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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.


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.


Sugars That Aren’t So Sweet Part II Sucralose November 30, 2008

Filed under: Carcinogens,Food Additives,Sugar — Yvette @ 6:07 pm

Hopefully you’ve all read Part I where I discuss the dangers of aspartame.  Now, we’ll discuss the other popular sugar substitute, sucralose.  Sucralose which is Splenda, can be found in sports drinks or so called “healthy drinks” like the funky looking Fuze.

Sucralose contains methanol, which I talked about in Part I, and arsenic!  I’m sure you all know of arsenic, which is poison.  This poison is not only toxic to our bodies, but is known to cause certain types of cancer.  So, as your intake of arsenic increases so does your risk of lung, bladder and kidney cancer.  The U.S. is one of the only developed countries that regulates what can be considered a “safe level” of arsenic for food or drinks.  Wonderful.

Sucralose claims it is better than aspartame because it is made from real sugar.  Don’t be fooled sucralose is still a synthetic food, it is made by chlorinating sugar.  The common claim is that adding chlorine to sucrose (table sugar) to make sucralose makes it’s structure similar to salt (NaCl).  In reality adding the chlorine to the sucrose molecule makes it’s structure much more similar to a pesticide than sucrose (table sugar).  For those of you who have heard that this artificial sweetener passes through your body undigested, think again.  Studies have shown that about 15% is absorbed by the body.

A little packet containing pesticide-like substances, arsenic and methanol in your morning coffee doesn’t sound too tasty does it?

This product has been around for about 20 years, and there have been 110 animal/human tests on it.  Most of the tests conducted were over several months or weeks, not long term studies.  Even though FDA claims it is safe, without sufficient testing the general public will end up being guinea pigs.

So, if you want to cut down on your intake of aspartame and sucralose, I would recommend checking the ingredient lists on the products you buy from time to time.  Usually diet foods that claim “no sugar added” or “sugar free” have one of the two ingredients.  Either of the two are commonly found in diet soda, gum, breath mints and red bull.  Be safe and be healthy!


Aspartame Poisoning November 15, 2008

Filed under: Carcinogens,Food Additives,Sugar — Yvette @ 12:10 am

Here’s a little more information on aspartame.

If you’re curious about aspartame read my previous post, if you haven’t already, because if you consume the following products it is likely that you are consuming aspartame: “diet soda, over-the-counter drugs & prescription drugs (very common and listed under “inactive ingredients”), vitamin & herb supplements, yogurt, instant breakfasts, candy, breath mints, cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, cocoa mixes, coffee beverages, instant breakfasts, gelatin desserts, frozen desserts, juice beverages, laxatives, milk drinks, shake mixes, tabletop sweeteners, tea beverages, instant teas and coffees, topping mixes, wine coolers, etc.”***  Also beware of the phrases “no sugar added” or “sugar free” this usually means there is some kind of artificial sweetener added.  It’s upsetting that this additive is used frequently, yet not many people are aware of the side effects.  My hope is that after reading this you will be an informed consumer.

I was inspired by Shane’s comment my previous post about aspartame to write more about this topic.  She said that her doctor thought she had MS, and she feels she may have had methanol overdose because of the aspartame.  This often seems to be the case, but read for yourself.  Here is a list of the 92 symptoms the FDA states aspartame can cause and several diseases it can mimic:

Abdominal Pain
Anxiety attacks
Asthmatic Reactions
Bloating, Edema (Fluid Retention)
Blood Sugar Control Problems (Hypoglycemia or Hyperglycemia)
Brain Cancer (Pre-approval studies in animals)
Breathing difficulties
burning eyes or throat
Burning Urination
can't think straight
Chest Pains
chronic cough
Chronic Fatigue
Excessive Thirst or Hunger
feel unreal
flushing of face
Hair Loss (Baldness) or Thinning of Hair
Headaches/Migraines dizziness
Hearing Loss
Heart palpitations
Hives (Urticaria)
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Impotency and Sexual Problems
inability to concentrate
Infection Susceptibility
Joint Pains
"like thinking in a fog"
Marked Personality Changes
Memory loss
Menstrual Problems or Changes
Migraines and Severe Headaches (Trigger or Cause From Chronic Intake)
Muscle spasms
Nausea or Vomiting
Numbness or Tingling of Extremities
Other Allergic-Like Reactions
Panic Attacks
poor memory
Rapid Heart Beat
Seizures and Convulsions
Slurring of Speech
Swallowing Pain
Vision Loss
Weight gain

Aspartame Disease Mimics Symptoms or Worsens the Following Diseases

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Parkinson's Disease
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)
Diabetes and Diabetic Complications
Alzheimer's Disease
Birth Defects
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Lyme Disease
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
Panic Disorder
Depression and other Psychological Disorders

There are no benefits to consuming aspartame and this additive hinders brain functioning.  The presence of phenylalanine promotes cancer growth and aspartame is about 50% phenylalanine.  So, there is no downside to ending your consumption of this additive.  If you need alternatives see my previous post about aspartame.  If you are a regular consumer, I would strongly recommend going 60 days without ingesting any aspartame to see if you notice a difference in the way you feel.

