Artificial Sweeteners and Other Food Substitutes: Dangerous to Your Health?

Dr. Oz examines the risks linked to artificial sweeteners and other food substitutes. Bottom line: They’re not always the healthier option.

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Naturally Sweet Alternatives

Instead of artificial sweeteners, try one of these natural alternatives.

  • Honey: Unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals.
  • Raw Buckwheat Honey: This darker version of honey is much less processed and refined that light-colored regular honey. It isn’t strained or heated, so it retains many disease-fighting nutrients and antioxidants. Try about 1 tablespoon a day.
  • Agave: A distilled sweetener derived from the blue agave cactus, agave has a low glycemic index.
  • Stevia: This non-caloric sweetener comes from a plant and is all-natural. However, beware: There are a ton of stevia products sold with extra additives as some companies blend it with other sweeteners.

Other Popular Food Substitutes

Here’s the rundown on four other popular food substitutes.

Butter vs. Margarine
Unlike butter, margarine is made of vegetable oil and contains zero cholesterol. But not all margarines are equal, and some are worse for you than butter.  As a rule of thumb, avoid more solid margarines; they often contain trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease.

As an alternative to butter and margarine, choose olive oil, one of Dr. Oz’s anti-aging superfoods.

“Homemade” Oil Spray vs. Non-Stick Spray
Non-stick sprays made from different oils come in pressurized containers, so you’re not just getting oil but added chemicals. Make your own by filling a spray pump bottle with olive, walnut or other healthy, monounsaturated oils.

Fat vs. Olestra
Olestra is a fat substitute found in snack items like potato chips. Although it takes the fat out of foods, it can also cause extreme GI side effects like gas, cramping and even anal leakage. The next time you’re craving a crunchy snack, try a handful of almonds or walnuts, loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Table Salt vs. Potassium Chloride

People with high blood pressure often reach for salt substitutes. Many contain potassium chloride, which can be harmful, especially for people with kidney disease. To reduce your sodium intake, try sprinkling dry or fresh herbs on foods for added flavor.