6 Foods You'd Never Guess Contain Artificial Sweeteners
National consumption of artificial sweeteners by adults has soared 54 percent between 1999 and 2012, and is expected to continue to climb, according to a report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But it’s not just diet soda lovers downing the stuff. Roughly three-quarters of packaged foods and drinks in the U.S. now contain some kind of added sweetener, researchers from George Washington University found earlier this year.
And while the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that nutritive and nonnutritive sweeteners can be safe when consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet, there is also a lot of troubling research connecting the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas and other foods to increased cravings, belly fat, and even a change in how we taste food.
Annoyingly, labels aren’t always clear—did you know Reb A or rebiana is another name for stevia extract? Or that “naturally sweetened” foods can still contain man-made sweeteners? Probably not—which means you could be eating the stuff without even realizing it. We asked nutrition pros to identify a few common culprits.
We already know that ketchup can be a sneaky source of high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars. But it also can sneak in the artificial stuff. "Some brands try to cut calories and sugar by subbing in sucralose," says Jessica Jones, R.D., co-creator of Food Heaven Made Easy and author of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot.
Even if you're on-board with carbs, it can be super tricky to find a healthy bread. "Some loaves—along with English muffins and other baked goods—add sucralose," says Jones. So read over the whole label carefully.
Check out that label, especially when it comes to low-fat bottled dressings. "Ingredients to look out for include Aspartame (Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) Acesulfame, and sugar alcohols like Xylitol, Sorbitol," says Jones. Try making your own salad dressing from scratch instead to avoid those suspicious add-ins.
Wait, but Greek yogurt is so healthy! Not always. "There's a new trend where products combine regular sugars (cane, fructose) with sugar subs," says Maureen Callahan, R.D. "Since the regular sugars tend to be higher on the ingredient list, you might not even notice the artificial sweetener near the end of the list."
GRANOLA AND OTHER CEREALS
"It’s not uncommon for boxes to be sweetened with sucralose, acesulfame K, and even monk-fruit extract," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N. "Newer, so-called 'natural' sugar substitutes may not be made in a lab but they’re less regulated too, so be careful."
SUGAR-FREE CHEWING GUM
"Okay, it’s not technically a food but your sugar-free stick may contain Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that can cause bloating and gas. Chew at your own risk," says Lisa Mikus, R.D.