Saturday, January 31, 2009

Artificial Sweeteners

I've always avoided artificial sweeteners. I'm not sure why I initially rejected them, but I just don't feel I need them and I'm somewhat suspicious of them. Nutra Sweet gives me headaches, and the research is so conflicted- today they cause cancer, tomorrow they don't, that I just washed my hands of the lot of them. Now I'm finding out that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is also an artificial sweetener I want to avoid. It's not a low calorie sugar substitute but a high calorie, cheap-for-the-corporations sugar substitute. It's also really bad stuff, in spite of the ad campaigns they have out now. My new blog buddy Melinda wrote about it and included a link to a website with more information, and I'm spreading the word, too. It's so hard to avoid! Luckily we aren't big on sodas around my house so we weren't getting it that way, but it's in salad dressing, bagels, popsicles, and waaaaay more products that you would imagine- read your labels!

As far as dieting goes, a lot of people think the artificial sweeteners will help them lose weight. How wrong you are, Grasshopper! I'd figured out why myself, sort of, which I'll explain, but then I've also heard other sources verify what I'd already theorized about. When you eat/drink something with a sweet taste, which artificial sweeteners give you, your tongue sends a message to your brain- "hey, here's some sweet stuff for you", then your brain gets ready for nutrients. Only there aren't any nutrients in artificial sweeteners! So your brain kind of panics a little and says back to your body "we got sweet but no nutrients; must eat more, must eat more!", and you get hungry. When you get hungry, you eat more to get the nutrients you needed in the first place, and wind up over eating, and gain weight. When I'm a nutritionist the FIRST thing I'll tell people is NO MORE ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!!! And they'll probably run screaming from the room, but oh well. ;) Now, as to what I figured out on my own. In a book I read about why diets fail and people have such a hard time maintaining weight loss, the author wrote about a study done during, I think it was one of the World Wars, where a bunch of service men were put on a super restrictive diet and lost weight to the point where they were underweight. They found that the men developed an obsession with cooking, cookbooks, and finding new recipes. The author came to the conclusion that this study was proof that the men were going to fail in their attempts to diet since they developed such an obsession with food, or something like that. (I was so disgusted with the obviously flawed conclusions throughout the book I threw it away, so I can't go look it up.) MY conclusion is different. I think that the men weren't looking for recipes and so forth in order to increase calories, but rather to increase NUTRITION. Our bodies need certain building blocks in order to survive and be healthy and if those soldiers were on restricted calorie diets then their brains wanted every calorie to count and be packed with the nutrients needed for survival, thus the interest in food preparation. I've heard variations on the same theme on Oprah, both from Dr. Oz and from her diet guru/personal trainer guy. It boils down to this- if you eat junk without the nutrients your body needs, then your body is going to crave more and more food just in hopes of getting some of the nutrients needed for health and survival. If you eat nutritious, healthy, minimally processed food, then you'll be able to feel quite full and content on far fewer calories. You can't just count calories without counting the quality of those calories!!

8 comments:

Mark said...

>Nutra Sweet gives me headaches


Me too! I thought it was my imagination until one week when I kept getting headaches (and I never used to get them). I later realized that the popsickles I had been eating all week had it in them...

Kim said...

Ewwww! And it's a vague, annoying, all over kind of headache, too. Waiters think I'm crazy in restaurants when I ask if there's artificial sweetener in the lemonade the kids order then I won't order it if there is. "I prefer regular sugar" isn't a phrase they hear very often, I guess. As for the HFCS, regular sugar just tastes so much better! DH told me about a franchised soda plant in New York that makes their soda with regular sugar instead of the HFCS. They are only allowed to sell to stores and so forth in a certain geographic area but they can also sell a certain number of cases to individuals directly at the plant. They have people lined up at the door to buy cases from them because the soda is so much better.

HELLLLOOOO- soda manufacturers? Are you listening??? The buying public likes regular sweeteners better than HFCS!!! (Actually we can find sodas made without HFCS at Whole Foods. Disclosure: We own Whole Foods stock! Mainly because we can find things like real soda there.) ;)

Mark said...

Coke is better here in Australia (and in Singapore) because they use real sugar. I hate HFCS! I stopped drinking all the so-called "fruit juices" back in the US before we left just because they all had the same pasty sameness...

Kim said...

Ahh! You have discerning taste buds! I never noticed the difference until it was pointed out to me, but then I've never been one to drink a lot of juices and sodas. I like water, water, water, and only bottled, please. Your parents kind of thought it was a waste to buy bottled but I assured them it tastes better than tap, so we did a blind taste test one time when they were visiting. Yep, I was immediately able to tell which cup contained bottled water and which contained tap. (Our tap water doesn't taste terrible, but it's not especially wonderful, either.) I'm currently a fan of sparkling water and I shell out the extra bucks to get it in glass bottles vs. plastic, since there's now a lot of buzz about how bad the chemicals that leak out of the plastic are for you.

I swear, we're killing ourselves as a species! The Romans had their lead, we have our plastic. :-P

Melinda said...

You are so right about artificial sweetners. We avoid them all now, except the HFCS. Of course now we are going to drop that too. I admit I love soda, but the one time I did cut it totally out of my diet I lost a ton of weight with relatively little effort. It was great! I've cut back to just one glass a day since I'm pregnant, but after reading the mercury thing I am cutting it totally and looking to cut HFCS totally.

Love your new theme by the way!

Kim said...

I love soda as well, especially regular Coke! I even have Coca Cola memorabilia in my kitchen, and my husband said to me not too long ago "why do you have all this Coke stuff when you don't like it?" Huh?? I LOVE it, I just don't drink it since it either has empty calories or artificial sweeteners. ~:-P I will take sips, ummm, OK, gulps out of his sodas on the rare occasions when he orders them, as long as they aren't Pepsi. That's why I drink carbonated water now, too; it gives me the fizz and the bite at the back of my throat without all the bad stuff. It doesn't have the flavor, but it's not bad, not bad! I started out adding lemon but now I just drink it straight and it's very satisfying once you're used to it. Oh- and when I was pregnant with my second my big food craving was ROOT BEER, go figure!

I have you to thank for the theme, so thanks! I learn a lot from your blog. :)

Dagmar said...

I am trying to wean myself off of Splenda...

Kim said...

Hi Dagmar:
Good for you! It can be a challenge to get your taste buds to accept new tastes, but if you are persistent it can happen. I've been hearing a lot about stevia lately; you might want to look into that. I thought it was just another artificial sweetener but I've been told it's not, it's from a plant, the green kind not the factory kind. ;) I haven't tried it, but I may one of these days. I've been on a tea kick lately, one cup with my afternoon snack, and I put 2 packets of fair trade raw sugar in it, 20 calories per pack, so only 40 calories.