I am a sugar addict by nature. To this day, I could totally suck down a two liter of root beer and lick the fluff out of a box of Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies. It takes all I have to not do that. As a former eating disordered person, I have to fight to not engage in that behavior. And in case I do consume one of these delicious but deadly goodies, I have to muster the strength to fight the compulsive nature of my personality to not scarf the entire box and try to heave it all back up later. (Please, no lectures on this behavior. I am NOT promoting it. I am acknowledging my own compulsive nature and early behavior patterns which I no longer wish to waste my time.)
Where do you to get that sweet without consuming high amounts of sugar (read “empty calories”)? If you listen to the mainstream media, you would turn to Nutri-Sweet (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose), or some other artificially man-made chemical sweeteners. Let’s not forget that at least one of these was not initially developed as sweetener. It is said that nutri-sweet was developed as a sweetener after the researcher trying to create a new heart medication, got some on his hand and licked his fingers. I am not 100% certain of the exact validity of this claim, but it seems plausible to me. It, as well as it’s predecessor, saccharine, and its latter, splenda, have a long laundry list of side effects that the FDA says “may” be related. I have noticed that the people consuming large quantities of these sweeteners seem to be addicted to the foods containing them. New studies from Israel suggest that diet sodas contribute just as much to obesity as regular, sugar and/or corn syrup sweetened sodas via negative effects on gut flora. (Almost makes you feel like you’ve been lied to, eh?)
Can you cut all sweetness out of your life? Many dietitians have shown that consuming large amounts fruit juices is as detrimental as consuming the sugar. Corn syrup has come to dominate our foods. It seems that “sweet” is everywhere around us. Studies have even shown that if you do not enjoy your food when you consume, you tend to over eat! They call it the “pleasure factor” or, jokingly, vitamin P. Would you enjoy your diet for the rest of your life void of all sweet foods? I would not.
So, how does one feed this need for “sweet” but stay healthy? Let’s take a cue from Coca-Cola and investigate Stevia. Stevia rebaudiana is a Central and South American plant that has been traditionally used as a sweetener and has been said to have positive, regulatory effects on a person’s blood sugar levels (this is not supported by the US-FDA and studies have varied). This sweetener was once vilified by the US-FDA and has caused some tea manufacturers great pains.
That is until Coca-Cola became interested in the plant. Suddenly, it was turning up in many things. Sobe Lifewater (distributed by Pepsi) uses Reb A as a sweetener in their zero calorie version. Truvia, Purvia, and others all come from a purified extract of stevia. The dried plant is green, but the purified extract is white and is usually sold as a powder touted to be, up to, 200 times sweeter than refined table sugar. It is now commonly available in the baking aisle at major retailers (i.e. Wal-Mart, Kroger, etc), while prior to this it was only available at beat-neck health food stores, and usually not sold as a sweetener as that would have been prohibited by the FDA’s food additive laws. However, now soda manufacturers have it and are using it to their advantage. In fact, Coca-Cola is currently test marketing stevia sweetened sodas in the USA. It has long been an urban legend that diet sodas sweetened with stevia were sold in Canada, however I had never seen any. Now it is coming here. Please be aware, it is still full of various chemical addictives and colorants that can be detrimental to your health, but progress is progress.
Imagine how my sweet tooth controlled world crashed when I found out that GMO corn may be used in the stevia extraction processes. I was seriously bummed. I try to watch very closely where I get my stevia to avoid this type of processing. It is used in a more acceptable form in many meal replacement protein drinks. You just need to be aware of how the company from which you purchase your products processes it. If you do not want to back the GMO market, as I hope not to, perhaps Monk Fruit is up your alley in stead?
Monk fruit, also known as Lo Han or Lou Han Gou, is a melon that grows in Southeast Asia. This little green guy is said to have zero impact on blood sugar levels. Interestingly enough, in folk herbal medicine, both monk fruit and stevia were used to treat blood sugar issues.
Like stevia, the FDA has awarded GRAS status to Lo Han (GRAS means Generally Recognized As Safe) and calls it a “non-nutritive” sweetener. It is marketed at major grocery stores as Nectreese. As I type, I am using a liquid extract of this herbal in my green tea. It is estimated to be up to 200 times sweeter than sugar without the detrimental effects. It is in many drinks, like Zevia soda, and in some of the herbal drink mixes now widely available in single serve tube-like packs.
By utilizing these sweet naturals, you can still benefit from that “vitamin P” and get the enjoyment out of your diet without the wild swings in blood sugar levels…and that really is SWEET!