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Sugar Part V – Agave Nectar February 15, 2010

Filed under: Food Additives,Health Facts and Concerns,Sugar — Yvette @ 10:48 pm
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You may be unaware of the agave nectar debate, or you may be geniunely curious about whether it is a health food or not.  If we look at it honestly it is a sweetener and any sweetener isn’t the best thing for you, but usually fine in moderation.

The question mostly comes from the raw food community, where many tout it’s raw deserts as being health foods.  Being a raw foodist I have been amazed at how liberally agave nectar is used in some recipes.  Sometimes it is not used just as a sweetener, but a major component of the recipe.  This is when I stopped myself and started questioning this sweetener.  This is what I’ve found.

Agave nectar is about 90% fructose and 10% glucose, this ratio is not found anywhere in nature.  The high amount of fructose makes it a low glycemic sweetener and is great for diabetics, in the short term.  The long term risks are high triglyceride counts.  This is because when fructose enters the body in this isolated form it immediately goes to the liver and produces fat cells.  Unlike glucose which immediately causes a surge in the blood sugar levels.

If we consider agave nectar’s sugar ratio and compare it to high fructose corn syrup which has a 70% to 30% ratio, we can immediately see that it is unnatural.  Although we should not put agave nectar on the same shelf as HFCS, it still IS processed, we can not ignore that.  How is agave nectar processed?  This seems to also answer another question…is agave nectar actually raw?

Agave nectar comes from the same plant that tequila is made from, a type of cactus.  In order to prevent agave nectar from turning into tequila the enzymes must be destroyed, therefore agave nectar really isn’t raw.

So, is agave nectar a ‘natual sweetener’?  Well that depends on your defintion of natural.  I would recommend maple syrup, honey, or dried fruit over agave nectar.  But sometimes a particular diet calls for it, then I would say to use it in moderation.  I would not however put it alongside HFCS or white sugar as some people do.  Agave is not processed with mercury and chlorine, like HFCS and sugar.  Agave nectar lays somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of sweeteners, use it sparingly and you should be fine.  However, I would not consider it a health food.


MSG – Monosodium Glutamate Part II March 10, 2009

Filed under: Flavorings,Food Additives,Health Facts and Concerns — Yvette @ 4:20 pm

I received a inquiry on my previous post about MSG to elaborate on why it is addictive.  I welcome any other inquiries from anyone :)

MSG, labeled as monosodium glutamate, is addictive due it’s flavor enhancing qualities and it’s stimulating effects on the excititory neurotransmitters in the brain.  There is no conclusive data as to WHY MSG is harmful, but studies, reports and research show that it causes numerous adverse reactions and can even be dangerous in large quantities.

Here are some of the documented reactions to MSG.  If you experience any of these after ingesting a product containing this additive, then it would be wise to do your best to keep this out of your diet.

A burning sensation in the back of the neck, forearms and chest
Numbness in the back of the neck, radiating to the arms and back
Tingling, warmth and weakness in the face, temples, upper back, neck and arms
Facial pressure or tightness
Chest pain
Rapid heartbeat
Bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) in intolerant people with asthma
Intense cravings for the same foods

MSG is free-glutamic acid and is released from the breakdown of certain proteins.  Because this neurotoxin can formed during the manufacturing process, not just added to food as an ingredient it is good to be aware of ways companies hide this ingredient in their products.  Products that are manufactored at high heats or over long periods of time form MSG as well as other contaminants.

Companies might claim that MSG is nothing more than sodium salt from glutamic acid (an amino acid), and it occurs naturally, so the manufactored MSG can’t be harmful.  Yes, MSG occurs naturally, but when manufactored contaminants are released along with the glutamic acid, and this combination is what it harmful to the body.  Careful wording and manipulation helps these companies steer the public into thinking this additive is safe, this is similar the HFCS commercial I posted a few months ago.

Reports show that MSG consumption worldwide is about 4.4 million pounds in 2006, despite the knowledge in 1992 that it’s consumption is harmful to at least 25% of the population.  This does not include the hidden forms of MSG, such as hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein isolate, which may be listed as “spices” or “natural flavorings.”

This food additive can also be compared to aspartame, both are derived from amino acids and isolated from their natural context.  Many believe that this isolation is what causes the body and brain to malfunction when ingesting an additive out of it’s natural habitat.  Tinkering with food additives is relatively new and our bodies are not adapted to handle these strange concoctions, it is best to stick to whole unadultered foods.


MSG – monosodium glutamate March 8, 2009

Filed under: Carcinogens,Flavorings,Food Additives — Yvette @ 3:23 am

I vaguely remember being in a Chinese restaurant during the 90’s when my mother asked for no MSG in our food.  This may have been during the time people started to realize how addicting MSG can be.  When  companies and restaurants find legal addictive substances you can be sure they will start adding it to our food to keep us coming back for more.

