Category: Food and Health

Artificial Sweeteners: What you need to know about Aspartame
Artificial Sweeteners: What you need to know about Aspartame

Artificial Sweeteners

What you need to know about Aspartame

Lets face it, we all enjoy sweets from time to time and so do our kids! There is so much out on the grocery store shelves to enjoy and many times, we assume sugar is sugar, simple right? Not quite. We hear a lot of it in the news in media, about how bad sugar is for us, and it is in large amounts, especially for our teeth. So what makes sugar bad? Most of us know that too much sugar is in-fact, not good, but it is worse when the sugar we are consuming isn’t even sugar. Not sugar? There are a lot artificial sweeteners out there, just as there are many artificial preservatives in the food stocking the shelves, in the stores you shop from. One of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners is called Aspartame and it is prevalent in many of the occasional treats and even everyday food products you and your kids consume. So, listen up! Here is what you need to know about one of the top artificial offenders: Aspartame.

Aspartame Artificial Sweetener

What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sucrose, which is most commonly known as table sugar (obtained from sugar cane or sugar beets). Aspartame is made up of aspartic acid – 40%, Phenylalanine (amino acid found in the brain) – 50%, and methanol/wood alcohol (deadly poison) – 10%. The reason for Aspartame’s allowance in the food and beverages we consume is due to its low-calorie makeup, ability to extend flavors, and friendliness toward diabetics, offering them a sweet taste without increasing blood sugar levels. Aspartame is also found to be non-contributory to tooth decay and beneficial for weight control, since it is a low-calorie sweetener.

Where Did it Come From?
In 1965, medical researcher and chemist James M. Schlatter of the G.D. Searle Company accidentally discovered its sweet taste when he licked his finger to turn a page in his notebook, which had become contaminated with aspartame. James was researching a treatment for ulcers which resulted in the making of this unexpectedly sweet substance. Since that time, aspartame was FDA approved (1981) and has become one of the most highly valued and widely used sweeteners in the food industry today.

Common Offenders Containing Aspartame
Many times, more often then not, advertising and front-labels on packaging can be deceiving. Since it is found in over 6,000 food products today, it is important to read food labels to determine whether or not your sweet treats are sweetened with real sugar or artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. Studies over the years have shown that Aspartame is actually linked to headaches, migraines, dizziness, tumors and even cancer when it is consumed in large amounts over an extended period of time. Here is a list of the most common products that contain Aspartame:

  • Soda
  • Flavored beverages
  • Diet Products
  • Yogurt
  • Chewing gum
  • cooking sauces
  • Tabletop sweeteners
  • Drink powders
  • Sugar free products
  • Low or no-calorie products
  • Cereals

It is important to check labels for Aspartame, since not all products like yogurt and cereal contain this artificial sweetener. If the food product you are considering is advertised as diet, low sugar, light, sugar free, low carbohydrate, or low calorie, it is likely that aspartame is the artificial sweetener additive. This sweetener is also present in many other commercially made food products such as candies, cakes, cookies, etc.

Conclusion: Making a Conscious Choice
Avoiding artificial ingredients is a difficult task as you walk the grocery store isles, but it is not impossible and you can make healthier choices for your family without going over budget. Here are some things you can do to make healthier choices about the food products you choose:

  • Read ingredient labels on your food choices and look for listings such as: aspartic acid, natural flavors, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, neotame, and saccharin.
  • Cut back on foods containing aspartame since it is not significantly harmful in very small amounts.
  • Consider possibly cutting back on soda and flavored beverage products and switching to drinks flavored with cane sugar or drink coconut water.
  • Sweeten teas with honey or raw sugar instead of tabletop sweeteners
  • Consider cutting gum out of your diet or reducing the amount you chew

By understanding more about this artificial sweetener, Aspartame, you can decide whether or not it is a product you should or should not continue to consume. Consider doing your own research about Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners. While they may be a great alternative choice for diabetics, they may not be an option for you and your family when it comes to enjoying the sweet things in life.

