Food Additives – Aspartame
No thanks I’m Sweet enough…
Do you love sugar? Have you got a sweet tooth? Isn’t it hell when you want to keep to a good diet yet crave sweet stuff? Sugar is one of the things in our diet that we’re all supposed to watch out for. Too much of it can cause us harm, as can too little of it. Most processed food has some form of sugar in it. Most things that end with the letters ‘ose’ denote sugar such as glucose, fructose, lactose, etc, but as migraine sufferers it’s important not to let sugar levels drop too much or it can trigger an attack. Also as migraineurs it’s important to eat a healthy diet, so automatically turning to foods with less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff is something that seems completely sensible and natural. However, many of the foods and drinks that declare themselves healthier for you because they are ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’ versions may have a hidden sting in their tail.
It’s called Aspartame – which is also known as
- Amino Sweet
- Aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester
- Canderel (tablets)
- Equal Classic
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners used today. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar so less of it can be used in food to get the same sweetness, thereby reducing the calories. That’s the idea behind it, which is why it’s used with the ‘diet’ and ‘sugar-free’ labels
Not all artificial sweeteners are the same; some are made from naturally occurring substances including plants or normal sugar itself. They can be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight or diabetics who can’t take regular sugar, however, Aspartame is linked with some health problems, and migraine is one of them!
According to the Department of Health and Human Services in the USA, in a report from way back in 1995, Aspartame accounted for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some of the documented symptoms listed in the report as being caused by aspartame include:
It remains one of the most controversial, yet most tested and monitored food additives, so it can’t be all that bad, can it? See the following link for how it’s seen by diabetes.co.uk (and keep scrolling down their page for the full article)
How do I avoid it?
Simple answer, don’t eat or drink….anything…..at all! Seriously though, check the ingredient labels on your food to find out exactly what’s in it. Look out for E numbers, all the ‘ose’ words, MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) among other things. They may all contribute to your chances of an attack and many are best avoided if at all possible.
For a full list of food additives and legislation related to them in Ireland have a look at the Food Safety Authority’s Website.
Hang on, I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth, what can I use instead?
If you need to sweeten your food, and let’s face it some food certainly needs something to help it go down, then instead of a spoonful of sugar, you could try one of the following natural sweeteners. Some of them contain ingredients that can help with migraine, like vitamin B2(riboflavin) and magnesium.
- Raw honey – Try to shop locally as it’s more natural and you boost your local economy too.
- Stevia – This comes from plants and has no calories! You can get this in your local health food shop
- Dates – Can be found in the supermarket- try Medjool Dates
- Coconut sugar – Again in supermarkets – Cocowel sugar
- Maple syrup – Oh Canada!
- Blackstrap molasses – Nourish.ie stock a brand called ‘Meridian’
- Balsamic glaze – From Balsamic Vinegar can be found in health food stores
- Banana puree – Ripen some bananas and mush them – a tiny drop of lemon juice will keep them fresh for a bit
- Brown rice syrup – Again, health food shops – Make sure it’s gluten free, it’s better stuff
- Real fruit jam – Again Meridian seems to be a good choice
- Monk fruit – or Luo Han Guo which is used in traditional Chinese medicine for coughs and sore throats as well as a natural sweetener
Click the photo below for more information on the above natural sweeteners and how to enjoy them…