Natural Sweeteners vs. Artificial Sweeteners
Think Sweet! Will you use natural sweeteners - or artificial? Know the facts about each and make the best decision for you and your family.
Everyone likes to add a bit of sweetness to their diet, but how much do we really know about the natural and artificial sweeteners we eat? How bad are artificial sweeteners, really? And if they're all that bad for us, what natural sweeteners can replace them?
If you listen to the manufacturers of chemically produced artificial sweeteners, you'll hear there's no evidence that they're unsafe.
Critics cite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, saying natural substances are best for our bodies. They say we are being used as human guinea pigs, encouraged to consume possibly unsafe products that will not be proven unsafe until after we fall victim to cancer, brain damage, or other disease.
Here you'll find a list of sweetness sources, starting with artificial sweeteners, then natural sweeteners. You'll find in the natural section I start with some highly-processed sweeteners derived from plants but chemically treated. Toward the bottom of the page you'll find some of the best natural sources of sweetness.
Artificial sweeteners contain methanol...
...which can become formaldehyde.
Methanol and formaldehyde in your food... doesn't sound very appetizing, does it?
This is a quote from a news article that ran on July 11, 2010 in the Daily Mail:
"It is rare for a mother-to-be to give birth before 37 weeks of a normal pregnancy.
But the EU research suggests this low risk was increased by 38 per cent if the woman was drinking, on average, one can of diet drink a day.
Routinely drinking four or more cans a day could increase the risk by as much as 78 per cent.
However, the researchers said in a report in the journal of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition that there was no link associated with sugar-sweetened drinks.
They suggested that exposure to methanol, which is in some artificial sweeteners, may play a part in bringing forward the birth.
Critics of the sweeteners say methanol is a known nerve toxin, which can form formic acid in the body.
It can also lead to formaldehyde, the chemical used to preserve dead bodies. Historically, saccharine has also been identified as accumulating in the placenta.
Source: Do sweeteners bring on early birth? How fizzy drinks can harm an unborn child by Sean Poulter, published July 10, 2010 in the Daily Mail.
Get off the sugar roller coaster - In less than a month you can train yourself not to crave carbs!
I recently did this... I eliminated sugars from my diet. This book helps you escape from the devastation sugar is inflicting on your body.
...banned in the USA.
The use of cyclamate in artificial sweeteners was banned in the USA in 1969 because testing associated it with bladder cancer, yet over 55 other countries still allow it to be sold. More recent testing disputes this finding, and a reapproval petition has been filed with the FDA.
The 1960s testing showed that a combination of cyclamate with saccharin caused rats to develop bladder cancer. More recent studies state that cyclamate is not a carcinogen.
Product using cyclamate: Sucaryl
Cyclamate - Wikipedia page
...banned in Canada and some other countries.
Saccharin is the common name for benzoic sulfinide, a sweet substance providing no nutritive value. Saccharin was discovered in 1879 by chemist Constantin Fahlberg, while researching coal tar derivitives at Johns Hopkins University. It became popular during World War I sugar shortages.
In the 1970s studies associated saccharin with bladder cancer in rats. It was banned in Canada in 1977. In the USA, a warning label was added to packaging.
In 2001 the requirement of a warning label was lifted after a study showed that rats develop bladder cancer from saccharin due to a function not relevant to human beings as our urine composition is different.
Product using saccharin: Sweet 'n Low
Saccharin - Wikipedia page
Sucralose is chlorinated sugar and is about 600 times sweeter than sugar. It is made by replacing three hydroxyl groups with three chlorine atoms. It has no nutritive value and is eliminated from the body in the same form in which it was ingested.
Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener that maintains its sweetness when heated, so it can be used in baking.
Sucralose is an organochloride and may be carcinogenic, though not all organochlorides are. It is thought that sucralose may not be carcinogenic because it doesn't break down, dechlorinate, or accumulate in fat cells as some other organochlorides do.
Product using sucralose: Splenda
Sucralose - Wikipedia page
Sorbitol / Glucitol
Said to have numerous side effects.
Another name for sorbitol is glucitol. It is a sugar alcohol used in sugar-free candies and other diet foods. It is found naturally in some fruits and berries, but normally is created through chemical processing.
Though sorbitol has some nutrient value, it also is known for numerous side effects including abdominal pain and intestinal difficulties, so products containing sorbitol should be used in moderation. This sweetener is not well-absorbed.
Sorbitol - Wikipedia page
Aspartame - Approved by Searle former-CEO Donald Rumsfeld.
James M. Schlatter accidentally discovered aspartame in 1965 while researching anti-ulcer formulations for G.D. Searle & Company. It has become one of the most controversial artificial sweeteners due to its connotations with side effects such as headaches, brain tumors, brain lesions, and lymphoma.
Products using aspartame: Equal, NutraSweet, and Canderel.
Wikipedia page about aspartame.
- Sweet Poison
Sweet Poison is the site of Janet Hull, who almost died from aspartame poisoning in 1991.
- NutraSweet, Aspartame, Equal
The site says: "The FDA has received more complaints about adverse reactions to aspartame than any other food ingredient in the agency's history." Learn more here.
- The Aspartame Controversy
Wikipedia page about the aspartame controversy.
Find out what aspertame is - ...plus other food secrets that might startle you!
