Friday, February 27, 2009

Which Super Sweetener is Safe?

With modern chemistry and American entrepreneurship there exists many different artificial sweeteners which are 100’s of times sweeter than sugar; Sucralose, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, Cyclamate, Neotame and Saccharin. For their respective manufacturers, they all cost considerably less than sugar to process and deliver much more “sweetness” to your palette. But can artificial sweeteners whose origin is in a chemist's lab actually be safe to eat? How are these artificial compounds processed in your body? These "Frankenstein Sweeteners" are so embedded in America's diet that it would be hard not to find traces of them in just about everything from cereal to toothpaste. The FDA has approved use of these sweeteners in over 9000 items different products, including children's vitamins and over the counter remedies.

As a consumer and a parent the question is; “which sweetener is safe to feed my family?” Should you surrender to the proliferation of these super sweet synthetic additives or find more natural alternatives? Are there sweeteners which are made only from natural ingredients? If they’re not available at my local supermarket, where can I buy them?

Sucrose, Scroluse, Stevia or Sugar?

They may sound similar, though the differences between them are significant. In fact, the synthetic sweeteners have been marketed so that they have wholesome sounding brand names. While most of the all natural sweeteners have rudimentary and sometimes scientific sounding names. The differences between the two groups are vast. However, the undisputed facts about the potential side-effects of artificial sweeteners are well-documented, though may be hard to find:

  • Sucralose (Splenda™), is a chlorinated sugar; chlorocarbon is toxic to plants and animals. It’s undisputed: Chlorine is a carcinogen. Also, a study shows that Suralose reduces the amount of good bacteria in the intestines by 50%, increases the pH level in the intestines and contributes to increases in body weight.

  • Aspartame (NutriSweet™) ingestion results in the production of methanol, formaldehyde and formate--substances that could be considered toxic at high doses. Aspartame is made of 50% phenylalanine and 40% aspartic acid bound by 10% methanol. Upwards of 80% of food additive complaints to the FDA concern aspartame.

  • Andrew Laumbach, Ph.D., consumer safety officer in FDA's Office of Premarket Approval states that regarding Saccharin (Sweet n' Low™), "We know for certain that it causes cancer in animals". Besides its bitter aftertaste, saccharin has a bitter-sweet history of ill-effects on humans and lab rats alike.

There are many more case studies that exist that have not been cited in this article. They include reports from European countries, Japan and others which conclude potential side-effects of ingesting these synthetic sweeteners.

Natural Sweeteners: the sweet alternative that's really made from sugar!

Why consume anything other than what nature provides us with? Naturally occurring sugar (Sucrose) can be found in many different forms and comes from many diverse sources. There are many natural alternative sweeteners which offer added nutritional and health benefits. They are widely available in health food stores and are becoming more common in supermarkets.

  • Stevia – Sweetener derived from the stevia herb from South America. It is beneficial to support healthy intestinal bacteria (flora) and it’s very sweet! It is ideal for diabetics as it stimulates the release of insulin and normalizes the response to glucose, particularly in type 2 diabetes. It’s also used as a therapeutic remedy for hyperglycemia.

  • Xylitol – Also known as birch sugar, Xylitol is low-glysemic and doesn’t cause blood sugar imbalances or yeast overgrowth. Diabetics: It’s absorbed more slowly than sugar, it doesn’t contribute to high blood sugar levels. Osteoporosis: Finnish researchers found that it tends to promote bone health and prevents tooth decay and plaque buildup. NOTE: There are few U.S. producers of real “birch sugar”, avoid buying cheaper brands which are manufactured abroad. The imported brands tend to have less of beneficial ingredients.

  • Agave Syrup – Produced from the Mexican agave plant, it is sweetener than honey with a milder taste. Its flavor resembles maple syrup, though it’s considerably sweeter. Agave syrup is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market.