Not everyone is effected similarly by aspartame, my Aunt developed bladder cancer, several people have died or been permanently brain damaged, while others may ingest aspartame and not feel any effects.  Similarly some people can smoke Marlboro Reds until they are at the ripe age of 94, and others can die from pulmonary dystrophy without ever smoking a cigarette.  Now that you know the effects of aspartame you can decide if you want to take the risk.

***quoting Betty Martini


Sugars That Aren’t So Sweet, Part I Aspartame November 7, 2008

Filed under: Acidity,Carcinogens,Food Additives,Sugar — Yvette @ 9:47 pm

Sugar is delicious, but we all know it should be consumed in small quantities.  This can be difficult since things like soda, ice cream, candy, chocolate and a lot of other goodies are packed with sugar.  Companies in the food industry love using all kinds of sugar in their products because it’ll keep you coming back for more.  There are several kinds of sugars on the market today, the most common are: high fructose corn syrup, white table sugar (sucrose), aspartame, and sucralose.  Aspartame and sucralose are relatively new sugar substitutes that are very harmful to the human body.

If you drink diet soda, chew gum, use vitamin supplements or use sugar substitutes, like NutraSweet and Equal, you should be aware of the ingredient aspartame.  Aspartame is approximately 90% amino acids and 10% methanol.  The human body does not have the correct enzymes to break down methanol.  So instead of breaking it down, formaldehyde is formed.  Formaldehyde is known to be toxic and carcinogenic.  The formaldehyde build up from aspartame consumption is known to cause damage to the immune system, nervous system, and irreversible genetic damage at very low-level, long-term exposure.

How did this get into our food?  Food industries, as I’ve said before, care more about making money than they do about your health.  Aspartame was denied approval by the FDA 8 times, so they pulled some strings in order to get it approved for small quantities in dry food.  Over the years they were able to get it into a wide variety of foods, despite the fact that the FDA has documented 92 different side effects ranging from joint pain, blurred vision, depression, anxiety, brain lesions and bladder cancer.  The only reason why aspartame is on the market is because it is cheap to produce and companies are able to make billions of dollars off Americans who think they are buying a diet product.

Sorry guys, aspartame, and diet sodas are NOT diet products.

I understand a lot of you love diet soda or sugar substitutes because you don’t want to consume regular sugar.  Maybe you’d rather have a little formaldehyde in your body than gain weight from sugars.  The problem is that diet soda will not make you any less fat than regular soda.  This is because aspartame has a pH of 1.5.  Time for a quick chem review.  The pH scale, which we all know and love from chemistry class, goes from 1 to 14.  Substances testing below 7 are acidic, 7 is neutral, over 7 are alkaline.  Your body wants a pH of 7.365, slightly alkaline, and will continually try to balance itself.  Naturally occurring foods will generally have a pH between 5 and 9.  So, aspartame, having a pH of 1.5, is very acidic to the body.  If I eat aspartame my body will balance itself right?  Right, but not without pulling calcium and other alkaline minerals from your bones to neutralize the acid.  I’ll remind you here that osteoporosis is very prevalent in our soda-loving country.  Wait there’s more, not only does it pull calcium from your bones, but it will also produce fat cells to keep the acid away from the vital organs.  This diet sugar is not really a diet food after all.

I know that I may be causing an uproar among diabetics who often turn to artificial sweeteners over the high glycemic sugars like high fructose corn syrup and table sugar.  But, there is controversy over whether aspartame is safe for diabetics.  Don’t worry there are two natural sweeteners that most people have never heard of, stevia and agave nectar.  Whether you’re diabetic or just interested in getting aspartame out of your diet I would recommend these two foods, that’s right FOODS, not additives.  They are not only tasty, but also low on the glycemic index, which means they release energy into your body at a slow rate. You can even buy stevia in little sugar packets if you like to sweeten your coffee or other drinks!