Female hand pours sugar in coffee
Credit: Shutterstock

One of the first things we’re recommended to cut back on if we’re trying to adopt a healthier diet is sugar. Excess amounts of sweets increase our risk of diabetes, rob us of natural energy, and give us a cloudy brain. Artificial sweetener may be the first place people turn when they get rid of sugar from their diet, but there’s a hefty amount of recent research showing that it might be just as bad of a choice as plain old white sugar.

From the outside, artificial sweetener seems like a good choice. It’s got virtually no calories and carbs, and it’s supposedly to keep your waist trim.

The truth is, though, that artificial sweetener does some pretty bad things to your body, so you might be better off without it.

When you eat artificial sweetener on the regular, you actually confuse your body’s metabolism. Here’s how: Anytime you eat something that tastes sweet, dopamine is released in your brain, which is why a cookie often feels like a reward for hard work done. But because artificial sweeteners are empty in calories, your body thinks it’s not receiving anything sweet, even though your brain tastes it. That triggers your body into craving even more sweets.

What likely happens next is you continuously reach for more junk food to satisfy your never-ending sweet tooth, and then your body stores fat when it shouldn’t. Which could have all been solved if you had just eaten a healthy sweet snack, like a banana or a piece of dark chocolate.

Artificial sweetener also increases your risk for certain diseases.

All that Splenda increases your risk by 67 percent for Type 2 diabetes, and you could also face higher risk of high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and metabolic syndrome. Of course, tied into all this is the likelihood that you will gain an unhealthy amount of weight if you continue to use artificial sweetener in your diet.

Other unwanted side effects of tossing back artificial sweetener is a shift in taste receptors and a change in the microbiome (the healthy bacteria) in your gut. The former will result in the inability to enjoy many naturally occurring foods, and the latter could reduce your sensitivity to insulin and wreck your digestive health.

All in all, you’re much better off ditching the artificial sweetener and going for whole foods that give you the rush of sweetness. Use honey in your tea (or even your coffee), eat sweet fruits, and reach for healthy desserts that are sweetened with maple syrup rather than processed sugars. You’ll get the taste of sweets that you’re looking for, and your body will be able to process it much faster.