Unsweetened Tooth

One of my first dates with my wife was at a free theatre where they showed artsy films and gave away small bags of popcorn and paper cups of soda pop. She hadn’t had soda in years, raved about how good it tasted, but blamed me for getting her hooked again. At work I would drink up to six cans of diet soda per day, and I always had it at home. Sometimes I tried Fresca or 7-Up, but I usually came back to Diet Pepsi.

We gave up sodas of all kinds several years ago for sweetened tea, then dropped that for unsweetened tea, then home-brewed tea (Rooibos) and now drink just water, hot tea and the very occasional beer. We now find filtered water very delicious.

So The Quest for a Natural Sugar Substitute doesn’t really concern us anymore, except that it seems that we are part of a trend:

While sweetened carbonated beverages still make up around one-fifth of all the liquids we consume, the volume sold has dropped, per capita, every year since 1998. We’re more afraid of sugar than we’ve ever been. What yesterday were seen as “empty calories” have today been designated “toxic.” Doctors warn that cans of soda put fat into your liver, weaken your response to insulin and increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes. …

… consumers are not content to switch to artificial sweeteners. Sales volume of diet soda fell by 12 percent in the last six years. Far from serving as a life raft for the industry, that business is leaking dollars, too.

The problem is that for all the fear of fructose, consumers have grown just as wary of its beaker-born alternatives. To health fanatics, they seem noxious on their face: Sweet’N Low comes from a derivative of coal; Equal is made from methanol and converts to formaldehyde when digested; Splenda is a chlorinated sugar. Others worry over well-worn rumors of their ill effects — tumors, headaches and depression. More recent studies hint that diet drinks can cause the very problem they’re meant to solve and make us fat instead of thin.


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3 responses to “Unsweetened Tooth”

  1. Nancy L. Seibel says :

    We grew stevia in our garden this past spring and summer. I bought the plant at the Baltimore Farmers Market. It grows easily and steeping the leaves in tea or in water flavored with lemon or fruit slices gives a nice light sweet taste with no bitterness. I wonder if it’s the processing of it into a powder that leads to the bitterness? I never tried baking with it (not sure how you could do that with a leaf – maybe just cut it up fine like an herb?). But anyhow if you want a natural, noncaloric beverage sweetener, stevia leaves are great!


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