When you’re trying to cut back on sugar or reduce the amount of calories you consume, you may look for a sugar substitute.
One of the most popular low-calorie sweeteners on the market is aspartame.
What Is Aspartame?
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is low in calories. It tastes sweet but doesn’t contain any natural sugars. It was first developed in 1965 as a substitute for sugar. It’s made up of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid.
When your body digests aspartame, it breaks down into those two amino acids. It also creates a small amount of methanol. Methanol is commonly found in fruits and vegetables and the juices that come from them. Compared to fruits and vegetables, aspartame produces far less methanol when digested.
Two-hundred times sweeter than sugar, only a small amount of aspartame is needed to match sugar’s sweetness. It also has no aftertaste, which makes it appealing. However, it’s not a good choice for use in baking since prolonged exposure to high temperatures affects its level of sweetness.
This low-calorie sweetener is added to food and beverage products during production, or you can purchase packets of it to add yourself. Labels may indicate that the product is “low sugar”, “low calorie”, or “diet”. You may be surprised to know that aspartame is added to some chewable vitamins or over-the-counter medications to help make them easier to take.
Take a look at these 12 foods and drinks that contain aspartame.
12 Foods and Drinks that Contain Aspartame
Not everyone reads the label before they eat or drink something. It’s a good idea to take a look to see if it in fact contains aspartame. Here are 12 of the most common examples:
- Diet soda
- Ice Cream
- Sugar-free jams and jellies
- Breakfast cereals
- Sugar-free cocoa mix
- Chewing gum
- Reduced-calorie fruit juices
- Sugar-free candy
- Sugar-free desserts
- Sugar-free pudding
Is Aspartame Safe?
The safety of aspartame is a subject of much debate and confusion. Aspartame is considered by many to be the scariest of all the artificial sweeteners. Ever since it was first approved for use in food products in 1981, scientists have voiced their concerns about the possible side effects.
It’s undergone multiple, rigorous tests by independent and government-funded laboratories over the years. Industry sponsored studies reported no problems in relation to aspartame. However, multiple independent studies concluded that in fact aspartame is the cause of multiple health issues.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) set an accepted daily intake of 50 mg/kg per day. Most people will not come close to this amount in their diet.
What Are The Side Effects of Aspartame?
Side effects differ for everyone. Even with smaller amounts, a person can still experience symptoms, sometimes severe. There are those that need to seek medical attention or hospitalization for more extreme side effects.
Some of the most common side effects are:
- Mood Swings
- Increased Appetite
- Weight Gain
More serious side effects can include:
- Premature birth
- Liver damage
- Brain Tumors
What Is Aspartame Poisoning?
Aspartame poisoning can be serious, or even life threatening. When you digest it, it accumulates in your body’s tissues and organs over time. As a result, you could begin experiencing health problems.
Patients who have aspartame poisoning experience issues with their nervous system as well as their metabolic, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems. Other physical symptoms include problems with your ears, eyes, chest, and skin. Aspartame poisoning can go as far as causing serious psychiatric problems.
5 Aspartame Alternatives
There are many choices out there when it comes to sweetening what we eat and drink. If you’re looking for an alternative to aspartame, take a look at these 5 options:
- Stevia – 100 times sweeter than raw sugar, stevia comes from an herbal plant called Stevia Rebaudiana. Known for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, you can find stevia in tablet, liquid, or powder forms.
- Coconut Palm Sugar – This sand-like substitute for sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm. Unlike sugar, it contains vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It’s also low-glycemic.
- Maple Syrup – Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees and is one of the most popular natural sweeteners. Pure maple syrup can be pricey, but it contains 24 different minerals and antioxidants.
- Date Sugar – Date sugar is granulated, dried dates – not actual sugar. It contains vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and is great for cooking and baking.
- Raw Honey – The original sweetener, raw honey is a great option. It has many health benefits and can help relieve both nausea and indigestion.
We all know it can be hard to ditch the sweet stuff. It’s up to you to find the option that works best for you and your health.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you believe you’re experiencing any side effects or other health concerns as a result of aspartame.
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