Some of you may now be wondering about sweeteners such as Splenda®, Nutra Sweet®, or Equal®. Perhaps you’re thinking of switching to these sugar-free alternatives now that I’ve vilified sugar. But, hold on for just a minute. My advice is to stay far (FAR) away from these too. The reasons are many, but I’ll list a few important ones.
Let’s start with Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®). Aspartame is the most widely used sweetener in the world. It has zero calories and tastes 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it breaks down into phenylalanine and aspartic acid (which act as neurotoxins when absorbed too quickly). It also breaks down into methanol (which is wood alcohol found in antifreeze) and is then oxidized into formaldehyde in various tissues. Yes, formaldehyde… you know, the fluid that morticians use for embalming. Yummy.
Studies show aspartame causes migraines, especially in youth (16), but this is just one of the more than 90 reported side effects! It also affects DNA (especially in the mitochondria), damages the structure of the sciatic nerve, (17) causes weight gain, (18) and neurophysiological symptoms such as learning difficulty, seizures, migraines, irritable moods, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. (19)
Aspartame is hard to avoid, though, because it’s found in more than 6000 products–things like “diet” foods, frozen desserts, gelatins, puddings, fillings, nutrition bars, chewing gum, soda, powdered soft drinks, tabletop sweeteners, and yogurt. Even sugar-free pharmaceuticals like cough drops contain aspartame. The only way to avoid it is to read labels and eat real food.
Now let’s talk about Splenda, aka Sucralose. Sucralose is said to be 600 times sweeter than table sugar without the calories. The claim is that sucralose comes from sugar, so it’s a more natural non-calorie sweetener—and yes, it does start from a sugar (sucrose) molecule. But then three chlorine molecules are added to the sugar molecule (yes, chlorine). This changes the chemical structure drastically. In fact, Dr. Mercola says, chemically, “Splenda is actually more similar to DDT than sugar.” (20)
The Architect did not design the temple of the human body to use a “sugar” like this. It is not properly metabolized. This is evident through recent studies which show sucralose consumption leads to increased insulin secretion, elevated glucose levels, reduced glucagon secretion, delayed gastric emptying, altered sweet taste receptors, a 50% reduction in good gut flora, induced DNA damage, and increased risk for weight gain as well as the development of diabetes. (21)
What’s more, cooking with sucralose at high temperatures can generate chloropropanols, a potentially toxic class of compounds. (21)
Plain and simple, it’s advisable to stay far away from saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K, and neotame.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
I would be remiss if I didn’t also talk about another harmful sweetener called high fructose corn syrup. High Fructose Corn Syrup (and “corn syrup”) are synthetic food ingredients. Like other artificial sweeteners, the temple of the body does not know what to do with these or how to digest them. This form of fructose can confuse the brain, affect hunger hormones, and increase appetite. (22)
Research also shows a connection between high fructose corn syrup and disrupted stress hormones, fat accumulation, reduced glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, higher triglycerides, and cholesterol, (23) and increased blood pressure. (24) High doses of free fructose have even been proven to punch holes in the intestinal lining. (25)
What’s more, it’s been reported that nearly half of all tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury. (24) In fact, some estimate it contains up to 570 micrograms of mercury per gram.
Again, if you want to avoid this sweetener (which you should), you’re going to have to be diligent and read labels as you shop.
So now the big question is, what sweeteners ARE safe? My top two recommendations are Stevia and Monk Fruit. Stevia is a very sweet herb (200 times sweeter than sugar) that does not raise blood glucose levels. However, it is part of the ragweed family and can be problematic for those with a ragweed allergy. Also, some powdered forms of Stevia can undergo processing, such as bleaching. They also may have added ingredients such as maltodextrin (from corn), so it is important to choose a reputable brand that is non-GMO verified.
Another, and perhaps even better sweetener, is monk fruit. Monk fruit contains a significant amount of antioxidants to fight free radicals; it is 300-400 times sweeter than sugar but does not have any calories or effect on blood sugar levels. It also acts as an antihistamine and is anti-inflammatory. Monk fruit is also sold in liquid and powder form.
While we are on the subject of fructose, let’s talk about juice for a minute. Many people think that just because it’s labeled FRUIT juice, it’s healthy. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Juices that are mostly made of corn syrup and food dye are to be avoided at all cost, in my opinion. The same goes for juices that are labeled “low sugar,” because they are likely sweetened with sucralose, which we’ve already discussed.
Other juices that list “fruit juice concentrate” as the main ingredient should also be avoided because it is primarily processed fructose. Even some juices made from 100% fruit, have been found to have higher fructose concentrations than those made with high fructose corn syrup. (27)
I’ve already talked about the problems that excess fructose can create in the liver. But it also plays a direct role in the risk for metabolic disease, (27) increased appetite, (28) and the proliferation of cancer cells. (29)
What’s more, fructose cannot be used for energy by cells. It has to be converted into a usable form first, which can take several hours. Many harmful bacteria in the gut can use it for energy, though, causing a bacterial overgrowth (which I will talk about extensively in later chapters).
Now, back to juice. You might argue that there are vitamins in fruit juice, so it’s good for you… right? Wrong. Bottled juice is pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating food to kill any bad bacteria, so it will be safe to eat. But, bacteria are not all that pasteurization kills.
Many of the vitamins in the fruit are also destroyed in the heating process. In fact, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is especially sensitive to heat and is lost the most (which is ironic because most people drink fruit juice specifically for vitamin C). Not to mention, fruit juice concentrate is created from a heating process, so pasteurized juice made from concentrate can potentially be heated twice before it hits shelves. Because of all this processing, synthetic vitamins are often added back into the juice (it is “fortified”) to make up for the loss.
The bottom line is: juice is not a health food unless it is fresh-squeezed in your kitchen. Instead, we should develop a taste for WATER which is needed by every cell in the body. If you need to flavor it because you aren’t used to it yet, try squeezing a lemon in the water and add liquid Stevia for lemonade. Or buy a juicer and make it yourself with pulp for fiber.