Sweet Celebration

By Dean L. Jones

It is nearly inevitable that several types of sweet delights will be made available for the taking to celebrate these festive times.  In view of that, it might be worth it to consider the amount and type of sugar(s) used to make it sweet, especially when it comes to using artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

Usually, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are primarily promoted to diabetics and those concerned about gaining weight.  The thing is artificial sweeteners are bad and cause the insulin in the body to become more sensitivity to wanting more sugar than what table sugar would cause.  This is why one must live Sugar Alert as artificial sweeteners are added to roughly 6,000 different beverages, snacks, and food products.

When we eat something sweet, our brain releases dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward center. The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs our brain that we are full once a certain amount of calories have been ingested.  However, when we consume something that tastes sweet but does not contain any calories, the brain’s pleasure pathway still gets activated by the sweet taste, but there is nothing to deactivate it, since the calories never arrive, thereby wanting to eat more and more.

Besides worsening insulin sensitivity and promoting weight gain, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners also advance other health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.  For the record, aspartame is better known by the brand names NutraSweet and Equal.  It has a competitor that is nearly as harmful called sucralose, commonly recognized under the brand name Splenda.

Sucralose is also a chemical and is about 320 to 1,000 times as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), three times as sweet as aspartame, and twice as sweet as saccharin.  All artificial sweeteners are basically the same since they each are a synthetic additive created by chlorinating sugar.  The chemical structure of the chlorine in sucralose is almost the same as that in the now-banned pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, officially banned as a health hazard in 1973).

For those who like making their own dessert, you may be surprised but there are a lot of recipes that swap out non-caloric sweeteners for caloric foods to reach the same desired sweet taste.  For example, you can soak about ¾ cup of raisins in warm water, then later puree them in a high-powered blender with ¼ cup of the liquid they soaked in and the results will be as sweet.

There are a number of other items like coconut sugar, sliced green apples, unsweetened applesauce, chopped golden raisins, unsweetened crushed pineapple, and ripe bananas.  There is no limit to the number of fruits that can bring about the desired sweet taste in cakes, pies, cookies and those other familiar desserts that call for processed sugar and/or artificial sweeteners.

Dean Jones, Ethics Advocate, Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), contributes his view on health attributes derived from processed foodstuff items.