To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten??

February 3, 2011


Yes, I admit I use sweeteners in my coffee, tea, yogurt…it’s true. If you’re a sweetener user like me, you’ve probably noticed that whenever you pull out that little yellow/pink/blue packet everyone is giving you that look of shame! Okay so what’s the deal with sweeteners!?  I figured in order for me to minimize these looks across the table, I should probably be using the most healthiest and natural one of all!!  Yeah, it’s not that easy.

So there I was in the middle of my dilemma, sitting on the couch watching tv, when just my luck thedoctors tv show was doing a segment on sweeteners! After watching the show and doing a little research my self, I came up with some answers- that you might want to know about!

First off, lets talk about the facts in bold! Artificial sweeteners are EVERY WHERE! Do you buy low calorie, low in fat, “sugar free” products… even chewing gum and tooth paste!!? Well then you’re most likely ingesting these wonderful powders/liquids we call sweeteners. Though don’t get me wrong! There are some amazing natural sweeteners that do the trick just fine… but are the artificial ones as bad as we think they are? Lets find out!

So many of us want to lower the amount of sugars we use in our diet, and lower the amount of calories that we ingest. But are sweeteners the right alternative? Are they unsafe? Do they cause cancer? So many are confused about the right answers. No doubt about it, millions of north americans love their sweeteners!

The Doctor’s health investigator Lisa Vaccariello decided she wanted to find out the answers too!  She decided to visit a laboratory that specialized in food chemistry. She found out something we already know- artificial sweeteners are made with nothing natural at all!  Rather they are combinations of methanol, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and amino acids. So then why are 8 our of 10 Americans still using sweeteners and contributing to this 1.2 Billion dollar/year business?

You might recall all the talk about sweeteners causing an increased risk of lymphoma and leukemia? These facts actually came form an Italian study  conducted 5 years ago using 1800 rats. Dr. Joseph Mercola the best selling author of “Sweet Deception” says that aspartame is by far the most dangerous ones of them all. But when we look at the actual amounts that these rats ingested, they were far more then anyone could/would ingest in one day. Would you believe me, if I told you that you would actually have to consume more then 1000 packets in a day! Other specialist also say that the results that were seen in these rats don’t actually fit the chemical mechanism that were seen in humans- when it comes to saffron the cancer causing mechanism.

Leading us to believe, that the normal amounts that we consume are safe according to the American Dietetic Association. So if there are no links to cancer, can we go ahead and use them now? Hmm… but wait! What about all the talk about sweeteners actually causing you to gain weight, rather then loose it! Well actually, when you ingest sweeteners you fool the brain that you’re giving the body something sweet, however there is no ounce of sugar involved! Therefore the brain sends signals to the stomach saying that there is no food, “I’m hungry”. Something to think about!

What about our new natural friends that are becoming more popular? My two personal favorite Stevia and Agave!

Stevia, a natural herb grown in Paraguay and Brazil, has been used for centuries in South America, grown for its sweet leaves.  As a sugar substitute, zero calorie, zero carbohydrate and the fact that it’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration then that of sugar… I’d say we’ve found us a winner! Okay, and it only gets better from there… Native Americans in Paraguay have safely used stevia for hundreds of years, not only for its delicious taste but also for its medicinal health properties!! Wow!

So what about Agave Nectar? Agave sweetener is derived from the plant known as the agave plant .  It’s juice is pressed from the fore of the plant and the core of the pant and the complex carbohydrates known as fructosans, which are then broken down to fructose, which gives the syrup its sweetness. Despite having a lower glycemic  index than sugar, agave nectar is not calories free therefore shouldn’t be used too much if you are controlling your weight.

The bold facts between these two natural sweeteners? The agave sweetener is probably a better choice than sugar or honey, but if you’re trying to watch your weight, Stevia might be the better choice because of its calorie free content.

So there you have it! Which little packet will you be reaching for next time at the table?   Now you have a little more information to back you up if anyone dares to give you a nasty look for following your sweet tooth.