Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Myth: diet soda

An easy way to cut calories from a typical American diet seems simple enough. Step one: switch from regular to diet soda. The old joke goes, "I'll have a quarter-pounder with cheese, large fry, apple pie and a Diet Coke." I mean, where do you go wrong - you've got all the flavor of a regular soda without the nasty sugar and calories; it's the fizz without the fuss, right?

Taking a deeper look, though, we find one Frankenstein of a monster lying right in our aluminum can. Artificial sweeteners, especially those in diet soft drinks, are notorious for their claims to deliver all the flavor without the guilt, "the sweet sans the sacrifice." Splenda, NutraSweet, Equal, even the latest craze known as Truvia, all sit on top of your diner table, next to your coffee creamer, and snuggled in your sugar-free cookies, but these are far from healthy, and this is obvious in several ways.

1. Aspartame was denied by the FDA on eight separate occasions. It wasn't until a little deal was struck between the inventor and the FDA's leading attorney hiring the man to lead the inventor's law firm that aspartame was deemed "safe." Aspartame is now a $1 billion industry. Interesting.

2. Sucralose (Splenda) is a chemical. Sure, it's said to "taste like sugar because it's made from sugar," but that's only if you consider manually altering its chemical make-up to feature arsenic and heavy metals as sweet as sugar. Mmm.

3. Artificial sweeteners will make you fat. Sounds harsh, but studies have found that artificial sweeteners alter your body's ability to detect sweetness and moderate how much sugar or junk food you take in. Trust me - just because they're "sugar-free" Oreos does not mean you can eat the whole box in one sitting.

4. Sugar replacements are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

5. And cancer. And birth defects. And fertility problems, diarrhea, kidney failure, hair loss, weight gain, blindness, migraines, joint pain, bloating, depression, seizures, and schizophrenia. And, ironically enough, diabetes.

This doesn't necessarily free you up to drink your favorite Mountain Dew by the gallon, though; most regular soda is chock-full of high fructose corn syrup, another yucky food additive found in nearly every kind of processed food. When it comes down to regular versus diet, however, stick with regular and include the sugar and calories in your intake for the day.

Better yet, try the real stuff, the natural kind of sugar found in one of our best friends: fruit. Orange juice is a great way to give yourself an AM boost and fresh strawberries can help protect teeth enamel (not to mention their whitening effect!). Opt against cranberry cocktail for the organic apple juice and you've saved yourself a whole boatload of who knows what.

Just like you wrote in everyone's high school yearbook, "Stay sweet! Don't ever change!", stay away from the modified junk and you can still satisfy that sweet tooth.

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