Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Best Options for Satisfying the Sweet Taste

4/21/09 – my original article include agave nectar as a better choice. I have removed that reference.

The last couple of articles warned about the dangers of sugar and artificial sweeteners. I’ve presented lots of “bad news”; but the truth. There is another truth of course – we all live in the real world, sugar is a part of it, and most of us enjoy a treat. Part of my purpose is to educate and inform. So, given that sugar is part of everyone’s life, I’d like to share with you what I believe your best options are to satisfy the sweet tooth.

First, I’ll repeat, use as little as possible. Second, avoid artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame (and its derivatives) and sucralose. Here’s a list of natural sweeteners that are better choices: dehydrated cane juice crystals, maple syrup, honey, blackstrap molasses, date sugar, stevia, and fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

You can find dehydrated cane juice crystals in most grocery stores under the name Sucanat. It is made by evaporating the water from sugarcane juice. The crystals retain some of the nutrients from the original sugar cane, so at least it has some nutritional value. It can be used in about the same amounts as you would use white sugar.

Maple syrup and honey are also natural sweeteners best used in small amounts. Maple syrup comes from the sap of a maple tree and contains the minerals potassium and calcium. Honey is of course made by bees and contains enzymes and some minerals. Raw honey is best, however should not be given to children under two years old. For both of these sweeteners, organic is recommended.

Blackstrap molasses is what is left after sugar crystals are removed from beet juice or sugarcane. It still contains small amounts of calcium and iron, so again has some nutritional benefit. You’ll notice that all these natural sweeteners, despite the processing, do contain some nutrition via the minerals. Date sugar is made by pulverizing dates; therefore it retains the fiber and minerals.

One of the latest natural sweeteners to come on the scene is stevia. Stevia is a sweet herb, all natural. It has been used in South America (where it originates) for hundreds of years. It is very sweet so new users need to be extra careful. If you use it like sugar and dump in a whole packet you are likely to be surprised by a bitter taste. Too much sweet will become bitter to the palate. Stevia has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and does not raise blood sugar as other sweeteners do.

One thing to be aware of with stevia – it has just received approval to be used in diet soft drinks. It will be marketed to the public as stevia, but it is not the same. The manufacturers will be extracting just the part that provides the sweet taste and not using the entire plant. I don’t believe this has been adequately tested and we all know that when we remove specific parts we don’t always get the same effect as the whole. Therefore, it is probably a good idea to stay away from stevia when used as a food additive.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) naturally occur in fruits, vegetables, and grains. They are an extra large sugar molecule so they are not digested by the body as sugar. Since it is not digested, it will not affect blood sugar levels. FOS has another great benefit – it encourages the growth of the good bacteria in our intestines and does not feed the bad bacteria and the yeast (Candida) as other sugars do.

So, there you have it – sugars you can use. But again, I caution, they are sugars, and we still should aim to reduce and limit the total sugar we consume.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Thiensville. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.

Does Lettuce Cause Heart Disease?

I’ll bet raised a few eyebrows! It did for me as well when I heard Sally Fallon say that at a conference I recently attended. Traditionally we never really ate that much lettuce. But, when we were told salads were healthy for us we decided we needed dressings in order to make them palatable. The problem is the ingredients in most commercial salad dressings. They are loaded with bad fats and sugar.

Check out this ingredient list from Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch Dressing: Water, Corn Syrup, Cultured Lowfat Buttermilk*+(Skim Milk, Condensed Skim Milk, Active Cultures), Maltodextrin, Modified Food Starch, Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, Less Than 2% Of Vinegar, Garlic Puree, Onion Puree, Garlic++, Onion++, Green Onion++, Salt, Sugar, Spice, Sour Cream *+, ++ (Cream, Nonfat Milk Cultures), Pectin, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin+, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed And Soybean Oil +, Distilled Monoglycerine+, Natural Flavor, Artificial Color, Monosodium Glutamate, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Disodium Phosphate, With Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, TBHQ, And Calcium Disodium EDTA As Preservatives, Alpha Tocopheryl (Vitamin E), Lemon Juice Concentrate. ++ Dried, + Adds A Trivial Amount Of Fat, * Adds A Trivial Amount Of Cholesterol.

Hard to know where to start. Let’s start with sugar. The following ingredients are essentially sugar: corn syrup, maltodextrin, modified food starch, xanthan gum; all derived from corn. Not too mention the lowfat and nonfat buttermilks whose milk sugar content breaks down quickly as well in your body. Then we have the bad fats – the partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil. We all know how hydrogenated oils create trans-fats which are known to cause cancer. And, I didn’t even mention the preservatives, the MSG, the natural flavors, or artificial color!

