Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Common artificial sweeteners.

  Sugar is the root of all diet-evils, isn't it? That MUST be the case since all we hear about is sugar-free this, and sugar-free that. We are told to avoid it wherever we can. Then we are shown the high obesity rates, rising cases of heart disease, and high occurrences of diabetes that sugar has caused in Americans.

  But here's the thing: Sugar alone is not the problem. TOO much sugar (and PROCESSED sugar) is the problem!

  So we run from real sugar, to artificial sweeteners. Splenda, saccharin, Equal, Sweet n'Low, aspartame; we've all tried them. And we think they're great. They have little-to-no calories, and they still make things taste great!
No Chemical Policy!
  Only one problem: they're ARTIFICIAL. Meaning, they're chemicals; not naturally occurring. And with these artificial sweeteners, Americans still are more obese than ever. So much for 'sugar-free' being the great diet savior.

   So here's a quick rundown on artificial sweeteners:

  -Aspartame: is the technical name for NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. Aspartame is made of aspartic acid (act as neurotransmitters in the brain), phenylalanine (an amino acid normally found in the brain), and methanol (wood alcohol/poison). These 'ingredients' can cause birth defects, cancer, diabetes, emotional disorders, and seizures. So lets steer clear of Aspartame.

  -Saccharin: is the technical name for Sweet and Low, Sweet Twin, Sweet'N Low, and Necta Sweet. Initially saccharin was tested and shown to cause bladder tumors/cancer in lab rats, so it was required to sport the warning label: "Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals." The FDA since pulled the label when it was shown to cause cancer ONLY in rats. But researchers agree that in sufficient doses, saccharin is carcinogenic in humans as well. The question is, how do you know much saccharin your body can tolerate? That's not something I'm willing to risk, so lets stay away from saccharin too. 

  -Sucralose: also known as Splenda. The most-recent of the artificial sweeteners to hit the market, and has been touted as 'deriving from sugar'. However, it is processed using chlorine, and actually might have more scientifically in common with pesticides than with food. It has a zero calorie claim because once it reaches the gut, it goes largely unrecognized in the body as food. Splenda/sucralose is still too new to fully know it's effects on our bodies, but I think I'll avoid the chlorine. 

  -High Fructose Corn Syrup: also known as HFCS and/or Corn Sugar. Recent studies link HFCS to fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and elevated risk of heart disease (because of increased LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, & a protein called apolipoprotein-B (which can cause plaque buildup in arteries) levels in the blood after consistent consumption). HFCS are metabolized ONLY by the liver (whereas naturally occurring sugar is metabolized by every cell in the body) which could explain the tie to liver and heart diseases. 

Chemicals versus calories.
Diet Soda, Not So 'Diet' After All 
  Before you roll your eyes at me, take one more thing into account: diet soda (which is sweetened with artificial sweeteners, of course) drinkers had a 70 percent increase in waist circumference over a 10-year study (by from the University of Texas Health Science Center), compared with those who didn't drink any soda at all.

  In a separate study conducted on mice, it was suggested that when your liver encounters too much glucose, the excess is converted to body fat. Diet soda: making us fat. Awesome.

  So now that I've ruined all your zero calorie fun, now what?

Real Sugar
  Let's not forget that sugar is naturally occurring in our world. One teaspoon of sugar has 14 calories in it. That's it! And where we get into trouble is having TOO much sugar, remember? Sugar consumption has tripled over the last 50 years.

  So let's forget the Big Gulp from 7-11 (whether it's diet soda, or not), or the Venti Mocha from Starbucks, and the boxed cookies from the grocery store. And let's get back having a well-balanced diet, and have naturally occurring forms of sugar in MODERATION. 

  I know, boring isn't it? But it's reality! If you're concerned about calories, don't resort to chemicals for the quick fix. And of course we're allowed to have treats and desserts! But remember, there's a huge difference between calories and chemicals! We should never be eating chemicals.

A few natural options.
  If you're still hesitant about table sugar (or insulin resistant/diabetic), there are some other natural options as well.

Other Sweeteners
  Raw honey and pure maple syrup, while still containing calories, are not going to harm you.

  There's also Agave (which I have used --but remain cautious about) and various sugar alcohols. They are naturally occurring, but break down more-slowly in the body (having a lower glycemic index).

  Stevia is plant-based, and contains zero calories. I have tried Stevia, but found it to have a very strong aftertaste. I have used it in baking, and thought it worked out okay.

  Finally, you can try organic cane sugar, which is what I currently use.

  Let's be clear, sugar can be cause for harm. But ONLY when we don't pay attention to the QUALITY of the sugar (artificial or not), and the QUANTITY of the sugar. We're all responsible adults here (is that a bad assumption to make?), so let's take control of what we choose to consume.

  It's my choice to never opt for chemicals. We can have REAL sugar in moderation, and then we won't have to worry about the calories, OR the chemicals.


  1. What she said! ^^ :) I am trying Sabrina. If the words on a package start looking like my college Chem text book I back away from the package! But it is hard to avoid. When I can cook for myself this is much easier to do. Still putting up a good fight. I have never liked diet soda and sugary soft drinks are increasingly rare (like hardly ever). Cream and sugar in my coffee is my current vice. What can I say? I am a work in progress! I enjoy your blog. Keep it up!

    1. That's a pretty good policy to have...if you can't pronounce it, probably shouldn't be going in our body! It IS hard to avoid...that's what is the problem. I wish we could get this garbage labeled so we can more-easily identify it at the store (instead of having to get our dictionary and computer out to ID everything).

      I don't think cream and sugar is too bad of a vice to have...could be much worse! ;) Thanks for reading...and we'll get through all the junk!