MSG is like crack, it’s an extremely addictive and harmful food additive.  MSG can also be labeling under “natural flavorings” which is why you need to be careful of the ingredient natural flavors, as I’ve said before.  The FDA forces companies to list monosodium glutamate as additive because of the adverse effects it causes in a good portion of the population.  The problem is that a good amount of people do not read the ingredients on their food labels.

I happen to be an avid label reader, even of foods I do not eat (this annoys the crap out of my mother).  I thought that MSG would have been banned by now because of how harmful it can be, but I have found through occasionally reading labels that MSG aka monosodium glutamate is still being put into foods.  I personally have found this ingredient in a lot of popular canned soups like Progresso and Campbells, not all of them, but some.  So be conscious consumers and read your ingredients!

* I just found MSG in Triscuits 😦


Hydrogenated oils & Trans fats February 23, 2009

At some point in time we developed a hierarchy of fats, saturated fats being the worst, then unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.  Research showed that high consumption of saturated fats can lead to heart disease and cancer.  Instead of getting people to eat healthier and move away from a high fat diet, the food industry developed ways to mimic saturated fats using unsaturated fats.  This is when hydrogenated oils were introduced, not to just mimic foods like butter, but to extend shelf life.  I’ll remind you here that anything that extends shelf life is nutritionally deficient.  Vegetables and fruits rot because they are living and full of vital nutrients.  Where products with HFCS, hydrogenated oils and other preservatives can lay on shelves for years because there is little food in the actual product.

Hydrogenated oils are obtained by adding a hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats.  These fats become hardened promoting longer shelf life and extended use in frying foods.  Hydrogenation does not completely transform the unsaturated fat into a saturated one, but it does produce trans fatty acids.  These fats behave like saturated fats and are linked to heart disease and cancers.

Partially hydrogenated oils are just as bad as hydrogenated oils.  The reason for the use of partially hydrogenated oils is because the trans fat content can be less than 1 gram per serving.  By USDA standards this is not a sufficient amount of trans fat to be reported on a label.

Please be aware that these man-made fats are extremely harmful to your health.  These ingredients can be found in candy bars, margarine, tub butters, baked goods and much more.  Be conscious consumers and read your ingredient labels.


Sugars that aren’t so sweet Part IV, HFCS and Mercury February 12, 2009

Filed under: Food Additives,Sugar — Yvette @ 11:10 pm

I’ve posted about how high fructose corn syrup is not a healthful substance, but I’ve recently read an article that makes me even more fearful of it.  Apparently, HFCS may contain traces of mercury.  Mercury poisoning is very serious and can cause brain damage.  Pregnant women should be even more careful around this substance because it can harm an unborn fetus.

The HFCS website will have you believing that it’s product is natural because it is made from corn.  While I’m sure part of it comes from corn, the key components of HFCS are caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, alpha-amylase, gluco-amylase, isomerase, ilter aid, powdered carbon, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate.  Ugh, doesn’t sound so tasty now?

The two chemicals that can possibly contain mercury are the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid.  There are two kinds of caustic soda on the market today; one is called “mercury grade” and the other is produced through a much safer method .  It just so happens that the HFCS industry is the biggest buyer of mercury grade caustic soda.

Several products were tested, and traces of mercury were found in Quaker, Hunt’s, Manwich, Hershey’s, Smucker’s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain, and Yoplait.  Since HFCS is in almost anything now a days it has me wondering, if these products were contaminated with mercury, how many others might be?

The HFCS website attempts to defend itself by saying that some meats and seafood contain mercury and that traces of this substance can also be found in our drinking water.  How does that justify the presence of mercury in HFCS, which is used in a countless number of products on the market today?  It seems in an attempt to defend themselves the HFCS industry is pointing it’s finger and claiming, “well they’re doing it too!”  like little children.  Another claim is that there isn’t enough mercury to cause a concern.  But HFCS is in our bread, ketchup, soups, baking supplies, soy sauce, juices, sodas, pasta sauces, candy, snack bars, crackers, and an endless list of products.  Who is to say that someone may be ingesting too much or too little?  The defense comes from the President of the industry, why not defend your product when your paycheck depends on it?  Besides, we are aware of the mercury content of fish, so that way we can be conscious of how much we consume.  Whether you choose to continue consuming HFCS or not, I believe you should at least be aware of what might be going into your body.


Soda is Liquid Satan January 21, 2009

Filed under: Acidity,Sugar — Yvette @ 3:23 pm

Soda is liquid satan, I couldn’t agree more with the skinny bitches Rory and Kim who coined this phrase.  If you’re interested in a tough love book about eating right I’d recommend Skinny Bitch.

Anyways, I’ve posted about high fructose corn syrup, sugar, aspartame and natural flavors.  If you drink soda, diet or regular you should read these past posts.  Here’s the scoop on soda.


