I have a confession to make: Although my diet has been pretty much free of sugar (aside from the fructose in berries, root vegetables, etc.), I've been getting blasts of sweetness from two very un-Paleo sources: Artificially sweetened gum and diet soda.
I'll pause while you recover from this earth-shattering news.
I chew gum only when I'm driving -- sometimes to help keep me awake and alert during my mind-numbing daily commute -- but I log a lot of miles, so I frequently go through Costco-sized boxes of the stuff. I'm sure the parking valets in my office building are revolted by the number of wadded-up gum wrappers scattered like so much confetti all over the interior of my car.
My Coke Zero intake, however, isn't limited to the car. I've stockpiled a few dozen cans of the stuff in my garage, ostensibly for "guests" who crave the sweet, sweet taste of aspartame. But even when no one else is around -- especially when no one else is around -- I'll pop open a can. And at work, the company cafeteria has Coke Zero in the soda dispenser, and it beckons me every time I pass by. I resist -- usually.
In my defense: In "The Paleo Diet," Loren Cordain -- the Yoda of caveman eats -- includes artificially-sweetened diet sodas in his list of "foods you can eat in moderation." And it's not like I guzzle the stuff.
- Artificial sweeteners may sabotage weight loss and weight management efforts. In the words of Robb Wolf and Mat Lalonde, artificial sweeteners "cockblock fat loss."
- Despite being "sugar free," products containing sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol can raise your blood sugar.
- Use of artificial sweeteners has been linked to a two-fold increase in insulin resistance and diabetes. (Of course, the skeptic in me suspects this correlation could be explained by greater intake of diet soda by unhealthy pre-diabetic and diabetic folks who are trying to cut their sugar intake.)
- High doses of sucralose have been shown to reduce normal, healthy gut flora by half (in rats, anyway).
- Adverse reactions to aspartame include everything from migraines and moodiness to cramps and diarrhea. (My wife, a drug dealer by trade who has a degree in nutrition and food science, puts it this way: "Some sugar substitutes are osmotic laxatives -- they can't be broken down and makes your gut hyperosmotic, which gives you the shits.")
Sometimes, Paleo is no fun at all.
(Photos: bukowsky18, mastermaq)