Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Artificial Sweeteners - Are They Really THAT Bad?

A good friend of mine and fellow critic of processed foods recently sent me an article about how Splenda may not be considered safe anymore. I found the same information again here. While I'm not at all surprised because of all of the research I've studied over the past several years, I realize many of my readers might still think these types of artificial sweeteners are okay, or maybe okay in moderation. This may sound extreme, but I think you're playing with fire if you think these chemicals are harmless.

Science has already confirmed that the chemicals and process to form the chemicals in many artificial sweeteners are toxic. I know of two people whose neurologists told them when they each complained of recurring headaches was to get off aspartame. They were drinking it in the form of Diet Cokes. Although he's not a scientist, Dr. Oz is a doctor and does his own research. Here is a link to an article that goes through the most popular artificial sweeteners and what they are actually doing to your brain and body. Here's another great one from a doctor who discusses the neurological and behavioral dangers of aspartame. Scary, I know.

We're always looking for the easy way out - we want convenience foods so we don't have to shop and cook. We want to lose weight so we look for artificially-sweetened foods and drinks to eliminate calories. Sure, we get our temporary results, but what is it doing to us long term?

I understand not all of you like to cook. I know not all of you can consume natural sugars, and we shouldn't be doing that much even if we can. But there are choices we can make that will greatly impact our long term health. I can guarantee you that if you choose WHOLE foods over PROCESSED foods (including refined sugars and artificial sweeteners), you are significantly improving your odds of living a long, healthful life free from doctors, meds and a host of ailments.

So what do you do if you need something sweet and you aren't supposed to be consuming artificial sweeteners or refined sugars? What else is there? 

1) Try to wean yourself off of your sweet tooth. It can be done and in less time that you may think. Because of the neurological effects of many artificial sweeteners and the fact that they are inherently sweeter than plain sugar, the more of them you consume, the more you will crave the sweetness of sugar. It's then a snowball effect. All sugars are highly addictive so it will take effort. You can do it though!

Start with a goal each day to reduce your intake and see how long you can go. Within a month, you'll crave sugar less and by the end of the summer, you may not even want those sugary snacks at all. You'll all the sudden be able to taste the natural sweetness in fruits and even veggies you never tasted before!

2) Choose natural sweeteners when needed. Try:

  •  pure maple syrup
  • local honey, agave
  • brown rice syrup 
  • unsweetened dates  
  • molasses
Yes, these are all sugars and are digested similarly, but the are less refined and processed than table sugar and should contain NO artificial ingredients that could cause other side effects.

3) Check the ingredients of everything in your kitchen and in your shopping cart. Artificial sweeteners lurk in all sorts of places. If it says "diet," "sugar free," "low calorie," or "reduced calorie" you can be pretty sure it has artificial sweeteners. Ingredients to avoid are:

  • aspartame
  • acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  • neotame
  • saccharine (Sugar Twin, Sweet'N Low)
  • sucralose (Splenda)
Going natural is ALWAYS better than anything manufactured. Try alternative natural sweeteners and see which you like most and in what recipes. Since the jury is still out on many artificial sweeteners, at least you'll be ahead of the game if they determine more than just Splenda needs a warning label.