Coke- carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffiene

Pepsi-carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, phosphoric acid, citrid acid and natural flavors

Diet Coke-carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid, caffiene

My translation of the ingredients-carbonated water, nutritionally devoid sweeteners, chemicals, chemicals, chemicals, and more chemicals.  Why would you want to ruin your water like that?

I rounded up a bunch of sodas like canada dry’s ginger ale (which by the way has no ginger in it), and most of the ingredients are the same.  Soda is just bubbly water with chemicals and harmful modified sugars added to it.

Here’s the breakdown.

The sugars.

Aspartame, high fructose corn syrup and sugar I’ve mentioned before.  These sugars whether they’re in diet or regular soda are not healthful and cause weight gain and energy spikes.  The chemical sweeteners can lead to cancer among other undesirable diseases (see my posts on sugar).

The artificial & natural flavor and other additives.

Caramel color is an artifical flavor. If natural flavor is listed as an ingredient you can be sure that there isn’t just one natural flavor, there’s probably a whole slew (that goes for all foods and beverages, not just soda).  Phosphoric acid allows a slightly sour taste in soda and adds to it’s acidity.  This acidity is known to leach calcium from your bones.  Caffiene which is an addictive substance leaves the body dehydrated.

All of these substances are harmful and highly acidic to your body.  Regular soda has a pH of 2 and diet has a pH of 1.5.  So if you’re trying to lose weight at all, soda will cause your body to produce fat  cells due to it’s high acidic content.   Also acidic conditions in the body are breeding ground for illness and colds.

In my opinion one of the most helpful steps to becoming a healthier person is to cut down or stop drinking soda.


Sugars That Aren’t So Sweet Part III High Fructose Corn Syrup and White Sugar December 21, 2008

Filed under: Food Additives,MUST READS,Sugar — Yvette @ 8:13 pm

I was pretty distraught when I watched this commercial for several reasons.

In this commercial they compare high fructose corn syrup to sugar, the reason why they can do this is because both are lacking in nutritional value.  These substances are refined sugars, that have been stripped of their nutrients.  High fructose corn syrup is made by extracting the natural sugars in corn and adding chemicals to it.  Table sugar starts off as a sugarcane plant, the juice is extracted, boiled, then the sugar is removed.   Companies use over 60 chemicals to transform the sugarcane plant into sugar.  So, neither of these are natural or healthful substances.

Wait don’t you need sugar to survive?  This is true, you need natural sugars like glucose found in vegetables and fructose found in fruit for energy.  These sugars are accompanied by fiber which helps the slow absorption of energy.  It is the fiber in foods that give us a full feeling, this wonderful nutrient says “hey stop eating we’re done!”  But when companies modify foods they strip the sugar from it’s natural context, and there is no fiber accompanying HFCS or sugar to let us know that we are full.  When people eat foods that contain these sugars it is very easy to overeat.

This isn’t the only problem caused by these sugars.  Another problem is that both these sugars release energy rapidly into the body.  The energy is used up quickly and the body is left feeling hungry.  A vicious cycle occurs and we need to eat more.  When you intake simple carbohydrates and don’t exercise regularly these carbs are stored as fat. 

When this commercial states, “fine in moderation,” my head wants to explode.  This is because it is very hard to get high fructose corn syrup or sugar in moderation in this country.  The average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar per year. 

You may think, I don’t eat sweets very often, I’m below that norm.  But both these sugars can be found in bread, ketchup, pasta sauce, soups, orange juice, soy sauce, yogurt, etc.   So, even if you don’t consume candy or soda your intake of sugar can be very high, I didn’t notice this until I checked all my food labels.  Check your food labels, you’ll see!

The increase is sugar consumption is related to the recent epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity.  We are all aware that America as a nation is pretty fat, 2/3 of the adult population is overweight and 1/3 is obese.   Not only are we fat, but we are unhealthy too.  The average american spends more on medical care than on food.  I believe this is because we are an overfed undernourished nation.

Why do people let this happen?  Well because sugar is cheap.  Corn is one of the most subsidized foods in the country, making HFCS is cheap.  If that’s not enough to make you be weary of sugar, listen to this.

The USDA passed a guideline stating that daily calorie intake of sugar “should be limited and below 10%.”  The sugar industries threatened to sue, so now the statement has been changed to “use in moderation and about 25% of your daily calorie intake.”  One statement treats sugar as something to be used sparingly and the other has a very liberal approach.  I would expect that if someones income is depending on you buying sugar they’d want you to be liberal with your sugar intake.  They didn’t change the statement because they believe in the quality of their product, they changed the statement because their jobs depend on you eating massive quantities of sugar. 

Check your food labels.  Every time you buy something at the grocery store you are casting a vote, make it count.