You may say that your dressing doesn’t have these oils. The truth is outside of extra virgin olive oil (that you should make your own dressings from), any oil that is in a commercially produced salad dressing is not good for you. Why? They are heated to high temperatures during processing. This damages the fats and oxidizes them. In your body this increases the number of free radicals which damage cells and tissues, including your arteries. The excess sugars contribute to blood sugar spikes and ultimately insulin issues which also damage arteries and cause diabetes.

One more item to chew on – even canola oil is not really good for you. Yes, chemically it is a healthy monounsaturated fat similar to olive oil. However, I’ll put this quite simply – have you ever seen a canola tree? (Hint: There is no such thing. It is a processed oil.)

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.

The Alternative to Sugar – Artificial Sweeteners – Are They Safe?

Previously I have written about the evils of sugar. If you thought that was scary, there is something I believe is actually worse – the artificial sweeteners that are offered by the food industry as a “no calorie” alternative.

Why are they dangerous? Quite simply they are a mix of chemicals combined in a laboratory to create a “sweet” taste. They are not food. What has happened since artificial sweeteners have been introduced? Rather than reducing our sugar intake, it has actually increased! Several recent studies have shown a connection between consuming artificial sweeteners and a subsequent increase in food or calorie intake. What does this mean? It means they are making us hungrier! Why? Because of what happens in your body.

Our body was designed a long time ago, way before the introduction of these and other chemicals. Artificial sweeteners were created to trick the body into thinking it was getting something sweet. However, the body is never really tricked. It has received the signal of “sweet” and therefore mobilizes to deal with “sweet”. The proponents of artificial sweeteners say they are good for you because they do not raise insulin levels as regular sugar does. There’s a catch – they still raise insulin levels. Insulin is released to help process the sweet and when no recognizable sweet is found there is excess insulin in the blood stream that has to be dealt with. But now it is worse because your body is looking for the food which it can not find because there is none. This makes your body want food, thus the increase in food and calorie intake. Let’s review this very important point. Your body still produces insulin in response to artificial sweeteners. One of the functions of insulin is fat storage. This does not sound like consuming artificial sweeteners would be a good strategy for someone who is diabetic (insulin) or attempting to lose weight (fat storage).

Artificial sweeteners are used in all types of products – soft drinks, sports drinks (diet and “regular”), hot chocolate drink mixes, protein shakes, nutritional bars and shakes, gelatins, puddings, apple sauce, sauces, toppings, syrups, processed fruits, gum, candy, baked goods, snack foods, dairy products, and even in flu remedies, toothpastes and lozenges. These products will be labeled as “low calorie”, “sugar free”, “fat free”, or “low fat.” They are also in products not labeled “sugar free.” They are in products were they don’t even appear on the list (per government regulations if an ingredient is less than 2% it does not have to be listed). They are all over. You have to read your labels and even then you can not be sure.

The most common artificial sweeteners are sucralose and aspartame. Independent researchers, particularly in Europe, have found these chemicals harmful to human health. In fact, scientific research has linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain, disruption of sleep patterns, sexual dysfunction, increases in cancer, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and diabetes. Why these outcomes? Again, it rests with how the body works. The body does not recognize them as a source of nutrition, and therefore it struggles to process them. Since they may not be completely processed, they have nowhere to go, so they may accumulate in the body. They can accumulate in vital organs such as the brain or liver, they can pollute the bloodstream, and they form the basis for eventual cell mutations. All of this can cause serious damage to your body. How long and what symptoms will develop will vary depending on the individual.

If you want more details on the scientific studies that have been conducted I suggest you go to the following web site: http://www.janethull.com. Dr. Hull is an aspartame poison survivor. She has an interesting background and is an expert in the dangers of the artificial sweeteners and has written several books on the subject. If you want some practical tips on reducing sugar in your life I recommend the book Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.

Diabetes – Is There Hope for Prevention or Cure?

When I first wrote this I neglected to acknowledge the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes – two very different diseases. The comments below are in reference to Type 2 only. I have received comments pointing this out – sorry for the confusion. Bernie (3/6/09)

As many of you know, I am quite passionate about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. Government health agencies acknowledge that 80% of the chronic diseases that Americans suffer and eventually die from (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer) are directly attributable to lifestyle. This means that they can be prevented through diet and lifestyle modifications. These are the diseases of the 20th and 21st Centuries, rare in the early 1900’s, but significantly rising since the 1950’s in both incidence and mortality.

On a daily basis I educate, advise, and encourage people to make diet and lifestyle changes to improve their health. This can be a challenge as there is always some resistance; that is to be expected. It can be frustrating; yet I know those who are compliant will experience the benefits and be healthier.

Once per month I experience a high level of frustration. This is when the latest issue of Diabetes Forecast, the official publication of the American Diabetes Association, arrives in the mail. Their stated mission is “to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.” Unfortunately, if anyone actually follows the advice in the magazine that will never happen. The diabetic following what they read is destined to remain on medications and have their life continue to deteriorate. Let me explain by citing from the February 2009 issue.

