I usually like to keep this blog a place where I chit chat about my food life through recipes, restaurants, food tours, traveling, and conferences. And if I want to share my opinion about a specific food, or stand on my soapbox to talk about a nutrition issue, well, I save that for paying clients. But some things I just can’t keep to myself because they just get under my skin and irritate me far too much. If you’ve ever heard me rant about my hatred for Vitamin Water (glorified soda), you know what I’m talking about.
But today I want to take a moment to share with you my absolute disgust with Splenda. You know, that artificial sweetener that is “Made from real sugar, contains no calories, and is proven to be safe?” My blood is boiling just thinking about it. Let me back up by sharing my views on artificial sweeteners in general: they’re artificial. They’re substances that our body does not know how to process. They’re not found in nature the way that real sugar, or blueberries or salmon is. They’re chemically made, just like plastic is chemically made, and we don’t go around sweetening our coffee with plastic, do we? (Though BPA in plastic is a topic for another day…) Yes, every once in a blue moon I’ll drink a diet soda, which contains artificial sweeteners. But I don’t let myself get fooled by deceiving health claim marketing, and don’t want you to either.
Back to Splenda. It infuriates me to read claims that they’re safe when I’ve had personal, very negative side effects after eating it (supreme gastric upset) and know others who have suffered everything from debilitating migraines to gynecological issues after sweetening with Splenda, which cleared up immediately once they stopped. But Splenda has now taken it a little TOO far with the new Splenda Essentials, which contain “a small boost of healthy nutrients – B vitamins, fiber and antioxidants.” Let’s examine a little closer, shall we?
Splenda Essentials with fiber: They contain 1 gram of fiber. ONE TEENY GRAM! Do you know where else you can get one gram of fiber? Three strawberries. A teaspoon of flax. About three bites of a slice of whole wheat bread. A bite of beans. Why on earth do you need to add 1g of fiber and fake sugar to your coffee when you can eat a plethora of fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains to help you easily reach your goal of 25-35g per day?
Splenda with Antioxidants: Each packet contains 20% of the Daily Value of antioxidant vitamins C and E. The website claims this is a “Sweet, simple way to get vitamins like those found in fruits & vegetables.” Um…why not just eat fruits and vegetables? Vitamin C isn’t hard to come by, either, so you sure don’t need to scrape up extra sources of it in fake sugar. Have some bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries or OJ and you’ll not only meet but exceed 20% of the daily value for vitamin C. For vitamin E, try some almonds or peanut butter. Nothing artificial there.
Splenda with B Vitamins: Each packet contains 20% of the Daily Value of vitamins B1, B5, and B6 which Splenda claims is an “Easy way to help support a healthy metabolism.” Yes B vitamins metabolize and break down food (carbs, fat, protein) so your body can use it for energy, but its not going to spike your metabolism and lead to magic weight loss! Worried you’re not getting enough B vitamins? You are if you’re eating a variety of foods, to include whole-grain cereals, rice, nuts, milk, eggs, meats, fish, fruits, leafy green vegetables and more.
What’s my bottom line? Eat real foods. When you want to use a sweetener, stick with regular ‘ol sugar. Yes it contains calories. No it doesn’t have fiber, antioxidants, or any other nutrients, and it’s not supposed to. But it’s also not chemically, artificially processed and it’s something your body recognizes. If you want to boost your intake of fiber, antioxidants and nutrients, make sure you’re eating a varied diet with an emphasis on whole, plant foods. That’s what’s really essential.