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Wednesday, 07 February 2007 00:00

What Price Sweetness

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By Kathleen Lamont

In the late 1970’s, Dr. Robert Atkins had a clinic in Santa Monica, Calif., where people went to experience the Atkins Diet first hand for weeks at a time. A friend of mine, a nutritionist on staff, mentioned once that certain processed foods were referred to as “white death.” Certain processed foods being sugar, powdered coffee creamer, artificial sweeteners, and Cool Whip to name a few.

 

Years ago I read the classic book, Sugar Blues, by William Dufty and realized that most chemically altered synthesized “food” interferes with the natural chemical processes of the body. It kind of tricks the body into over production or under production of certain chemicals such as amino acids or hormones like insulin for instance. An automobile works perfectly when gas is added but if you add water to the gas thinking it was a good thing to do by making the gas last longer, eventually you will have to make a trip to your mechanic to repair the damage you did to the engine. Same thing applies to your body, mess with its brilliantly designed exquisitely balanced chemical processes and eventually you’ll have to visit the body mechanic to repair your engine.

When I'm lunching with friends and see someone reach for the artificial sweetener, I casually suggest they might they might want to use sugar since it is the lesser of two evils. Non-nutritive sweeteners such as Splenda® (sucralose), Aspartame®, Equal®, NutraSweet®, whether they penetrate the blood brain barrier or live in your fat cells for years, produce deleterious effects on your body.

Though the Splenda package states that it is made from sugar and it is, it is also a fat-soluble chlorinated sugar chemically similar to DDT. According to www.cure-guide.com (www.cure-guide.com/Natural_Health_Newsletter/Sugar_Sweeteners/sugar_sweeteners.html), “[Although] no long term or independent studies on sucralose have been conducted on humans, and no organizations are monitoring health effects, many individuals have reported adverse effects of sucralose, including anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, nerve, joint and chest pain, allergic type reactions, and diarrhea.”

Most people do not bother to research man-made, chemically produced food products, let alone read a label. There are long lists of symptoms produced from ingesting artificial sweeteners to be found in books and on the Internet. With few exceptions, if it’s not grown in the ground or naturally produced like honey, it will most likely compromise your health.

By the way, did you know that the pesticide DDT has been banned in this country as a viable chemical pesticide since 1972, when the EPA put out a nationwide ban? However, it is still sold to third world countries to use on their vegetable and fruit crops which are then imported to this country and sold in our conventional grocery stores.

When it comes to artificial sweeteners there is no healthy alternative to sugar. But when it comes to natural sweeteners, there’s stevia, which is a plant with a small s and no product registration mark. You cannot patent a plant in its natural state, unless of course it has been genetically engineered and that’s a topic for another day. There are other natural sweeteners available but stevia seems to have made its way first into more traditional venues in this country. Popular natural sweeteners in other countries are Lo Han Kuo, Licorice Root, thaumatin (brand name Talin), and Glycyrrhizin (brand name MagnaSweet).

Stevia rebaudiana, which is also called yerba dulce, of the sunflower family, is grown best in Zone 11 as an herbaceous perennial but will survive quite nicely in growing Zone 8. You can grow this plant here in Zone 6 in the spring and summer, or buy the dried leaves, or buy it processed without chemicals into a white powder and packaged in small packets. Stevia is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar and there are now cookbooks that have converted recipes from sugar to stevia. It can be found locally in our natural food stores. Like anything that threatens the corporatocracy, stevia has received some bad press of late, so like everything else, do the research, get the lowdown, and decide for yourself. Be well.

(Kathleen Lamont is a local organic gardener and owner of www.BacktoBasicsNC.com. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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