The Truth About GMO’s
The Truth About GMO’s

With the constant debate between organic and non-organic eating taking place in the media right now, it is easy to feel confused and overwhelmed with the pro’s and con’s of each. We hear words like grain-fed vs. grass-fed, cage-free vs. free-range, and GMO vs. organic on a daily basis. We see the labels and stickers on our fruits and vegetables when we go to the market. AND we of course notice the difference between price tags. Just compare the cost of organic apples to non-organic ones, and you’ll see what I mean. In this constant conversation about food and its affect on our overall health and well being (as well as that of our kids’) how do you decide which side you fall on? There’s a lot to be discussed, but for now let’s just take a general look at what the term “GMO” means and how it’s affecting us most directly.

What are GMO’s?

The abbreviation GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organism”. These are foods (produce, meat, poultry, corn, etc.) that have been genetically engineered, altered, or “improved”. Basically, it’s food that’s been messed with by scientists. The goal behind these alterations and modifications is to produce crops that will not be killed by the pesticides that they’re sprayed with in order to keep destructive weeds and bugs to a minimum. When meat or poultry is genetically modified, it is usually done to make the animal bigger: bigger chicken breasts, bigger eggs, etc. The scary part of all of these modifications is that we have no real comprehension of the ramifications of ingesting these foods.

A Little History

Researchers with Genetically Modified CornPrior to 1994, there was not a single genetically modified crop in the United States. Now, there are over 165 million acres of GMO crops planted every single year. The mindset behind the use of GMO’s is basically quantity over quality. Excess, when it comes to food, has taken over the American public and therefore mass production has enveloped the agricultural community (organic farmers being the exception, of course). Farmers utilizing sturdy, un-killable, GMO seeds means that the crops will be stronger. These stronger crops mean that heavier, more powerful chemicals can be sprayed all over them without harming the actual crop. Being able to use heavy-duty pesticides means that the crops will have a greater survival rate against weeds and bugs. And fewer lost crops means more produce, which in turn means greater profit for the farmers and the big corporations they work for. Yet the question remains: at what cost are we eating these genetically modified foods? If gallons of pesticide can’t kill the tomatoes you use on your BLT when they’re out in the field, then how is your stomach supposed to break them down and glean nutrition from them? The goal of GMO’s is to create indestructible crops. Our bodies, however, are not designed to live off of virtually indestructible food.

The Biggest GMO Offenders

In the United States today (according to a 2010 study), 85% of all corn crops, 90% of all soybean crops, and 90% of all sugar beet crops come from genetically modified seeds. Just walk through your super market and pick a pancake mix or box of your kid’s favorite crackers off the shelf. Look at the ingredients. I mean, actually read what is in goldfish or Bisquick.

It’s nearly impossible these days to find anything that doesn’t have some kind of corn, soybean, or sugar beet byproduct in it. Soybean oil, soy lecithin, cornstarch, and refined sugar permeate more than half of the foods on our grocery store’s shelves. And, given the high percentages of GMO crops, you can pretty much guarantee that those corn and soy and sugar-based ingredients have been genetically altered.

It is also worth noting that, within the United States, there are no mandatory laws to have GMO foods marked as such. Meat and poultry can be genetically modified and we would have no way of knowing. In fact, meat (such as beef) could come from a cloned animal, and the U.S. government still does not require that information to be put on the label of the packaged product so that the consumer will know what they are ingesting. Nearly all European countries (England, France, Italy, New Zealand, etc.) require that GMO food be labeled as such. They believe that GMO’s are simply too new to insure that there are no harmful side effects to ingesting them on a regular basis.

Conclusion: Eat Organic

Given the current status of our FDA standards, the only GMO-devoid option is to eat certified organic foods. They are really the only food option in the United States that ensures you will not be eating GMO’s. Even foods labeled “All Natural” can have GMO derived ingredients. If you want to learn more about genetically modified foods and the companies that have promoted their distribution within the United States, check out documentaries like Food Inc. and Food Matters. They will help shed even more light on the frightening realities and implications of the GMO world we are living in.

Sources:

Food Inc.

Food Matters

“What Does GMO Mean?”