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Artificial Sweeteners Friend or Foe?

It was a fun night here at Digestive Disease Center. Our monthly weight loss support Group was in full swing doing cardio workout and learning about the downfalls of artificial sweeteners. Are artificial sweeteners the evil empire that everyone thinks? Do they contribute to inflammation and obesity? This class helped to shed light on some of these questions.
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that come from naturally occurring substances. These can be found in baked goods, soft drinks, candies, gums as well as jams and jellies. There are many common names including sucralose and aspartame.
These products have been used in recent years for blood glucose control as well as weight loss management. Are they the super product we all think? After careful review of two cookies one sugar free and one regular, although sugar content was lower in our sugar free cookie its counterpart was equal in carbohydrate content.
Is choosing the sugar free option the better products? Well if you are a person who is watching your carbs the regular cookie would not be much different, but would it satisfy your cravings? We sometimes get caught up on the newest craze, and sometimes labels such as sugar free can lead us to believe that they are healthier more nutritious options. There maybe less calories or sugar in these items, but they do not provide us with any more nutritional values. In fact if we really wanted to make a healthier decision why not fruit, or frozen grapes, or all natural ice pops. These items would at least back a nutritional punch.
Moderation is always key! If we were to eat sugar cookies daily, we would not be any healthier and our waists would not be smaller. If we were to consume two cookies once a week that are not sugar free we would be eating less chemical and our cravings satisfied. We would be teaching ourselves that 8 cookies a day is ok.
As for these sweeteners causing inflammation, and obesity the jury is still out, but sometimes have shown a correlation. When deciding between artificial and regular or natural sweeteners always be aware that sugar free does not mean calories free or carb free. They can pack on the pounds just as easily as other items can.

Skillet Apple Crisp

crumble topping:
¼ cup walnuts
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon earth balance butter (or regular butter) or hardened coconut oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon salt

for the apples:
½ teaspoon butter (vegan earth balance) or coconut oil
1 apple, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon maple syrup
vegan coconut ice cream, for serving (I love this one)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Make your crumble topping by crushing the crumble ingredients together. I placed everything into a plastic bag and used a wooden kitchen mallet to crush. Then I used my hands (from the outside of the bag) to distribute any excess clumps of butter. Don’t over mix, stop when it’s a coarse crumble. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in a small skillet, add apples, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Stir to coat and continue cooking for a few minutes until the apples just begin to soften.
4. Top the apples with the crumble mixture (as much as you want) and place the skillet in the oven for 8-12 minutes, until the apples are tender and the crumble topping is lightly toasted.

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