Aspartame: An Artificial Sweetener to Avoid

Only three weeks until Easter, and you know what that means… Only three more weeks of Lent! For those of you who gave something up for Lent and have stuck to your guns, congrats! If you’ve slipped up a few times, don’t worry about it. One mistake (or two or three…) isn’t the end of the world—I promise. Just keep pushing to the end; I know you can do it!

My Lent experiment has actually been going surprisingly well! If you’re late to the party, I chose to part ways with sugar. I haven’t had any baked goods, candy or chocolate (I know, I can’t believe it either), and I feel great! My cravings have diminished, my mood has been more stable and my skin is clearing up. Needless to say, I’m thrilled with the results!

Though the purpose of my journey has been to eliminate refined, white sugar from my diet, I’ve chosen to avoid all sweeteners as best I can, regardless of whether or not they’re considered to be “healthy.” One sugar substitute that’s been the center of this debate for a long time is aspartame, an artificial sweetener sold under brands like Equal and Splenda.

Aspartame

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Since aspartame was approved for use in food products by the FDA in 1974, most people believe it’s safe to eat. After all, why wouldn’t you? The FDA’s primary job is to protect and promote our health, and most people believe that’s what it’s doing. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the FDA denied aspartame eight times before it finally was approved, or that some of the scientists who worked closely with the chemical compound even questioned its safety for human consumption. What’s even more mind boggling are the 92 side effects associated with aspartame ingestion, ranging from cravings and weight gain to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

The lure of this sugar substitute is the fact that it’s calorie-free. But have you ever stopped to wonder why? The only reason aspartame has no calories is because your body doesn’t know what to do with it—you can’t digest it. Instead of being digested like real food, your body converts it to formaldehyde, a nerve toxin used to preserve dead bodies. Yuck!

I know you think you’re doing yourself a favor by using sugar substitutes like Splenda—at least I did! After all, what’s better than the taste of sugar without the calories? I remember thinking about the calories I was saving by drinking diet sodas instead of regular ones, but it turns out that didn’t even matter! There have been studies that show aspartame consumption actually increases your cravings for sugary foods, which (if you give in to them) leads to weight gain.

At the end of the day, I recommend avoiding aspartame as much as possible. I’m not suggesting you swap your daily Diet Coke for a sugar-laden Coca-Cola, but you should think twice before you pop open your next can. If you’re looking for sugar alternatives, try researching options like agave nectar or stevia. Ditching aspartame (and the foods that contain it) can be difficult at first, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try—trust me, your body will thank you!

What are your thoughts on aspartame and artificial sweeteners? Have you ever tried a different sugar alternative?