  • Honey – An all time favorite in recipes, including hot and cold drinks. Low-glycemic though high in carbohydrates, honey is Mother Nature’s special sweet treat.

  • Maple Syrup – Another simply wonderful tasty treat born from the sap of Maple trees. It’s versatile, and added to desserts, pancakes and grandma’s secret recipes.

  • FruitSource™ – Relatively new to the marketplace, it replaces both fat and sugar in baking. Made from a blend of grapes and rice, it can be used for both hot and cold beverages and in cooking.

There is no need to resort to artificial sweeteners when there are so many more healthy alternatives on the market. Whether you are diabetic, sugar alcohol intolerant, bariatric patient or naturalist: always choose natural ingredients (without artificial additives) for your family. Natural and Health Food stores that sell organic products generally have a broad understanding of all the Natural Sweetener products they sell. Mother Earth Storehouses in the Hudson Valley ( is one of the areas’ oldest with a knowledgeable staff that is well-versed on the latest in sugar substitute. news.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Harmony through a Healthy Diet

In traditional Chinese medicine, “chi” is essential for good health. It represents a perfect balance, a state of equilibrium within your body, mind and soul. Within all of us there is the potential for perfect harmony, though we sometimes ignore the obvious relation between our body parts and especially the effect of diet on our brain. It’s this connection, which exists between our mind and our diet that we all need to recognize.

Nutrition for Your Brain

Imagine streams of synapses making electrochemical connections, enabling us to complete everyday tasks or make complex decisions. The food that we ingest is the fuel that provides the energy for those connections to exist. Everything we consume acts as a pharmaceutical compound that affects your brain negatively or positively. We’ve all witnessed (or personally experienced) of how some recreational drugs impair your cognitive functions. The reverse is true for proper nutrition. Every aspect of how we react, sense and process complicated tasks are directly related to what we place in our gullet.

Essential Fatty Acids

Not all of us can control when, where and what we eat. Our daily lives are busy, with tight schedules and precious little time to reflect on our intake. The adage, “you are what you eat” holds true as many of us find the convenience of fast food irresistible. It’s the oils and additives that are used in the manufacturing of fast foods that are the most harmful to your body and your brain. That’s where nutritional supplements come in handy. Your brain is rich in two essential fatty acids, both of which provide a vital role in contributing to the “chi” factor mentioned earlier. One form is omega-3 fatty acids which are found in flax, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and some cold water fish like salmon and tuna. The other kind of fat needed for healthy brain cells is omega 6 fatty acids found in oils, like sunflower, corn, sesame and safflower. The later can be harmful if taken in excess, e.g. diets rich in hydrogenated fats and fried foods.


No, they’re not acronyms for federal regulatory bodies, but they are indispensable in regulating your brain. When your body lacks the essential fatty acids it needs, it will build replacement fatty acids which are similar though not at all healthy. So, it’s important to use DHA and EPA supplements if your diet doesn’t include foods rich in these two essential fatty acids. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids are obtained by food and quality dietary supplements. Once eaten, the body coverts these acids to DHA and EPA, which are readily used by the brain.

All Natural is Better

Foods that contain these nutrients are available in most food stores. Though shopping for the freshest and safest product can be time-consuming and not very practical. Most "Big Box" food store employees don’t have the nutritional expertise to offer reliable advice. On the other hand, Natural food stores that sell organic products generally have a broad understanding of the nutritional products they sell. Mother Earth Storehouses in the Hudson Valley New York with three stores in Poughkeepsie, Kingston and Saugerties ( and is one of the areas oldest health food store with a knowledgeable staff that is well-versed on the latest in nutritional news. In addition to popular name brand supplements, they sell a complete line of their own supplements and vitamins. Along with their all natural organic supplements, they carry many DHA-fortified dairy products like milk and yogurt and algae-derived DHA vegetarian food products and supplements.

Harmony can be found, though you need to eat well, exercise and give your body all the nutrition it needs for healthy “chi”.