These days, you can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that processed food is largely scrutinized. Society’s microscopic lens shows that food has been manipulated to such a degree that its origin often becomes indiscernible. Yet our grocery aisles are still plagued with boxes of bright smiling snacks with ingredients that some of the world’s rocket scientists wouldn’t be able to pronounce, let alone the 5 year olds who are eating them. The rate of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes is only increasing, and what’s even more counter-intuitive is the proliferation of thin, low fat, sugar-free snacks that are riddled with artificiality. The priority of slender waists and drastic weight loss measures over healthy eating habits is no new fad, but what about the contents that are filling in the empty calories of these miracle snacks?
I’d like to be reassured that long term studies have demonstrated the existence of adverse affects of artificial sweeteners, however there have been no long term studies conducted. So I feel a little groundless in my abhorrence of these snacks, because who knows? Maybe certain ingredients will only affect certain DNA strands in some odd 40 years? Or maybe not at all?
There have been numerous studies (albeit conflicting) correlating artificial sweeteners like aspartame with diseases such as cancer and a bounty of other symptoms including headaches, depression and tummy troubles. Heck, sucralose was discovered while trying to create a new insecticide, and it also consists of chlorine. That just screams unfit for human consumption. This miracle “sugar” is also recommended for use by diabetics, and yet scientific findings have shown that it can cause the malabsorption of medications. A golden contradiction.
Ironically, the FDA has approved these could-be culprits but not so much the naturally derived, found-in-nature sweeteners. The Stevia herb, with its ultimate sweetening power, is native to Paraguay and hosts some real benefits (including zero caloric value, for the body conscious). And it sweetens like a charm. But due to the lack of commercialized endorsement or widespread use in diet sodas, it is still suspected of “unknown effects”. So if you’re in possession of small packets of white Stevia powder at the border crossing, there may be a slight delay. The FDA has approved it as a dietary supplement, but it cannot be sold as a sweetener. Similarly, Health Canada is holding it under review due to insufficient evidence pertaining to its effects.
Regardless, it is available at the majority of natural health food stores and even at some pharmacies and generic big name grocers. I personally use it on a daily basis to sweeten my tea (or rather supplement it) and it is also a worthy substitute for sugar in baking. It was somewhat of an acquired taste to begin with, but as a type 1 diabetic my sugar sensors are a tad skewed. At the end of the day, it’s more comforting to be ingesting a plant based sweetener than a genetically modified, synthetic additive. I guess we’ll just have to wait a couple decades to find out.