It's well-known that some artificial sweeteners can pose a danger to one's health. Saccharin is carcinogenic as its' been shown to produce bladder cancer in rats. I know the jury is still out on the others, but common sense leads me to believe that artificial anything won't make it to any top 100 list of healthy foods.
I admit it, I began using "Sweet -n- Low" years ago as a calorie saver, and instantly became addicted to the sweetness. Splenda arrived with its' claim to be only one molecule away from the real stuff...well, at least that's what a Splenda executive told my husband on an airplane one day, and I quickly switched from the pink and have been a fan of the yellow for years now.
So sitting across from my size 0, 40-ish-year-old girlfriend, I put the yellow back and went for the sugar. Seriously, do I honestly believe that the extra 16 calories (per teaspoon) that real sugar provides is going to sabotage my weight goals? I eat an extra 16 calories every time I take a crumb of chips off my son's lunch plate. In fact, there are no studies to indicate that artificial sweeteners make any difference at all in weight-loss goals (Secrets of Longevity, by Dr. Maoshing Ni). We do know that cancer cells can feed on excess sugar in our bodies, but fortunately I've never been a sugar junkie...and I bet an occasional teaspoon in my tea isn't nearly as harmful as the artificial stuff.
At this point in my life, I believe natural is better, and moderation is key (actually I've always adhered to that one). There are some alternatives out there for those of you not wanting any sugar in your diets, but still needing that sweetness. Stevia, an extract from a tropical plant, is a great zero calorie, zero carb, 100% natural alternative to sugar. In fact, overseas, Stevia accounts for up to 40% of the sweetener market. Diet Coke in Japan is made with Stevia vs. NutraSweet or Splenda. I've used Stevia, and it sits on my pantry shelf, but I'm still getting used to the taste. Also, Agave Nectar, made from the juice of the succulent agave plant (the same plant that gives us tequila), is a great alternative to sugar and honey. I often use this in my tea at home, as well as on waffles and pancakes, and as a sweet addition to a fruit smoothie. Add some to plain yogurt with walnuts and cranberries and you have a delicious morning treat. I love the taste of this sweet nectar and my son loves it even more than honey!
So no more artificial sweeteners for me...sugar (on occasion), Stevia and Agave Nectar are all I need.
PS - Stevia and Agave Nectar may also be substituted in your recipes for baking, and there are many sites available on-line for conversion assistance.
Stevia Plant and powder
Purchase the highest quality Stevia you can
to avoid any bitter aftertaste.
Available now at most grocers and health food stores.
Use as substitute for maple syrup and honey.