Girl vs. Food: The sweet stuffWritten by Monica Mikolajczyk | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, I saw a very young girl filling her iced tea with packet upon packet of Sweet ‘n Low. It took every ounce of patience I have to prevent me from yelling out in sheer terror. I kid you not. Clearly, the girl’s mother was not aware of exactly what is in one of those flashy pink packets of goodness (or dare I say gruesomeness). This distressing incident got me thinking, just how many people are aware of what those sensational sugar replacements contain?
The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, while we only actually need six to nine. It only seems logical to replace the white, granulated stuff with a substitute. All of those replacements must be a better alternative, right? Splenda, Sweet ‘n Low and/or NutraSweet are all readily available at every coffee shop and grocery store, so they must be OK, right? Best of all, these alternatives to sugar are calorie-free, so you’re making a healthy choice, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Truth be told (and what a shocking truth it is), the regular, white grainy stuff is much better than the majority of the sugar posers out there. This is due to the fact that most of the alternatives contain a substance known as aspartame.
Aspartame is a non-saccharin sweetener that is used as an artificial sugar substitute. Sounds harmless enough. The most famous brand is NutraSweet, which I am sure we have all consumed at some point. It has been said that your body is not able to recognize this substance as a calorie, making it one of the most appealing diet-food additives around (diet soda, sugar-free goodies, etc.). Newsflash: Just because your body doesn’t register this mysterious matter as a calorie doesn’t mean it is harmless.
While I am not a scientist, I have done some research, and uncovered enough information to want to stop my use of aspartame altogether. Some people have consumed enough artificial substances from foods to start a small chemical laboratory, and feel safe because it is the latest diet trend. However, I am not going to walk around sucking down antifreeze if the diet industry has adds it to its new product line. If it is not recognized as a calorie, or a unit of energy, then what is it?
Specific research has directly linked aspartame consumption to cancer formation and growth. Scientists have observed a significant increase in lymphatic cancers and leukemia in people who consume aspartame regularly. The aspartame causes formaldehyde to bind to DNA which results in single- and double-strand DNA breakage. This damaged DNA is the perfect recipe for cancer. Once the cancer is present, the aspartic acid from the aspartame makes the cancer grow. Cancer cells actually become more mobile upon their introduction to aspartame. It sounds like aspartame is recognized, perhaps not as a calorie, but as a toxic substance that can most certainly harm you. This sly substance has also been linked to migraines, nausea, vision problems, abdominal pains, sleep problems and anxiety attacks. Whoa, Nelly. I’m nixing this nastiness.
Now that you are tossing the artificial sweeteners you have stashed in your drawers and cupboards (I hope), what can you use to replace them? Honestly, white granulated sugar is always a better alternative, and an even better alternative is known as Xylitol.
Xylitol is a sweetener that occurs naturally in berries and other fruits, and our bodies even produce it during the metabolic process. In its natural form (which can be purchased at health food Stores such as Claudia’s or Bassett’s) it is sweeter than sugar, and (gasp!) good for us. And, get this; it can actually prevent tooth decay. Our bodies most certainly recognize and welcome this long-lost friend.
I encourage you to form your own opinion on this topic. Our bodies are, by far, one of our most valuable possessions, and, like it or not, will be sticking with us (like snazzy little barnacles) for the rest of our lives. Don’t you want your one and only bod to be happy, healthy and functioning atits highest capacity? I do. I’m pretty sure we all do. So, step away from the Sweet ‘n Low.
Monica Mikolajczyk is a yoga instructor, firm believer in always choosing local, and a holistic health advocate who believes we all have the potential to grow and change if we simply allow ourselves the space to do so. E-mail her at email@example.com.