite.

As you can see, healthy eating for diabetes is a healthy way of eating for everyone. You don’t need separate meals or special “diabetic” foods. All you need is a healthy appetite for fresh, wholesome ingredients and of course, a recipe for success.

For more information on:

  1. The healthy plate method: Health Canada's Eat Well Plate .
  2. Handy portion sizes: Diabetes Canada's Portion Guide .
  3. Fresh, Alberta-grown food, practical menus and a healthy lifestyle: Pure Prairie Eating Plan.

 

 

By Keighla Lutes 05 Oct, 2017

It’s no surprise that Albertans go cuckoo over chicken. Not only is it a healthy protein source; it’s also delicious, versatile and easy to prepare. Since September has been hailed as National Chicken Month  , it seems like the perfect time to sing the praises of this popular poultry.

The Inside (S)coop

If you’re looking for a high-quality lean protein, the bird’s the word. One serving (75 g or 3.5 oz) of roasted, skinless chicken breast clucks in at about 124 calories, 3g total fat and 1g saturated fat ( 1  ).

And that lean serving is also packed with protein, dishing up 23 g per serving! Protein   is key to helping you feel full longer after eating, which helps stave off hunger and prevent overeating. A protein-rich diet also helps slow age-related muscle loss and maintain healthy bones.

Chicken also rules the roost when it comes to iron, B-vitamins, bone-building phosphorus and immunity boosting selenium and zinc. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for infections, so it’s extra important to keep the immune system strong.

No Paltry Poultry

Do you feel like chicken tonight? If so, you’re in (c)luck! There are as many ways to eat chicken as there are hens in the henhouse. Don’t be afraid to wing it. Just make sure you always remove the skin and choose healthy cooking methods like roasting, broiling or braising to keep the fat content down.

And don’t ruffle any feathers over light vs. dark meat—there’s nothing fowl about the dark stuff.  Although it’s higher in calories and fat, dark meat also contains more iron, zinc and certain B-vitamins than white meat, which means all cuts can be part of your healthy diet.

Also don’t fret over hormones   or steroids. Fun fact: their use in chickens has been banned in Canada since the 1960s.

Bird Bath

With cold and flu season just around the corner, many of us will turn to chicken noodle soup. Next time you feel a sniffle coming on, whip up the Chicken Noodle Bowl from the Pure Prairie Eating Plan  . It’ll be just what the doctor (and the dietitian) ordered!



References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Chicken, broiler, breast, meat, roasted. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=842


By Keighla Lutes 04 Oct, 2017

The weather may be cooling down, but your healthy fall food choices are heating up! It’s time for all of us to fall in love with fall—because, frankly, we don’t really have another choice!

By using these four simple tips (along with the Pure Prairie Eating Plan ), you’re sure to make fall feasting healthier than ever before.

1) Fall in love with your autumn fruits and veggies!  Alberta’s growing season is short. That means buying seasonal produce is key to saving money and getting the freshest and most nutritious foods. Plus it’s a great way to support our local farmers!

  • Check out your local farmers’ market or community garden.
  • Include seasonal fall foods in your meal plan, like beets, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, corn, kale, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, turnips, cauliflower, zucchini, apples and pears.
  • Stock up on seasonal fruit and veggies and freeze or can them so you can enjoy them year round.

2) Settle back into a routine! As the days get shorter and schedules get busier, it sometimes seems like there isn’t enough time to put together a nourishing, home-cooked meal. But simple ways of establishing a routine can do wonders for making your life simpler and healthier.

  • Make a meal plan and a grocery list to prepare for the week. The Pure Prairie Eating Plan ’s easy-to-follow menus and shopping lists make meal planning a cinch.  
  • Use your slow cooker to save time and money. Slow cookers also allow you to control the amount of added fat, all while boosting the flavour of your home-cooked meals.
  • Make a plan for leftovers. Freeze extra soups, stews and casseroles for easy, pre-portioned meals down the road.

3) Have a couch day game plan!  Whether you’re a sports fan or just want to catch up on fall programming, some simple swaps can help you eat healthier —even when you’re vegging out.  

  • Mash green peas into guacamole to cut down on calories and boost fibre and nutrients.
  • Make your chilli vegetarian or use low-fat ground turkey in place of beef.
  • Serve pita wedges and veggies with hummus instead of the standard cheese and crackers.

4) Get back in the kitchen!  Is it cold outside? Stay in and get cooking! Nothing warms up a fall night like experimenting with delicious, Alberta-grown foods. Try some of the following:

  • Pumpkin is more than just delicious pie filling. Whip up pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins or even a pumpkin smoothie.
  • Use chopped apples as a salad topper or mixed into warm oatmeal. Or simply cut an apple in half, sprinkle some cinnamon and bake in the oven for a nutritious dessert.
  • Hearty fall soups are filling, easy to make and a great way to use up veggies that might be nearing the end of their shelf life. Use broth instead of cream and add lots of veggies for a satisfying meal that the whole family can enjoy.

For an array of tasty recipes that feature your homegrown harvest ingredients, look no further than the Pure Prairie Eating Plan Cookbook . All recipes are 100% dietitian approved and sure to satisfy. Happy Harvest!

