Although they're promoted as solutions to obesity and diabetes, artificial zero-calorie sweeteners actually contribute to these problems, according to Israeli research published in the journal Nature. Through a series of tests with both animals and people, researchers found that artificial sweeteners change the composition of gut bacteria, sometimes in as little as one week, in a way that leads to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Some healthier alternatives:
- Natural, no-calorie sweeteners such as stevia, Erythritol, and monk fruit (lo han). Xylitol is a great low-calorie option.
- Honey is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, and contains antioxidants.
- Coconut sugar contains zinc, potassium, iron, and inulin, a fiber that feeds beneficial gut bacteria.
- Pure maple syrup contains a variety of antioxidants and can provide an energy boost before and after intense exercise.
How can you restore healthy gut bacteria? See "Gut Check."