Artificial sweeteners are commercially produced sugar alternatives that are significantly
sweeter than sugar, and much less can be used, both at home in coffee, tea, and baking,
and in commercial products that include many sugar free items like cookies, diet soft
drinks, yogurt, and even toothpaste. Artificial sweeteners are so sweet that a minute
amount can be used in place of a significant amount of sugar, which reduces calorie
intake because you are consuming a fraction of the calories found in sugar. This is why
artificial sweeteners are preferred by diabetics and people trying to cut calories and lose
weight. Remember that cutting out calories by using calorie free or low calorie sugar
alternatives does not mean you can overboard with high calorie foods.
There has been a lot of controversy over the use of artificial sweeteners since 1879, when
a researcher in a John’s Hopkins lab spilled a coal tar derivative and discovered that
it tasted sweet, which led to the development of saccharin, more commonly known as
Sweet n Low. Acesulfame K, aspartame, known as NutraSweet, Equal, and SugarTwin,
neotame, and sucralose, also known as Splenda, followed suit. Studies claim these un-
natural sweeteners can cause a myriad of health problems, from migraine headaches to
digestive problems, and even cancer in both laboratory rats and people.
Are these sweeteners safe to use? The National Cancer Institute says these artificial
sweeteners are safe to use, as does the FDA, who has given them a GRAS (generally
regarded as safe) label or a food additive label and say both are fine for human
consumption. That does not mean everyone agrees with these two institutions, some
on a personal level, and some on a larger scale with people making the aforementioned
claims that sugar substitutes can cause hair loss, dementia, and everything in between.
Aspartame is not safe to use for people with phenylketonuria (PKU) because it contains
high levels of the amino acid phenylalanine.
Saccharine, Acesulfame K, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose all come from
laboratories. They are not found in nature. They are chemically altered sugar molecules,
at best, to make something super sweet and not digested by the human body so that less
can be used to make sweet high calorie foods into sweet low calorie foods. Saccharine is
made from petroleum, aspartame is made from aspartic acid and phenylalanine combined
with methanol, Acesulfame K is a kind of potassium salt, and sucralose is made when
part of a sugar molecule is removed and three chlorine molecules are used in their place.
Now that you know where artificial sweeteners come from and whether or not it is safe
to use them you can make an educated decision on whether or not to consume them.
Some here and there is fine, but do not go overboard and eat sugar free everything. This
is definitely a case where there can be too much of a good thing.
What’s the Deal with Sugar Alcohols?
Sugar alcohols are neither sugar not alcohol, they only resemble them structurally. They
have two calories per gram as opposed to the four calories per gram of regular sugar.
Sugar alcohols are commonly found in sugar free gum, hard candies, baked goods, ice
cream, jellies and frosting, sugar free protein and snack bars, and even toothpaste and
pharmaceuticals. Because the sugar alcohol is not completely absorbed by the body it can
cause digestive discomfort and consuming large quantities has a laxative effect. Eating
sugar alcohols in large quantities is also not a good idea because even though gram for
gram they have less calories than regular sugar, calories are still calories and they do add
up. The most common sugar alcohols are mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.
Stir Fried Pepper and Snow Pea Salad
2 cups fresh or frozen snow peas
1 red pepper cut into strip
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
1 can baby corn, drained and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
Stir fry pepper, mushrooms, and onion in oil, after five minutes add snow peas, stirring
constantly. When the peas are cooked and the vegetables are crisp tender add soy sauce,
vinegar, sugar, and sesame seeds. Stir well and serve hot, makes six servings.
Add tofu, chicken, or meat and serve over rice or noodles for a complete meal.
Nutrition information: 51.4 calories, 1.183 grams fat, 0.13 grams saturated fat, 189.21mg
sodium, 17.20 grams carbohydrates, 2.577 grams fiber, 4.472 grams sugar, 1.883 grams