 

By Alyssa Grams 13 Sep, 2017

While Alberta’s summer yield may be running dry, it is harvest time for many delicious fruits and vegetables. It’s also the perfect time for an early fall favourite: Zucchini!

Also known as summer squash, this versatile veggie may come late in the season, but its comeback game is strong. Low in calories and loaded with vitamins and minerals, this valiant vegetable always squashes the competition.

Zucchini for the Win!

Zucchini is 95% water, making it naturally low in calories and an excellent choice if you’re watching your weight. One serving (½ cup) contains 0.7 grams of protein , 1.9 g carbs  and 0.6 grams of fibre . That’s a steal of a deal when you consider it’s only 10 calories! And since zucchini is a low-glycemic  food, it won’t cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar ( 2 ).

And that’s not all! Along with vitamin A , potassium  and other important nutrients, zucchini also provides 15% (11 milligrams) of your daily vitamin C  needs ( 1 ). Vitamin C is best known for boosting the body’s immune system, which is extra important with flu season right around the corner.

It’s health benefits don’t stop there! As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps squash free radicals in the body, which helps our bodies repair damage and fend off conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Get Squashed                

A favourite among Alberta’s gardeners, zucchini has a mellow flavour, soft edible skin and a creamy white flesh that makes it a delightful addition to any dish.

It can be sliced, diced or shredded and is delicious pan-fried, baked or raw. In addition to its tasty flesh, female zucchini plants also produce large yellow blossoms, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

Move over cuke, it’s time for the zuke! Here are some tasty ways to enjoy this fall favourite:

  1. Sauté a handful of chopped zucchini and add it to a veggie omelette
  2. Add diced zucchini to homemade or canned vegetable soup
  3. Toss matchstick or cubed zucchini into a curry or stir-fry
  4. Layer grilled zucchini, tomato and partly-skimmed mozzarella on a panini
  5. Thinly slice into “zucchini noodles” and toss in your favourite tomato sauce

Okay, so let’s say you just brought in your garden harvest and have no idea what to do with those monster zucchinis. Try grating them up and adding them to baked goods like muffins, loaves or chocolate cake. It may sound like baking blasphemy, but they add an extra dose of nutrition, a moist texture and a surprisingly delicious flavour.

For a breakfast muffin brimming with flavour and nutrition, try the Breakfast Zucchini Muffins in the Pure Prairie Eating Plan .

References

1) Canadian Nutrient File (2015). Nutrient Profile: Squash, summer, zucchini, raw. Retrieved from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=2225

2) University Health News Daily (2017). Glycemic Index Chart: GI Ratings for Hundreds of Foods. Retrieved from: https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/nutrition/glycemic-index-chart/

By Alyssa Grams 06 Sep, 2017

Every good parent wants to take a bite out of their kids’ hunger by offering up a nice, hearty granola bar. They’re small, portable and easy to toss in a backpack or keep in your car for when you’re stuck in traffic. But just because the right bar is perfect for almost any occasion doesn’t mean any bar is perfect for you.

Many of these bite-sized snacks are packed with more sugar than a donut and are so low in fibre and protein  they don’t stand a chance against your growling stomach.

So when faced with an ever-growing assortment of granola bars, how do you pick a smart snack over a chocolate bar in disguise?

By Alyssa Grams 09 Aug, 2017

Protein is a source of endless debate. Some bodybuilders say if you’re trying to bulk up, it should be the bulk of everything you eat. Others say the power of protein is overestimated. How did we get so mixed up about a few amino acids?

The fact is, it’s an essential nutrient that keeps your body functioning well by building and repairing muscle, hormones and enzymes, as well as your skin, nails and hair. But obviously there’s some confusion so I offer this to you: a protein primer.

By Alyssa Grams 01 Aug, 2017
Article by Robyn Braun, PhD
By Alyssa Grams 25 Jul, 2017

One of the first projects funded by the Alberta Diabetes Foundation when it was founded in 1988 was the clinical research of Dr. Ray Rajotte, which it funded for 12 years. Dr. Rajotte pioneered the first-ever islet cell transplant, which was the biggest breakthrough in diabetes research since the discovery of insulin. That work, plus an expanded islet cell transplant team and the addition of anti-rejection protocol, ended up becoming the international standard of care for islet cell transplantation.

Since 2000, when the protocol was developed, Alberta Diabetes Foundation has invested in a capital campaign to build the world-class building that now houses the Alberta Diabetes Institute. Since then, the Foundation has endeavoured to continue to invest in world-class research for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes right here in Alberta.

Alberta Diabetes Foundation works in tandem with the best-in-class Alberta Diabetes Institute to allocate funding where and when it is needed most, ensuring that important diabetes research and projects do not become stalled. The Alberta Diabetes Foundation is able to fund projects, even at early stages, often filling in gaps left by traditional granting organizations. The researchers in Alberta are confident that a world without diabetes is possible and, today they are doing more than providing sustainable solutions to treating diabetes -- our researchers are on their way to a cure.

By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Article compiled by Breanna Mroczek  with information from Dr. Mathew Estey, Clinical Chemist and Co-Director of Chemistry at DynaLIFE Medical Labs, and Dr. Christopher Naugler, Calgary Zone Clinical Department Head, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medical Director
By Alyssa Grams 19 Jul, 2017
Post by Erika Brown
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