friends chewing gum together
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTIN DIMITROV/GETTY

The 8 Best Chewing Gums (Not Packed With Chemicals)

Chewing keeps teeth clean between meals, and freshens breath. But let's leave out the fake sweeteners and ingredients we can't pronounce, please.

October 21, 2015

You try to eat healthy, buy only organic apples, and don't drink Diet Coke. But you know that pack of Orbit you chew every day?  Let's just say it's not exactly innocent minty refreshment.

Almost all big brands of sugar-free gum contain artificial sweeteners, namely aspartame and acesulfame potassium (both are "generally regarded as safe" by the FDA, but we would like to emphasize the word "generally," as studies have linked the fake sugars to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity). Even sketchier, though, is that most gums are also made out of plastic. Gum base formulas vary by brand, but they can contain synthetic rubbers, emulsifiers, the controversial preservative BHT and a plastic called polyvinyl acetate.

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Related: Are Nestle's New Artificial-Free Candy Bars Actually Healthy Now?

Enter the concept of clean chewing gum—and the preponderance of new brands claiming to have a leg up on your average pack of Trident. Most are made from natural sugar alcohols like xylitol instead of artificial sweeteners, and some brands go the extra mile by swapping out the gumbase for chicle, a natural latex made from the bark of the sapodilla tree. It's what gum used to be made out of in the 1950s before scientists figured out how to replicate the stuff in a lab and poison our bubble-snapping idyll.

One caveat: A stick of naturally flavored chicle isn't as enjoyable as that strawberry-shortcake flavored Extra you can't stop buying. Flavors fade more quickly, and the texture is not as bouncy as what you're used to. But if you're concerned about chomping on aspartame and plastic, here are seven gums that offer some improvement over the Wrigleys of the world:

Cleanest

Train Gum
Contains just four ingredients: chicle, natural oils, simple syrup, and rice flour as a coating.

Flavors: peppermint, grapefruit, cinnamon, lime. $2.50 per pack.

Chicza Organic Rainforest Gum
The only gum we've found that has the USDA Organic seal. It's made with evaporated cane juice, chicle, glucose, agave syrup, and natural flavors.

Flavors: mint, cinnamon, mixed berry. $1.75 per pack.

Simply Gum

Simply Gum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SIMPLY GUM

 

A mostly-organic gum made with just chicle, dried cane juice, vegetable glycerin, sunflower lecithin, rice flour, and natural flavors.

Flavors: spearmint, cinnamon, fennel licorice, maple, ginger, and coffee. $18 for 90 pieces.

Related: Ranked: Nine Most Popular Natural Sweeteners

 

Clean

Xylichew
Xylitol sweetens, but the ingredients list shows "gum base"—although the company claims it's plastic- and preservative-free.

Flavors: cinnamon, fruit, spearmint, black licorice, spearmint, peppermint.  $13.82 for 60 pieces.

Glee Gum

Glee Gum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF GLEE GUM

The market's only non-GMO verified gum. Glee is also in the process of transitioning to an all-natural gum base (read: no synthetic plastics). Original varieties are sweetened with Fair Trade cane sugar and brown rice syrup; the sugar-free flavors have xylitol.

Flavors: cinnamon, tangerine, peppermint, spearmint, and triple berry. $4.95 for 75 pieces.

Related: Your Smoothie Is A Sugar Bomb. Here's How To Make It Healthy.

 

Still Better Than Orbit

Peelu
Gets its sweetness from isomalt (a sugar alcohol), xylitol, and stevia. Also contains peelu tree fibers, which have been used in oral hygiene for thousands of years and have proven antibacterial effects. Downside: It's got that proprietary "gum base."

Flavors: spearmint, cinnamon, citrus, and peppermint. $7.89 for 100 pieces.

Spry
Flavored with natural oils and sweetened with just xylitol. But it also includes that nebulous gum base (again) and soy lecithin, an emulsifier that's often genetically modified.

 

Flavors: cinnamon, fresh fruit, green tea, peppermint, spearmint. $9.49 for 100 pieces.

Pür Gum

Pur Gum
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PUR GUM

A good choice for anybody with food allergies, since it's totally free of nuts, soy, dairy, and gluten. It's sweetened with xylitol and contains gumbase, gum arabic, glycerol, and the ever-mysterious "natural flavors."

Flavors: pomegranate mint, peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint, coolmint, and cinnamon. $4.99 for 57 pieces.

This article originally published on Eat Clean.

Tags: nutrition