By now, most of us are well-informed on the dangers of eating or drinking too much sugar. Sugar causes tooth decay and weight gain (especially from drinking soda), and has been linked to increased risk of heart disease. It can even lead to hyperactivity and ADHD in children. To reduce sugar intake, many people have started relying on artificial sweeteners, either by drinking diet soda or adding packets of Splenda or Sweet ‘n Low to their daily cup of coffee. Even though it is beneficial to reduce the amount of sugar we consume, replacing refined white sugar with artificial sweeteners can be just as unhealthy.Artificial sweeteners are exactly what the name implies – artificial. Because these sweeteners don’t come from natural sources, a very small amount can produce an intense sweet flavor. Over time, we may not enjoy naturally sweet foods (such as fruit) as much because we’re used to the strong flavor of artificial sweeteners. This means that we’re more likely to consume artificially flavored foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are much more nutritious. In addition to the change in our taste buds, our brains are tricked into thinking that something sweet is low in calories. This is because we know that diet soda is low in calories, but it tastes sweet. Therefore, we crave more sweet treats while thinking that these foods don’t have a lot of calories, although usually the opposite is true. So how do we know whether to choose diet or regular soda, or if we should add white sugar or Splenda to our coffee? If you absolutely need to satisfy your sweet tooth, the best choice is actually to reach for a piece of whole fruit! Fruits contain naturally occurring sugars and are high in fiber, which aids in digestion; different fruits also contain different vitamins and nutrients. If you don’t enjoy coffee without sugar, try adding just a touch of honey or even a dash of cinnamon instead. To get rid of a sweet craving, try brushing your teeth right after eating a meal. Over time, you’ll find that fruit tastes sweeter and you won’t miss sugar or artificial sweeteners!