In with the new year, out with the artificial

Since I’m a diabetic and not supposed to fast on Yom Kippur, I’m taking a page from the Catholics and giving something up for the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as my way of atoning. For me this is artificial colors and artificial sweeteners. I realized I’ve been drinking diet sodas since adolescence and been eating God-knows what other artificial additives. I wondered what my brain function (focus, memory, clarity) and body function (metabolism, blood sugars) might do if I got rid of these for 10 days.

It is a real challenge to do this. I’m pretty much addicted to diet sodas: Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Mountain Dew, Pepsi Max (did you know that Pepsi Max has 30% more caffeine than Mountain Dew?). I drink an energy shot in the morning with my vitamin, sometimes have an energy drink in the morning with breakfast, and then have 4-6 sodas throughout the day.

The caffeine content in that isn’t as bad as you’d think–about the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee–but it’s also lots of sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and aspartame. On top of that there are plenty of artificial colors. And quite often, when I wanted to tone down the caffeine at the end of the day, I’d switch to Propel “Fitness Water” with sweeteners and artificial flavors. Most days I wouldn’t put an ounce of liquid in my mouth that wasn’t artificially flavored and artificially sweetened.

I’ve become more aware of artificial colors in food since we read some reports of artificial colors exacerbating symptoms of ADHD in kids. We’ve been trying to cut them out of the family’s diet to see if it helps. It seems to have helped a bit, but it hasn’t been a magic bullet by a long shot.

But the more I read the ingredients on packaged foods, the more aware I am of all the crap manufacturers are putting in them. I used to enjoy El Pato Jalapeno hot sauce, but apparently their jalapenos aren’t green enough, so they boost the color with blue and yellow food dyes. My go to white Altoids just have sucralose and sugar alcohols while the wintergreen ones add artificial color to the mix.

Finding a kids’ fruit snack without artificial colors and corn syrup is possible, but the bigger the brand name (like Kellogs or TreeTop) the more likely they are to have corn syrup and/or artificial colors like Red 40. TreeTop’s box even says “no high fructose corn syrup,” so when you read that there’s corn syrup in the ingredients, that must mean it’s low fructose?

And forget about GoGurt. Let’s face it, anything McDonald’s is pushing as a “healthy” snack can’t be that healthy. I was about to rip into Yoplait’s GoGurt, but I went to their site and looked at the ingredients. Maybe they had corn syrup and artificial colors at one time, but they currently sport regular sugar (and less per ounce than say Tillamook Low Fat) and colorings from fruit/vegetable juices and spice extracts.

I’ve been taking a “green tea fat burner” pill from Costco to get more caffeine in the morning (not for fat burning). Then during the day I’m drinking green tea, water, or juice. I can sweeten the tea with honey if I want, but I try to limit that.

I’m on my third day of this and it’s not easy. The temptation to grab a soda is very much in the background all the time. It’s almost like when I quit smoking. But I’m sitting here with my unsweetened green tea this morning, knocking out a quick blog post, and fighting the good fight.

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