Dodging Hidden Artificial Sweeteners

Avoiding artificial sweeteners can be trickier than opting for water over diet soda.

Dodging Hidden Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar advertisements in the 1950s, 60s and 70s made claims that make our blood boil: One ad said three teaspoons of sugar contained fewer calories than one medium apple and “supplies quick energy—fast!” As if three teaspoons a day could keep the doctor away.

You know that such candy-coated claims are ridiculous—and dead wrong—so you look for items without added sugar. The result? You’re consuming more artificial sweeteners. One study found that 25 percent of kids and 41 percent of adults in the U.S. consume no- and low-calorie sweeteners—most of them daily. The problem is these additives don’t dodge all of the health risks associated with added-sugar. Artificial sweeteners may cause what researchers refer to as “metabolic derangements,” which promote weight gain and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. But avoiding these health hazards can be trickier than opting for water over diet soda. 

An investigation on the Dr. Oz Show revealed two foods loaded with artificial sweeteners—and they’re items many of you may use in an effort to achieve a healthier diet: whole wheat breads (even 100 percent whole wheat) and salad dressings. The breads are packaged, shelf-stabilized brands and the dressings most often are marketed as light, low-carb and low-calorie. Other surprising foods that may contain artificial sweeteners include English muffins, no-sugar-added canned peaches and bottled iced tea.

Our recommendation: Read labels. Opt for fresh-baked, 100 percent whole grain breads (but ask about ingredients) and make your own dressing with olive oil, lemon/vinegar, a touch of herbs, garlic and/or Dijon. 

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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