Are you one of the thousands of people who reach for artificial “low-calorie” sweeteners—such as aspartame or saccharin—to add to your tea or coffee, in the belief that they can help keep you from getting fat? If so, this is hardly surprising. We have had this lie shoved down our throats through advertising and the media, thanks to the lobbying of money-hungry companies keen to sell the sickly sweet chemicals they peddle. Independent research into the dangers of artificial sweeteners rarely sees the light of day. It can be a serious challenge to find unbiased data amongst the multitude of misinformation that is littered across cyberspace. It’s essential that you learn the truth about these destructive substances, as well as what they’re really doing to your health and your waistline.
Independent studies have turned up some surprising results when analyzing the relationship between the use of artificial sweeteners and obesity, although as yet few people know about this. Far from helping you lose weight, these sweeteners actually stimulate your appetite, causing cravings and telling your body to “store fat”. How does this happen? When you taste something sweet, your body expects calories to immediately follow, just as they do when you eat sugar. This triggers your appetite. However, since the calories don’t follow, the sensation of hunger remains. You begin to crave more sweet-tasting, carb-rich foods. This effect is most marked in aspartame, though it also applies to the other common sweeteners such as saccharin and acesulfame potassium.
This alone is bad enough, but it’s only half the story. The other half concerns aspartame’s effect on the key hormone insulin, responsible for regulating fat metabolism. Although vigorously denied by the “research” of the manufacturing companies, recent studies indicate that aspartame can actually trick your pancreas into releasing insulin—despite the fact that aspartame does not alter blood sugar. It can do this simply by activating our “sweet” taste receptors. Since the elevated insulin finds no blood sugar to combine with, this increases your hunger even more, and makes your cravings worse. The result of all this? You’re more likely to a) eat more of the sugary foods you’re craving, setting up a vicious circle, and b) lay down more fat stores, due to the hormonal fluctuations happening in your body. A new study published in the January 2013 issue of science journal Appetite reported that, between groups of rats fed either aspartame, saccharin or sugar, the aspartame and saccharin groups gained more weight than the sugar group—and this was unrelated to intake of calories, since they all ate the same foods.
BAD NEWS FOR DIABETICS
Not only is this terrible news for those trying to shed fat. It also has dire consequences for the ever-growing group of humans afflicted by diabetes. Many diabetics have been led to believe that these sweeteners are a healthier alternative than sugar, when this too is based on a fallacy. Sugar itself, in all its forms, is also toxic to the human body. And it too is an arch enemy to good health and weight loss. (See Robert Lustig’s excellent lecture on the dangers of sugar here.) But unlike sugar, low-calorie sweeteners are often sold as “diabetes-safe.” This too is a dangerous lie. As we have already seen, consuming aspartame can elevate insulin levels abnormally. The more often this happens, the more the body becomes resistant to this hormone. The insulin resistance that follows will lead to—or worsen—diabetes, along with obesity and many chronic degenerative conditions.
As if you needed any more reason to stay away from artificial sweeteners, get this: Aspartame is composed of two separate components, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Phenylalanine quickly degrades into methanol, which in turn becomes formaldehyde—yep, that stuff lab specimens, and dead bodies are stored in—and accumulates in our cells. When levels of this nasty chemical get high enough in the system, it can cause all sorts of dangerous effects. The “Aspartame Consumer Safety Network Fact Sheet” warns of the following potential symptoms: “headaches, nausea, vertigo, insomnia, numbness, blurred vision, blindness and other eye problems, memory loss, slurred speech, depression, personality changes, hyperactivity, stomach disorders, seizures, skin lesions, rashes, anxiety attacks, muscle cramping and joint pain, loss of energy, symptoms mimicking heart attacks, hearing loss and ear ringing, and loss or change of taste.” All that, and it won’t even help you lose weight!
NATURE’S SWEET OFFERINGS
So what can we turn to now that both artificial sweeteners and sugar are off the menu? Fortunately for those of us with a sweet tooth, nature has provided a delicious and safe alternative: Derived from the sweet leaf plant, Stevia, in its natural state, is the best no-calorie, health-supporting natural sweetener on the planet. Even though it’s sweeter than sugar, its taste has a slower onset and longer duration, meaning it doesn’t carry the same risks as aspartame and the other artificial sweeteners. Not only is it safe—it is actually good for you, and may even help enhance glucose tolerance and improve insulin sensitivity.
