Nearly all of us CRAVE sweets. If you are anything like me, you can't have just one! That first rush of sweetness on your tongue sets off a creshendo of cravings that doesn't quit until your stomach begs for mercy, your calories are blown for the day, and your blood sugar level has just reached a new height and is preparing for rapid descent. A lot of this has to do with the highly addictive nature of high fructose corn syrup in everything. There is good news though. Not all sweeteners are created equal. Moderation and satisfaction can coexist in the form of dessert!
From my perspective there are two categories of non nutritive sweeteners, the artificial ones and the natural ones. Three comon artificial sweetners include Acesulfame Potassium, also known as Acesulfame K or Ace K. Recent studies have shown that Ace K may affect prenatal development, breastfeeding infants and have carcinogenic properties. (Environ. Health Perspect ). Sucralose or Splenda is a bleached sugar product that among other negative qualities destroys the beneficial flora in your digestive tract which help immune function, digestion, and elmination. This upset in your digestive system has been shown to increase appetites and cravings. Last but not least, Aspartame which is still found in products like gum and diet beverages is quickly losing popularity due to the correlation it has with cancer. (Int'l Food Information Council Foundation)
Stevia, a plant that is also called sweetleaf is a natural sweetener. It is so sweet that only a few drops of the extract are needed to sweeten whatever you use it in. It can have a bitter taste, some brands taste better than others. My favorite brand is NOW Foods, Better Stevia. I use it in Sparkling water to make calorie free soda. For the best flavor in baking I use it in conjunction with Xylitol. Xylitol, is a naturally occuring sugar alcohol found in birch and corn husks. It has a unique cooling effect and is popular in gum because of its ability to remineralize teeth. Xylitol does have a minor side effect in that it can cause gas and bloating. This can be avoided by starting with small amounts and gradually increasing it.
Both Xylitol and Stevia have spared me from the guilt of overeating and from the headaches which are common with the artificial sweeteners. Coffee, tea, cookies, and yogurt can all be made satisfyingly sweet for even the most demanding sweet tooth!
"Everything You Need to Know About Acesulfame Potassium." Int'l Food Information Council Foundation (1998): Web. http://www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/vitamins+supplements+az/showarticle.aspxid=120
"Acesulfame Potassium: Soffritti Responds." Environ Health Perspect (2006): Web September 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570058/