January 28, 2012

Goodnight, Sweet Prince: A Farewell to Splenda

My history with artificial sweeteners is a sordid one. Several years ago, my quest for a certain aesthetic led to the frequent consumption of things that were not quite food, intended to mask the unpalatability of my diet at the time. These things were sprinkled on my oatmeal, consumed from shaker cups both pre and post workout. They filled in myriad blanks, stimulating my taste buds where food was lacking.

Those days are past, and happily so. Rather than chase that ghostly artifice, I now know the sweetness of yams, carrots, and fuji apples. Indeed, these are the sorts of things that now fill my (organic cotton, if that tells you anything) grocery bag. There was nothing purchased on my last trip which was not a nearly unaltered plant - unless you consider tofu and rolled oats heavily processed. (And no, paleo crowd, I have not become fat or diabetic in the last few years.)

I should confess here that, quite shamefully, I still fall victim to the odd diet soda. There is a local, organic coop that carries only stevia and erythritol sweetened varieties, of which I try to exclusively partake. But I am not as fastidious as I'd like, and both coke and sprite zero have crossed my lips at least once in the last several months. I do plan on changing that, however, if for no other reason than to deprive the Coca Cola Corporation of my meager funds. Thankfully, I have nearly unlimited access to coffee, a beverage more rich in caffeine and health promoting compounds - not to mention, much tastier.

But that's me. There are those for whom coffee and artificial sweeteners are not separate entities, but in fact go hand in hand. Coffee, sans skim milk and a pink, blue, or yellow packet, is nigh undrinkable. And these people may well be disappointed in my coffee shop's restocked condiment bar, which lacks that artificial rainbow.

To be clear, this was not my choice, but that of my owner. For the sake of consistency, I will not carry these things, because the breakfast cafe he owns doesn't either. While my taste dictates doing away with all of them, so too would it banish the real sugar, and probably all the syrups too. Still, I'm happy to defend my owner's call.

I could point out that these packets contain dextrose and maltodextrin, both simple carbohydrates with a glycemic index similar to white sugar. I could note that all of them seem to kill rats - albeit in monster doses. Assuming that my customers are not rats, I could cite a study which shows aspartame consumption to alter postprandial insulin levels and glucose regulation - in humans. (If this makes you wonder why I drink this stuff at all, well, me too.)

Furthermore, it's not as if we're lacking for sweeteners. We still have local honey, raw and white sugar, and now carry stevia packets as well. The brand we carry lacks any additives, and thus doesn't perfectly mimic the taste of sugar, nor the immense sweetness of the chemical creations. But it does come from a plant, not a lab, and has actually healed damaged beta cells in diabetic rats, increasing both insulin production and sensitivity. Also, it doesn't affect serum glucose or insulin levels in humans. Because of this, it's recommended by a number of European and Asian governments for diabetics. (But not ours, suspiciously. Another tangent for another time, and probably a different blog.)

Finally, I could suggest that, just this once, they try their coffee black. But let's not get carried away.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing what foods read as "sweet" when you cut down on sugar, real or fake, in your diet. I find natural peanut butter and certain vegetables as sweet as I once did candy. And when I then have candy, it tastes freakish and TOO sweet....sometimes. Here's a trick I would play on the students at my school during nutrition talks. Have them bite and apple and then describe it. Usually it's "sweet", "candy", etc. Then I have them suck on a jolly rancher. Then I have them bite the apple again. The change in their pallete is so drastic that the apple instantly becomes bitter, acidic, watery or flavorless. It's a good example of how foods affect our palletes and just how excessive and unecessary (?) sugars are. Me... I do black as well.