I’m always amazed when friends or family ask for Sweet ‘n Low or Splenda, and they are always amazed when I say I don’t have any! I’ve never used artificial sweeteners and have always been leery of them.
The American diet is inundated with sugar – in cereals, crackers, cookies and hidden away in other processed foods. It’s in fruit juices, sodas, flavored water, energy drinks and diet drinks. It’s an additive for coffee and tea and used in baking and cooking. Our bodies need sugar as a source of energy, but when natural sugar is refined or overused, it upsets the natural balance and loses its benefits. Sugar is definitely overused and its overuse results in all sorts of problems, including diabetes, weight gain, a compromised immune system and depression, to name a few. Artificial sugars aren’t sugar, but you still get the sweet flavor without the calories! Perfect, right? For those with diabetes, yes, but for the rest of us? Not really.
|Brown Sugar – chemically processed||1 tsp||15|
|Cane Sugar – chemically processed||1 tsp||15|
|White Sugar – chemically processed||1 tsp||15|
|Raw Organic Agave||1 Tbs||60|
|Sweet N Low||1 packet||0|
Two main artificial sugars are saccharin (Sweet N’ Low) and aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal and Sugar Twin). Both are approved by the FDA, but they have no nutritional value and studies show that there are possible cancer links as well as allergic reactions. Aspartame, which is found in more than 6000 products, is even more controversial than saccharin. It has been associated with headaches, dizziness, change in mood, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures/convulsions, memory loss, fatigue and even weight gain. In addition, there are links to fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, tinnitus, joint pain, anxiety attacks, blurred vision, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, unexplainable depression, slurred speech, and various cancers. Scary!
Saccharin was first produced in 1878 by a chemist working on coal tar derivatives; today it’s manufactured with chlorine and ammonia. Aspartame was discovered in 1965 by a chemist working for G.D.Searle and Company, and is composed of three main compounds – aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol (wood alcohol), all of which can be dangerous. As Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, says, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” I know that the FDA says they are safe, but I’d rather err on the side of caution and sparingly use natural, unrefined sugars. That means avoiding products labeled as “low calorie”, “diet”, “sugar free” or “no sugar added” too! Saving only 10 calories or so just doesn’t seem like a good risk to me.