Another natural alternative safe for occasional use is coconut sugar, derived from the blossoms of the coconut palm. It has a high nutritional content, containing potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, as well as Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6. It has a low glycemic index, so is considered safe for diabetics. It has a rich flavor that has been compared to toffee. Coconut sugar, which is currently bringing high profits to both coconut farmers and retailers especially in the US, has one major drawback, however. What nobody is warning consumers about is that coconut palm trees cannot produce both coconuts and coconut palm sugar, which is gleaned by drawing the sap out of the tree. When the sap is used to make coconut sugar, the flower buds, which are dependent on the tree’s sap enabling them to form, wither and die so the tree cannot grow coconuts. Because the tree can no longer produce coconuts and all the precious products made from them it can suffer and die. In short, producing coconut palm sugar is not a sustainable industry. Despite experiments in some places to make use of coconut trees one year as sap producers and the next as a coconut producer, this remains a serious challenge worldwide.
STEVIA—IT’S GOOD FOR YOU
An exotic herb which grows in subtropical areas of South America, stevia is replete with non-caloric sweet molecules. This is the reason for its sugary flavor. Stevia has sweetened herbal drinks since Pre-Columbian times. Its properties were first recorded by a botanist named Antonio Bertoni in 1887, who wrote about ways the natives of Paraguay used it. Others have discovered stevia in the past fifty years and made good use of it. Japan and the United States have done extensive research and safety testing on the plant. Their research shows that this marvelous sweet herb is non-toxic, safe for diabetics and beneficial for weight loss as well as daily use for yourself and family. More good news: Stevia is not a source of nutrition for bacteria in the mouth, nor for yeasts and fungi such as Candida albicans in the body.
A few years ago, following some rather bogus animal research promoted by Monsanto—who produce much of the artificial sweeteners in the world—the European parliament banned the sale of stevia in Britain and Europe. There is not much pressure at the moment to lift that ban. In the meantime, if you live in the EU, you can nevertheless order stevia online from herbal shops, either in your own country or another European country, including the UK, without difficulty. It is widely available in shops and stores in the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand and most other countries of the world. Stevia is great for all sorts of reasons on Cura Romana.
How sweet is Stevia extract?
Stevia extract is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Add a pinch to drinks like coffee or tea.
Dilute in water when you are using it to make a salad dressing or dessert.
How many calories are in Stevia extract?
None. Stevia extracts have zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero sugar, zero fat and zero cholesterol.
Can Stevia extract replace sugar in the diet?
Yes. Refined sugar is virtually devoid of nutritional benefits and, at best, represents empty calories in your diet. Stevia is natural, much sweeter than sugar, and has none of sugar’s unhealthy drawbacks.
Can Stevia replace artificial sweeteners in the diet?
Yes! Stevia is the only a safe, calorie-free, all-natural alternative to artificial or chemical pharmaceutical sweeteners in the world.
Will Stevia raise my blood sugar levels?
Not at all. In fact, according to some research, it may actually lower blood sugar levels.
Can I use Stevia if I am diabetic?
Yes. Stevia is a great addition to a healthy diet for anyone with blood sugar problems since it does not raise blood sugar levels.
I’d advise you to stay away from any form of artificial sweeteners including those recently being marketed as “natural stevia” which are, in truth, distortions of the real thing.
Here are the best and most useful forms of stevia you will find anywhere. Both can be ordered direct from iHerb no matter where you are in the world.
BEST LIQUID STEVIA
Wisdom Natural, SweetLeaf, Liquid Stevia, English Toffee Sweet Leaf liquid stevia with all natural flavors is convenient and easy to use. As a supplement, add this nutritious stevia to water, tea, coffee, milk, sparkling water, protein shakes, plain yogurt or anything else you can imagine. It comes in many different flavors including lemon but English Toffee flavor is the best by far.
Buy English Toffee Stevia
BEST GRANULATED STEVIA
Spoonable Stevia by Stevita uses only stevia extract with at least 95% pure glycosides (extremely sweet tasting ingredients of the Stevia herb leaves), and a little erythritol, a crystal granulated naturally produced filler found in fruits, vegetables and grains. It is best for baking and sprinkling.
GOOD COCONUT SUGAR
Navitas Naturals, Coconut Sugar, 16 oz
This coconut sugar is top of the range. It’s produced in Indonesia where farmers have harvested the nectar from coconut palm trees for herbal medicine and food for centuries. This product contains 100% pure evaporated coconut sugar that is certified organic, kosher and vegan.
Buy Coconut Sugar
ORDERING FROM IHERB.COM: They ship all over the world very cheaply, and their products are the cheapest and best in the world. Get your order sent to you via DHL. I use them for almost everything no matter where I am.