The Sweet ‘N Down Low on Artificial Sweeteners

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I think we can all agree at this point that our society’s obsession with processed food — and the sugar load often used to sweeten and preserve such foods – is out of control.  We know that refined sugar is bad for us, leading to increased rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, along with a reduced quality of life.  So why are we continuing to consume an obscene amount of sugar per person per year?

Part of the problem may be that we don’t recognize all the aliases sugar goes by in our convenience foods, including “dehydrated (or evaporated) cane juice,” “dextrin,” “treacle,” “fruit juice concentrate,” and pretty much anything that ends in -ose (fructose, lactose, maltose, glucose).  Further, just because some forms of sweeteners are natural, such as fruit juice, doesn’t mean your blood sugar won’t go whacky.  We should all assume sugar is lurking in most packaged foods and drinks we consume, but this still doesn’t solve our problem.

I enjoyed a cherry vanilla creme soda sweetened with Stevia the other day, purchased from the health section at my local grocery store. Zero grams of sugar, zero carbs, and delicious. Of course I could not just be in the moment. I started wondering a) what the heck Stevia is, b) if it had bizarre long-term side effects, and c) if there were any truly safe artificial sweeteners on the market.

Humans just love sugary foods; few of us want to go all paleo and only eat the occasional seasonal berry for dessert.  Because we love sweets so very much, a panacea has been offered to us in the form of artificial sweeteners.  But are these little packets too good to be true –are they the answer to having our coke and drinking it too? Let’s take a look.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal): This bad boy overtook saccharin in the 1990s, and I am sure I ingested obscene amounts of it in the form of frozen yogurt and diet coke. The nasty thing about aspartame is that it can actually morph into formaldehyde (yes, that is what’s used to preserve corpses) at certain temperatures, and is also a carcinogen –something that may cause cancer.  I would choose actual sugar over aspartame every time. Yikes!

Splenda:  Created in a lab by using chlorine, acetic acid, and methanol. Need I say more? We don’t know the long-term effects of consuming Splenda, but why risk it?

Sweet ‘N Low (Saccharin): Because saccharin is not digested by the body but passes straight through, it doesn’t affect blood sugar, but it does cause bladder cancer in rats. So. Not. Cool. No thank you.

Stevia / Truvia: Derived from the leaves of the Stevia plant, this sweetener is primarily used in drinks or for baking, and is the only sweetener to actually show a few potential health benefits, including increased energy (yes please) and improved digestion. Stevia is the most natural sugar substitute on the market, but it’s also the most recent, so long-term effects are unknown. However, the Japanese have been using Stevia for decades, and as you have perhaps heard, they are some of the healthiest folks on the planet. I’ll still be enjoying my occasional serving of Stevia, though not by the cupful.

Xylitol: The birch tree produces this sweet sugar substitute, which is comforting, right?  Xylitol is often used in sugar-free gum as it actually helps teeth stay healthy. Xylitol can be used just like sugar for baking and sweetening drinks and has a great track record; no real negatives have been recorded, at least for humans.  Unfortunately, Xylitol –even in small doses — can kill Fluffy or Fido, which doesn’t exactly inspire my utmost confidence.

The best approach, in my opinion, is to use Stevia sparingly and avoid the rest of these sweeteners as much as possible.  When I need my sweet fix –and Honey you know I do! — I’m trying to use the truly natural sweeteners (molasses, maple syrup, fruit, even raw honey) instead of chemically engineered wonderfoods.

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4 responses »

  1. This is the right website for anybody who wishes to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that has been discussed for years. Great stuff, just wonderful!

  2. Pingback: 15 Blogs Showing the Pros and Cons of Consuming Artificial Sweetener | Blog | Kenney Myers

  3. I almost never leave a response, but i did some searching and wound up
    here The Sweet N Down Low on Artificial Sweeteners | Vegan Made Easy.
    And I actually do have 2 questions for you if you do not mind.
    Could it be simply me or does it give the impression like a
    few of the remarks come across as if they are written by brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are writing on additional social
    sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of all your community pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    • Hello!
      I’m sorry I haven’t replied sooner to your comment. I’m not writing on any other social sites right now, but you can follow my blog and receive an email link whenever I publish an entry. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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