Sugar... - ...or organic cane sugar (a viable option).
Originally people chewed on sugar cane to enjoy a sweet treat. Then a method of crystallizing sugar was developed in India around 350AD. Sugar became a political hot-topic during the European settlement of America because sugar cane grew well on Caribbean islands. Because labor was needed, slaves were brought in from Africa. We can thank sugar cane plantation owners for starting the slave trade to the New World.
Back then sugar was worth as much as gold and it was considered a luxury. Even today it is a very popular food item, though now almost everyone can afford it. Our sugar supply is made from sugar cane or sugar beets.
A lot of illness is blamed on sugar including weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, gout, and even cancer.
Vegans and vegetarians may shy away from sugar because about 1/4 of the sugar in the USA is refined using bone char instead of activated carbon.
Corn syrup information - Caution... most corn syrup is GMO these days!
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) hasn't been around very long. It was first created in the 1970s and since then has become so popular, the average American consumes more HFCS than sucrose (sugar).
Corn syrup is considered by many to be extremely unhealthy for human consumption, but it is cheap and sweet, so manufacturers of processed foods keep using it.
- Corn Syrup
Wikipedia article about corn syrup.
- The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Not So Sweet for the Planet
Corn syrup - an environmental disaster?
Crystalline fructose - Fruit sugar...
Crystalline fructose isn't the same thing as high-fructose corn syrup. Some people have the two products mixed up. Fructose is found in corn syrup, but corn syrup also contains glucose.
Crystalline fructose is also called fruit sugar. According to the website of the Fructose Information Center, fructose is created by extracting cornstarch from corn kernals which through processing is "enzymatically transformed to fructose."
Crystalline fructose references - Learn more about crystalline fructose.
Wikipedia article about fructose.
- Fructose Information Center
Fructose information from the people who want you to buy some.
- Fructose - Maybe Not So Natural...and Not So Safe
This 1995 article seems to confuse fructose with high-fructose corn syrup, yet contains a lot of information about medical side-effects.
A doctor's comments about medical side-effects of fruit sugar (fructose).
Maple syrup - I use a lot of this...
Maple syrup references - Learn more about maple syrup.
- Maple Syrup
Wikipedia page on Maple syrup.
- Do More With Maple Syrup - Quebec Maple Syrup Producers
Chef Daniel LaGarde inspires us to do more with maple syrup with his Quebec Maple recipes.
100% pure organic maple syrup - Grade B
Agave nectar (also called Agave syrup) is produced in Mexico from several varieties of the Agave plant.
The juice is extracted, then filtered, heated, and concentrated.
Agave contains iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
It is composed of fructose and glucose.
Agave dissolves in cold water and is perfect for sweetening iced tea. It is especially popular with vegans, who use it as a honey replacement.
Rice syrup has become very popular during the last few years. I find rice syrup listed as an ingredient in energy bars like Clif Bars - a healthful alternative to processed cane sugar. I also have no trouble finding it on my local supermarket shelves.
Rice Syrup Links
- Brown Rice Syrups
Brown Rice Syrups are one of the best alternatives to tame the roller coaster ride of your blood-sugar levels while continuing to pamper your sweet tooth.
- Organic Rice Syrup
Rice Syrup is sweet stuff indeed that leaves you with no bitter worries for health because when you pour it over your pancakes remember you are getting the equivalent sweetness of half that amount of white sugar.
- Sweet Savvy: Natural Sweetener Recipes
Debra's Natural Desserts: It's Okay to Eat Sweets
Stevia - South American Herb
It is available in stores as a white powder or as a liquid extract, but whole foods proponents recommend that consumers use green or brown whole-plant extracts and powders. They say the other Stevia products are too refined and lack essential phyto-nutrients. When too concentrated, Stevia can have a bitter aftertaste.
Wikipedia page about Stevia.
- Stevia Information
Information about Stevia, Stevia recipes, Stevia news articles, Stevia Rebaudiana research studies, and Stevia comparisons.
- Life With Stevia: How Sweet It Is!
Nutritional and medicinal uses of Stevia.
- How is Stevia Made?
This article gives a good overview of processing techniques used for all different forms of Stevia.
Pure Stevia - ... tastes "astonishingly good," according to one reviewer on Amazon.
Stevia is a plant native to tropical Central and South America. It is also called sweetleaf and sugarleaf.
Date Sugar - One of my favorite sweeteners, especially in oatmeal.
To make date sugar, simply dehydrate dates, then grind them.
They are nutritious and delicious.
Date sugar is excellent in oatmeal or in any recipe where brown sugar is used.
Date Sugar Recipes
Fruit juice - ...or applesauce!
One last suggestion: fruit juices.
Many juices are useful in baking and for sweetening smoothies and other drinks.
Applesauce is also added to muffins and other baked goods for sweetness.
The Sweetener Poll
What is your favorite sweetener?
- The Truth About Artificial Sweetener
Here's the truth about artificial sweeteners and the side effects they cause.
- Sugar Substitutes
Wikipedia page about sugar substitutes, both natural and artificial.
- HowStuffWorks "Top 10 Most Common Ingredients in Fast Food"
Some of the most common fast food ingredients are citric acid, xanthan gum and caramel color. Learn about the top 10 most common ingredients in fast food.
Let me know what you think...