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.
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:
- Flavored beverages
- Diet Products
- Chewing gum
- cooking sauces
- Tabletop sweeteners
- Drink powders
- Sugar free products
- Low or no-calorie products
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.