We begin on page 11 with an editorial from Paris Roach, MD, the Editor-in-Chief. He states, “…the most effective ways to address lifelong conditions like diabetes are still being developed.” Lifelong conditions – that means you can not get better. Talk to any natural health care provider and you hear story after story of people getting better, but not from the ADA – it is a lifelong condition. Once you have it, you have it. Follow our advice and it will be a lifelong condition!

We move on to page 16 in the Mail Call section. To set the stage, a monthly feature of the magazine is recipes for diabetics – many of them sweets (cookies, cakes) with sugar substitutes. The letter writer states that Splenda causes a spike in their blood sugar (more on that later – thought it wasn’t supposed to do that) so they are looking for sugar equivalents in the recipes. Here comes our first bit of hypocrisy. The response states, “It would not be appropriate for most people with diabetes”, but then goes on with a detailed explanation of how much sugar to use!

Let’s continue with the recipes for the sweets. The ingredients I’ve seen are sometimes a small amount of sugar, but always Splenda, all-purpose flour, and canola oil. Many nutritionists, myself included, believe Splenda to be poison, and to promote a variety of diseases. Recent studies link it to obesity. Yet, it is considered okay for diabetics by the ADA. Seems to me that the last thing someone who is already diseased needs is more unnatural chemicals in their body, particularly one that has chlorine (a known carcinogen at its core).

These recipes also include all-purpose flour, better known as white flour. White flour, as far as your body is concerned, is sugar. So, we have a diabetic, who is not supposed to have sugar, yet they can have white flour? That does not seem like a good idea to me. What about you?

Canola oil. Have you ever seen a canola tree? Well if you have you did not see it on this planet – there is no such thing. It is a manufactured oil, meaning even though it is chemically a monounsaturated fat (like olive oil), it is highly processed, and therefore of questionable benefit. Manufactured oils are highly processed and heated which causes the fats to oxidize and when consumed will increase the free radicals in our body. Free radicals are known to cause cellular damage and contribute to a variety of diseases – probably not something ideal for a diabetic.

Let’s get back to the magazine. Page 33 had an advertisement for an insulin drug. It features a man who appears to be a baker by trade. He is wearing a suit and tie, an apron, and is holding three large baguettes. He states, “I was completely anti-insulin. Now I’m all for it.” What is the baguette made of? White flour. What is white flour? Sugar!

Then there is an article (page 36) discussing the merits of stretching before exercising. Several views are offered, including this from a MD professor from the University of Minnesota, “Why waste time? Especially for someone with diabetes who is reasonably healthy…” Who with diabetes is “reasonably healthy”? Diabetes is a serious disease. That is not healthy.

The next article explains the importance of Omega 3’s in the diet and the problem of the imbalance in most diets from eating too many Omega 6’s. This is true. Now more hypocrisy. On page 47 an RD is quoted as saying, “It’s (Omega 6’s) even in foods you think are healthy…granola bars, veggie burgers…soybean, cottonseed, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils as well as vegetable oil blends.” These are the oils that diabetics are being encouraged to consume in all the other articles where the “good fats” to eat are discussed!

But this is consistent with the hypocrisy found in other articles. All the recipes and editorials encourage low fat and non-fat eating. Fat, particularly saturated fat is bad. Yet, in an article about carbohydrates they state that fat will slow down the process of the carbohydrate turning into sugar slowing the rise of blood sugar. Excuse me, isn’t this what the diabetic wants? Fat is bad, yet it is has beneficial impact on blood sugar?

One of my favorite articles from a past issue described bariatric surgery as a cure for diabetes. The medical expert said something to the effect that it works because the body is “not absorbing the nutrients.” That gets blood sugar levels under control making the person is no longer diabetic by definition.. It seems to me that not absorbing nutrients is not a good long term strategy for health. How exactly does the body live without the ability to absorb nutrients? Perhaps someone from the ADA could explain that to me.

Another of my favorite articles from a prior issue screams the headline “just because you are diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t have ice cream”. Sure, if you never want to get better, you can have ice cream. There was another recipe that was a mixture of low fat cool whip, fat free sugar free pudding, and some other stuff. Basically it was all chemicals. There was no real food. Sounds real healthy! The “birthday” issue of the magazine was loaded with cookie and cake recipes for diabetics.

Perhaps someone from the ADA should speak the truth – if you are diabetic and you want to get healthier for a period of time you should not have ice cream, cookies, cake, white flour, Splenda, or anything like it. If you want to get better you need to stop the sugar and the artificial sweeteners and clean your body. Of course its hard to tell people, particularly many Americans, that they can’t have what they want to eat. Yet these same people will complain about the cost of health care. Seems they are not collecting the dots! I wonder what the ADA thinks of dots?

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at bernie@brwellness.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.