If you’re an ingredient reader on food packaging, like I am, you probably come across all kinds of items that are a mystery. Some you might see all the time and never get around to finding out what they are and where they come from.
I’m going to tackle a few of the most common additives over the next few months. I’ll tell you what they are, where they come from and what they do to your body. I hope the information I give in this series of articles helps to create awareness for you and your family so the next time you’re peering at the small print in the grocery store, you can make healthier choices.
For the first ‘What is it’ in this series I would like to look at Aspartame.
For over 15 years I was a daily gum chewer. I was hooked on chewing gum as a way to curb my appetite and avoid eating too many sugary snacks when I was bored. Who would have thought that all my gum chewing could be so harmful to my health, but it was. Do you want to know why?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. That’s right, 200 time more! That might explain why I was so addicted to chewing gum all the time (I have not chewed a piece of gum in 10 years).
Where is it Found?
Aspartame is found primarily in gum, soft drinks, tabletop artificial sweeteners and flavoured yoghurt, especially “light” varieties.
Where does it come from?
Aspartame is made from phenylalenene, aspartic acid and methanol. The first two ingredients are amino acids that can be found in nature, such as in the breast milk of mammals. The commercial varieties are synthesized using genetically engineered E. Coli bacteria. Methanol is a chemical produced through a catalytic process from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen.
What does it do to your body?
Aspartame has had a controversial history. It has been associated with a wide variety of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. There are even several countries who have attempted to ban it such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, and New Mexico. Due do public concerns about the health effects of aspartame, three major British and South African grocery retail chains have voluntarily removed it from products marketed under their own label. You know its bad stuff if retail chains voluntarily remove it!
The concern is that aspartame breaks down in the body into its chemical components and methanol is extremely toxic to humans. It penetrates sensitive tissues like the brain and bone marrow, where it is converted into formaldehyde.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning are diverse. Among other things, it can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, pain in the extremities, numbness, chills and neuritis. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that interferes with DNA replication and causes the rapid death of your cells. This leads to faster bone degeneration and speeds up the aging process.
WHAT, chewing gum may make me age faster? If it has aspartame as an ingredient, then yes it could.
Research indicates that the artificial sweeteners found in diet soft drinks actually cause weight gain.
Because of its ability to penetrate the brain, aspartame actually interferes with the feeling of being full. So you might find yourself eating more and actually gaining weight because of an additive marketed to you as a “light” or non-fattening sugar substitute.
The Power of Food is about building a deeper relationship with the food you eat so you can make the right choices for our own health and happiness. Awareness is the first step to taking back control of your own health without relying on everyone else telling you what you should or should not do.
So the next time you reach for the alternative sugar substitute, look for an all natural, plant based sweetener such as coconut sugar, date sugar or stevia (although I am not a big fan of the taste). Whether it is for your coffee, cold drink, tea, yogurt or smoothie, your body will thank you.
If you’re looking for another way to satisfy your sweet tooth, try my Strawberry Hemp Popsicles. Only natural sugar in these babies!
I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below!