We all know by now that too much white sugar and white carbohydrate products like breads and pastas could be harmful to our health. They could lead to weight gain, sugar cravings, energy ups and downs, inflammation and diabetes.
We all love a little something sweet, so what to do? The good news is you can still enjoy “sweetness” in your diet while being healthy. However, it is important to know the potentially harmful effects artificial sweeteners may have on the body.
Artificial sweeteners are in fact, artificial. They were made in a chemical lab. Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by accident. A researcher at Johns Hopkins had been working in the lab one day, coming up with new and interesting uses for coal. He went home and forgot to wash his hands before dinner. As he was eating a roll, he noticed it was particularly sweet. Then he noticed the sweet taste was coming from the residue chemicals on his hands. Saccharin became popular after World War I when there was a shortage of sugar. Aspartame was later created in the 1960s by accident during research to develop an ulcer drug.
Splenda, or sucralose, is the newer artificial sweetener on the market. It is made by replacing three hydroxide molecules with three chlorine atoms. Yes, it starts out as being “made from sugar,” as the advertisements so cleverly state. However, by the end of the chemical process, it no longer resembles sugar. In fact, its chemical structure resembles DDT, a very poisonous pesticide that has been banned.
Sucralose is a chlorocarbon — a chlorinated sweetener. Chlorine is not something you want to ingest! Chlorocarbons are not compatible with normal metabolic functioning. Chlorocarbons may cause cancer, birth defects, immune system destruction, and are harmful to the liver.
So how were these artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA? Good question. They are cheap additives that can be added to many processed foods. Plus, there is a lot of money involved in the food industry and sometimes a product can get approved because of the profitability factor.
Here are the possible side effects of the three main artificial sweeteners:
1. Saccharin could cause nausea, diarrhea, skin problems and other allergy-related issues. It may also be linked to certain cancers.
2. Aspartame could cause mood disorders, memory problems and other neurological illnesses. In some studies, formaldehyde has been found in the livers, kidneys and brains of test subjects.
3. Sucralose could cause head and muscle aches, be related to multiple sclerosis, stomach cramps, bladder issues, skin irritation, dizziness and inflammation.
If that isn’t enough, artificial sweeteners in general can cause blood sugar levels to jump up and down like a roller coaster. Yes, there are technically no calories, but the body can react the same way as if there were. However, the body quickly realizes it is not getting any nutrition it can use, so it can make a person crave sweets amd simple carbs and increase hunger so they’ll want to snack more. Now you can see why people are switching to natural sweeteners!
Some excellent natural sweeteners to try are stevia, raw honey, xylitol, brown rice syrup and even molasses. There is also one called agave nectar, which could be a good choice. Agave nectar looks like honey and comes from a cactus. However, there are some studies that show it may not be as good for us as we think because it is processed through the liver, which could trigger lipogenesis (aka, the body produces more fat.) So, let’s stick with the few that are better for you.
1. Stevia: The favorite. Stevia actually comes from an herb — the stevia plant. It is about 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you only need a small amount. It comes in powder form and droplets. Some brands have a slight aftertaste, so you may have to find the one that works best for you. Stevia keeps the blood sugar stable, unlike artificial sweeteners.
2. Raw Honey: Raw honey contains more B vitamins and other nutrients compared to regular honey. It comes in a jar and is very thick — you need to scoop it out with a spoon or a knife. Since it has so many nutrients and lots of fiber, it breaks down slowly in the body and does not cause blood sugar spikes. Need more energy? Use raw honey — those B vitamins are a natural energy boost!
3. Xylitol: Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, but has fewer calories and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. It is considered a “sugar alcohol.” Xylitol can be found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables, so it is considered natural. It has a similar sweetness to regular sugar, but contains 40 percent fewer calories. It also has negligible effects on blood sugar and insulin. Some studies also show that xylitol is helpful for dental health.
4. Brown Rice Syrup: This thick sweetener is low -glycemic, has a mildly sweet taste and is a great replacement for sugar and artificial sweeteners.
5. Black Strap Molasses: You may have heard of this natural sweetener from your mother or grandmother, and that’s because it’s so good for you! It contains 15 percent of the daily iron requirement and is very high in vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants.
Now that you know more about artificial sweeteners and natural choices you can be confident in what you choose when you are out to eat or at the grocery store. Also, be sure to read the ingredients on every packaged food you buy — even look at your toothpaste, mouthwash and sugar-free gum.
Sometimes those sneaky artificial sweeteners are listed at the bottom of the ingredient list. Be smart when shopping and read those labels! Your health will thank you.