The arrival of a new year often brings resolutions, intentions, and dreams of letting go of bad habits and adopting new and healthy habits. What’s on your list? If letting go of artificial sweeteners isn’t, I suggest you make it a priority.
People seeking a divorce from sugar often switch to low-calorie artificial sweeteners with good intentions of being kinder to their body. The unfortunate part about this is that these chemical concoctions pose some serious health threats of their own.
Researchers call aspartame the most dangerous of all sugar substitutes. It is also the most common and most consumed artificial sweetener in the United States. Aspartame is found in soda, candy, and other processed foods. Introduced in the 1970s as a “safe” alternative to sugar, aspartame has been linked to numerous health problems.
This toxic sweetener was also discovered accidentally by a chemist working for a drug company, specifically G.D. Searle and Company. This company later became known as Pfizer. Aspartame’s original use was as an anti-ulcer drug, but once it was discovered how sweet the substance was, it was switched immediately from a drug to a food.
Aspartame (Equal® or NutraSweet®) is a popular sweetener. Over 900 studies reveal a wide range of side-effects causing fatigue, depression, tremors, memory loss, migraines, joint pain, hives, hallucination, confusion, and dizziness.
There are also reports of adverse reactions causing death. The amazing thing about aspartame is that it actually encourages the body to hang on to fat and reduces serotonin levels, which elevate food cravings. In 2008, aspartame was found in over 6,000 products including soda, chewing gum, pudding, and yogurt.
According to the FDA, who claim that aspartame is safe, over 85 percent of all complaints received are related to aspartame. Let’s take a look at what the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network Fact Sheet has to say about the cumulative side-effects that have been reported:
“Headaches, nausea, vertigo, insomnia, numbness, blurred vision, blindness and other eye problems, memory loss, slurred speech, depression, personality changes, hyperactivity, stomach disorders, seizures, skin lesions, rashes, anxiety attacks, muscle cramping and joint pain, loss of energy, symptoms mimicking heart attacks, hearing loss and ear ringing, and loss or change of taste.”
Artificial sweeteners are not new
Artificial sweeteners are not new kids on the block. Remember Tab, that soda that was made by Coca-Cola Company? Although the commercial for this product told us it was a beautiful thing for beautiful people with just one calorie, sales quickly plummeted when it was discovered that the soda contained sodium saccharin, a controversial coal tar derivative.
The main ingredient in this sulfa-based sweetener is benzoic sulfimide. Persons with sulfa allergies may experience nausea, diarrhea or other allergy-related symptoms. Although early animal studies linked saccharin (sold as Sweet’N Low) with bladder cancer, the FDA removed mandatory health warnings in 2000.
Recent studies show that saccharin may cause changes in gut bacteria. Changes in gut bacteria have been linked to a number of conditions including; increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. Research continues to examine the connection between saccharin and other conditions such as lupus, depression, ADHD and seizures.
Safe and tasty alternatives to artificial sweeteners
If you are looking for a truly natural alternative to sugar and alternative sweeteners, check out the following three options. The key to remember is to check the label carefully when purchasing, even if it is organic. If it contains additives that you cannot pronounce, chances are they have no place in your body.
Whole leaf stevia
Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), in its pure leaf form, is an amazing plant. It is native to South America and has been used for hundreds of years to sweeten foods and beverages, as well as to aid in digestive distress and lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Although the leaves of the stevia plant are 30-40 times sweeter than sugar, they do not raise blood sugar levels.
To use, simply crush whole, dried, organic leaves and add to your favorite teas, desserts and more. You may also choose to grow your own stevia plants in a garden or window box. When the leaves are mature, all you have to do is pick the leaves, dry and enjoy.
Raw honey is nutrient-rich, sweet and delicious. It contains B-vitamins, vitamin C, and a host of minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It also has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and promotes healthy gut bacteria. We recommend Manuka honey, which hails from New Zealand and Australia, and has been linked to enhanced disease-fighting properties. However, do not feed raw honey to children under the age of one.
Monk fruit is native to southern China and has been used as a natural sweetener in that region of the world for thousands of years and has also been used to treat obesity and diabetes. It is also known by other names, including Buddha fruit and longevity fruit. It is approximately 300 times sweeter than cane or beet sugar.
Monk fruit contains edible pulp which is often dried. It is sweet and can also be eaten fresh. The rind is used to make a tea. The carbohydrates from monk fruit are largely glucose and fructose. The fruit is small, round berries and is sometimes mistaken for mangosteen.
No negative side effects are known in relation to monk fruit. It is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe food product, and there are no restrictions on using the fruit or its extracts.
Research suggests that monk fruit is high in antioxidants. It may have some positive effects on preventing cancer. It has also been shown to reduce the effects of Epstein-Barr virus.
Great options instead of diet soda
If you crave the taste of a diet soda, try making a delicious, healthy drink yourself.
Hibiscus Ginger Ale
If you happen to grow hibiscus flowers, you can use the dried flowers to make a lovely flavored tea. When you mix the tea with ginger, you have a tasty and refreshing drink.
- 1/2 cup of organic hibiscus flowers
- 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
- 1/4 cup grated ginger root
- Juice from 1/2 fresh organic lemon
- Pinch of Himalayan salt
- Combine the flowers, ginger root, monk fruit, lemon juice, salt and 1 cup of filtered water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Stir to be sure that all the monk fruit has dissolved.
- Strain all of the syrup into a glass jar; squeeze the solids to get the most flavor.
- Discard the flowers and ginger root.
- To make soda, mix 3 tablespoons of syrup with 8 ounces of carbonated water.
- Store in the fridge and use within a few days for best results.
Tangerine, Cucumber and Mint Infused Water
- 2 organic tangerines, sliced
- 1/2 organic cucumber
- 10-12 mint leaves
- 3 quarts purified or spring water
- Combine all the ingredients together in a pitcher.
- Let it infuse overnight and drink it warm or chilled.