I received this question when Chef Nancy and I were working together recently. I believe that the quicker food is from “farm to plate” the better. In other words, the less we consume drinks and foods that have chemicals, sweeteners and additives in them, the better for you. The more you eat a certain flavor, or drink a sweet drink, the more you desire it and the less you appreciate other flavors. This means that if you are accustomed to sweet things, you will not appreciate the subtle flavors of other foods. So is one diet drink occasionally horrible for you? No. But if you drink them all the time, you won’t even give another drink a chance…and there are many great drinks out there!
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the safest sweeteners is Splenda. Sugar Alcohols are safe, but can cause diarrhea in large amounts. Aspartame is categorized as probably safe. Acesulfame K is inadequately tested. Saccharin is unsafe. Stevia is an all-natural herbal product with centuries of safe usage. However, it has been used in small amounts and in our Western Diet, we seem to go overboard. More tests are still being done on Stevia. Here is a short list of artificially sweetened drinks and which sweeteners are used.
Saccharin: Sweet and Low
Aspartame: Crystal Light, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, Diet Mountain Dew, Equal
Aspartame + Acesulfame K: Coke Zero, Pepsi Jazz
Splenda: Diet Rite
Instead of grabbing one of these products, give your taste buds something new to try! Try water with lemon/limes/cucumber, green tea with agave nectar, white pomegranate tea, or hot water with lemon and ginger. Enjoy!