What’s really in that sweetener?

 

Artificial-sweetener
I have a teensy weensy obsession with coffee (as if you didn’t already know that from posts like this one and this one).

I also prefer that my coffee taste like a candy bar, so I tend to load it up with flavored creamers and fake sugar. Naughty. Although I do consider myself a bit of a health nut, I just can’t seem to break this habit and switch to black coffee. Bitter… icky…boring…ugh. Can’t do it.

My little cancer packet of choice has always been Sweet ‘N Low, as it tends to be the sweetest of the many brands in the “fake sugar” category. I wanted to fully understand my addiction, so I did a little research on the various artificial sweeteners and their effects.

  • The artificial sweetener in Sweet ‘N low is saccharine, which is an organic molecule created out of petroleum (whoa) and introduced in the early 20th century. In the ‘70’s, animal studies found that it caused cancer in several organs and a warning was added to the label. This warning has since been removed but the stigma remains that saccharine is not completely safe for consumption.
  • If you’re more of a NutraSweet or Equal fan, your artificial sweetener of choice is Aspartame, which is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid with methanol (2 amino acids). The FDA has done a number of safety evaluations of Aspartame, and reports have come back free and clear. However, other studies have shown that this sweetener may be an “excitotoxin”, like MSG, which can cause brain damage.
  • Splenda, which is made from Sucralose, may seem to be the least offensive of these first 3 little artificial devils. Sucralose is essentially sugar which has been chemically refined so that our bodies are unable to metabolize it. Thus, it’s calorie-free. Sucralose is also 600 (!) times sweeter than regular sugar.
  • Finally, there’s stevia, which is a calorie free, herb-based sweetener. There’s nothing artificial about it, which immediately gives it a vote up in my book. A number of brands have popped up, including Truvia, Pure Via, Sweet Leaf, Steviva, etc. Stevia is safe for diabetics – it will not spike your insulin levels.

 

One tidbit I was already familiar with is the fact that many artificial sweeteners “trick” your body into thinking it’s getting sugar. According to MaximizedLiving.com, fatty tissues can perceive sweetness, and although artificial sweeteners have no calories, they can cause your metabolism to slow. This tricks your brain into eating even more calories, which will then be stored as fat. So that mid-afternoon Diet Coke may not be so harmless after all.

 

The Verdict

Reading up on the various types of artificial sweeteners was a real eye-opener form me. Ideally, we would be able to appreciate our coffee, tea, and baked goods without the aid of sugar or other sweeteners (right!). Unfortunately for many of us, the sweetness is what makes these foods and beverages enjoyable. That tasty morning coffee is one of my favorite reasons to get out of bed in the morning 🙂

For me, it comes down to choosing the lesser of several “evils”. Given the many studies that have pronounced saccharine and aspartame unsafe, I decided to switch my daily sweetener to Stevia (or more specifically, Truvia brand). However, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Many brands contain additives (even Truvia is blended with erythritol – a sugar alcohol). If you’ve just gotta sweeten, pure Stevia would be ideal, along with other natural, unprocessed sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. I do feel better knowing that the first thing I put in my body every morning is not chemically processed. See ya later, Sweet ‘N Low.

 

What’s your favorite sweetener? 

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Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “What’s really in that sweetener?

  1. Stu

    Sis-in-law: as someone who drinks his coffee black, maybe try one of the higher-end places in the metro (Peace, Dogwood, Kopplin’s). They really bring out the flavor of plain old black coffee, and that might help you make the switch.

  2. Ashley

    Thanks Stu. I notice that when I’m drinking a very high quality brew, I naturally tend to add less creamer and sweetener. Not quite ready to go to the dark side yet though 🙂

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