There is a health risk that has flown under the radar for so long because it has become an accepted part of our culinary/dining lives and specifically for those who are trying to loose weight. Yes, that would be sugar substitutes.

Even in a group of health conscious people I’ve noticed otherwise health savvy individuals reaching for packets of Sweet and Low, Equal or Splenda. These products are marketed saying that the average person (American) consumes approximately 100 to 150 pounds of sugar per year. When you compare calorie to calorie it seems like a no brainer that the sugar substitutes would cut your calories significantly and weight loss is inevitable. If that is true then how has our weight as a nation has skyrocketed during the same timeline that artificial sweeteners hit the market?

I’ll start out by stating there are many reasons other that sugar substitutes that cause this, but today we will weigh (pun intended) the health risks against the calorie benefits. Let’s start with saccharin.

Saccharin (Sweet and Low, Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet) is a known carcinogen derived from coal tar. Enough said?

Aspartame (Equal, Nutra-Sweet, Spoonful, Equal Measure) is a product of Monsanto; it is the most consumed artificial sweetener in America. It is composed of 40% aspartic acid (an excitotoxin that damages the brain), 50% phenylalanine and 10% methanol (wood alcohol). The methanol is converted to formaldehyde in your digestive tract. The health risks such as migraines, seizures, depression, increased weight, breast cancer and brain tumors have been well documented. Aspartame is responsible for 75% of adverse food additive reactions reported the FDA. The only reason it is on the market today is through clever political maneuvering. This part of the story alone could be made into a movie.

Sucralose (Splenda) this product’s claim to fame is that it tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar. Close but no cigar! What they're not telling you is that sucralose, is a chlorinated sucrose derivative, very similar to that which is in chlorinated pesticides. Sucralose increases weight gain through appetite stimulation and carbohydrate cravings. It is linked to sleep pattern disruption, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. According to a Duke University study, Splenda “suppresses beneficial bacteria in the gut. So if you are eating Splenda while attempting to bring your intestinal flora back into balance with probiotics, you might just as well dump your pricey probiotics down the drain. What’s more, sucralose causes the thymus gland that aids production of T-cells for your immune system to shrink up to 40% causing damage to the liver and kidneys. More info on Splenda or The Truth About Spenda

Stevia Now for the good stuff! There is an herb called stevia that can be used as a sugar substitute with considerable safety. I prefer the liquid extract forms of this herb, as it is the purist way to eat it aside from using the fresh plant. Extract made from the leaves of the Stevia plant is undoubtedly the safest sweetener on the market. Unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, regular Stevia is a safe, natural alternative that's ideal if you’re watching your weight, or if you’re maintaining your health by avoiding sugar.

If you are choosing stevia in the dried packed form, look for those that don’t contain Erythritol, which is a genetically modified corn product that can cause intestinal difficulties. It would seem that no matter how good a basic ingredient is, once a major food manufacturer processes it, you can be certain they’ll find a way to adulterate it. Truvia is a product of the Coka Cola company and Pure Via is made by Pepsi. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The stevia plant (for all you “do it yourselfers”) can be purchased as Stevia or Sweet Leaf. The leaves are delicious fresh from the plant; the flavor is reminiscent of Juicy Fruit gum. The plant is a perennial in mild climates but in intemperate climates it must be planted annually. You can cut the plant at the end of the season and process it in a blender with vodka. Pack the plant in the blender firmly and use just enough vodka to cover it. Process it until smooth, strain and store in a dropper bottle or squeeze bottle. The liquid will turn a dark color; that is normal. Or if you prefer, you can dry the leaves and blend in a food processor until it is a fine powder and store in an airtight container.

Eating food closest to its original state is one of the best ways to maintain health.

“Eating crappy food isn't a reward -- it's a punishment.”― Drew Carey

Love and Light, Lori Jacobs

Author's Bio: 

Lori Jacobs was born in Queens NY in 1956 but moved to the pristine Lake Owassa NJ where she lived with her parents, brother and maternal grandparents.
She now has lived with her husband of 40 years in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania since 1988. They have two children, Autumn and Christoffer, both in their 30’s and they are blessed with three grandchildren. Lori has been a practicing Herbalist since 1995 and a Master Energy Healer since 1999. She is a Reiki Master and a “Truth in Healing” Master.
In 1995 she developed a formula for her daughter who, as a senior in high school had Epstein Barr and was very ill. Every doctor told her, “It is her immune system and the only thing you can do is make sure she gets enough rest.” But her daughter was sleeping almost every hour she wasn’t in school. She could barely make it through the day. So Lori decided to take matters into her own hands and follow her instincts, she remembered the herbs that were taught to her as a child by her Norwegian grandmother and her father’s friend who was a Ute Indian. Concentrating on the safest herbs that balanced and strengthened the endocrine (immune) system, she made an herbal tincture she called Endocrine Strengthener. This did help her daughter who was back to normal in about a month’s time.
Lori started taking the Endocrine Strengthener too, in hopes that it would minimize the many colds that she was dealing with. Lori had suffered from alopecia totalis since 1984 and much to her surprise, after several weeks of taking Endocrine Strengthener, she was astonished to find new hair growing and that her hair didn’t fall out as it had for the past 11 years.
Over the years Endocrine Strengthener has demonstrated to be beneficial for many autoimmune disorders such as Lupus, MS, and Crohn’s Disease
Since then, Lori has developed many safe and highly effective herbal tinctures for conditions such as arthritis, migraines, cholesterol, diabetes, urinary tract infections, hepatitis, fibromyalgia, depression, asthma and male/female hormone replacement therapy.
In 2002 she combined her talents of Herbalism and Energy Healing with the start of her new business called “The Healing Path” It is a house-call practice that Lori says is very convenient for her clients. There are times after an energy healing when the client can feel a bit light headed and dizzy, and for that reason it is best that they do not have to drive right away. Being in their own home affords them the opportunity to relax and settle into their energy shift.
Lori also has considerable experience working with clients with candida who have fibromyalgia and those who are interested in weaning off of pharmaceuticals and anti-depressants.
All Lori’s herbal therapies are her own original, handcrafted formulas.
She is a charter member of Northeastern Pennsylvania Holistic Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Holistic Practitioners Healing Arts Network as well as Circle of Healers, American Herbalists Guild, Holistic Networker, Best American Healers, Mind Body Spirit, US Healers, Self Growth and Natural Lifestyle Network.