Have you heard of Calcium cyclamate, Sugar Alcohol, Sucaryl, Decomalt, Isomaltitol, Maltitol syrup or powder, Hydrogenated Maltose, D-glucitol, Trichlorosucrose or Xylipure?
Do you know what all these things have in common?
How about Xylitol, Sucralose, Sorbitol, Aspartame, Nutrasweet or Splenda?
If you did not guess this, both lists of chemicals are artificial sweeteners commonly used in many processed foods. As more and more people are learning the hidden dangers of artificial sweeteners, the manufacturers are finding new ways to “hide” these products. They do this by coming up with new names (like the first list) that most of us do not readily recognize. I have talked to several friends lately who were eating artificial sweetener while thinking they had eliminated it.
I have to admit, this was quite possibly the hardest area of my diet for me to clean up. I like things sweet. I crave sweets. Lower calorie options of sweet foods seem too good to be true, right? I had mostly kicked this habit quite awhile ago, but still struggled with one vice on occasion – diet pop. I know, I know… soooo bad! I hate drinking my calories. If I want sweet food I can find a way to fit it in on occasion, but sweet drinks? No. My pop habit was not daily, but I would grab it when I wanted caffeine (I don’t like coffee) or sometimes just when I was stressed or frazzled. Several months ago I decided that this was something I wanted to get rid of. Permanently. It has been much harder than I thought, and not so much because I miss it but because the manufacturers hide this stuff! I have chosen to eliminate even the “healthier” sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. If you really feel the need to use sweetener, I do believe these plant based ones are a safer, better option. They are technically not “artificial” sweeteners since they are natural, but I would still classify them as “sugar substitutes.” My personal concern with them lies with the fact that they are newer and we don’t really know the long-term effects. (Remember, at one point saccharin was considered safe!)
So what’s the big deal? Why am I cutting these chemicals out of my life?
They trick your taste buds. Sugar substitutes are hundreds of times more sweet than regular sugar. This makes artificially sweetened products really, really sweet. Next time you go to eat something that is naturally sweet (such as fruit), it will not taste as sweet to you. Arguably you will also begin to crave sweeter foods.
They mess with your hormones, specifically the hormone insulin. When the body tastes sweet food, even if it doesn’t contain sugar, it responds by creating insulin in the same way as if you have just eaten sugar. This leads to blood sugar issues and tends to make you crave more sweets. Vicious cycle, isn’t it?
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to countless health problems such as migraines, change in vision, nausea and vomiting, insomnia/sleep problems, depression, memory loss, seizures and brain cancer. (Still like your sugar free yogurt you are eating for breakfast?)
Artificial sweeteners can wreck your gut. A very well known, popular weight loss chain actually puts the following warning on some of their candy that they sell:
“Excess consumption may have a mild laxative effect.”
What?!! Why are we eating this stuff?
Animal studies have shown increased risk of tumors to be linked to artificial sweeteners. I am not a scientist and realize that animal studies do not always correlate with humans. However, according to an interesting article in the Boston Globe, “The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., recommends that people avoid it because three studies conducted in rats and mice found that it increased the risk of lymphoma and leukemia when given to the animals in high doses.” That said, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care to find out if this is true!
Sugar has become public enemy number one in recent years as the obesity epidemic has become a health crisis. I am choosing to go against this. No, I do not think we should be eating large amounts of sugar. I do not drink pop or other sugary drinks, I do not add sugar to anything and tend to stay away from baking sugary things. But when I want something sweet you can be sure I am going for sugar – not one of those chemicals listed above!
So how can we avoid all of these hidden sweeteners? Read your labels! Don’t know what it is or can’t pronounce it? Google it. At the end of the day, food manufacturers do not care about your health even if they are creating a seemingly “healthy” food. They care about the taste, and more than that, their bottom line. Make sure to be your own (and your children’s) advocate in choosing food that will promote good health!
What is your opinion on this? Agree or disagree, I would love to hear from you!