Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’

I’m not one to be super critical of products and companies on this blog and I’m going to put as positive a spin on it as I possibly can. But I ran into something recently that was quite a wake-up call for me and I’m going to share this with you.

It used to be that if you were vegetarian or macrobiotic or into eating whole grains, rice cakes were the standby snack food. Plain, slathered with peanut butter or apple butter, or perhaps with hummus, rice cakes made an extremely innocent little snack that didn’t harm anything or anybody.

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Today there are many brands of rice cakes. Most notably in my supermarket I see Quaker brand. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Aren’t they the oatmeal people? Rice cakes have been a natural expansion of their product line for years.

Fine. They are an industrial food manufacturer, very mainstream and it is not surprising to find that several of their rice cakes have sugar and a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn’t feed to a dog. No surprise there.

What about a well-respected organic food company that has been farming high-quality organic brown rice for us since 1937? This is a company I have relied on for the mainstay of my diet for decades. I’m talking about Lundberg Farms. When my kids were young and I had a house full of students and recipients of my homecooked meals, I bought Lundberg Organic Short Grain Brown Rice by the 50-pound bag—just about every other week! (Yes, I did a ridiculous amount of cooking back then and I loved it.)

I also bought their rice cakes. My favorite is the Mochi Sweet Rice but I also like several of the others. These make very substantial snacks. In fact, the bags are surprisingly heavy because, as the company brags, they are made with twice as much rice as other brands. And sure, I know that “caramel” and “cinnamon toast” rice cakes and some others are likely to have sugar in them and I never bought those.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, I used to be able to pick my flavor of rice cake and just toss it into my cart. I didn’t have to give it a second thought. These were Lundberg’s after all. I could count on them to be high quality, fine products.

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping and I saw two flavors of Lundberg Rice Cakes that were new to me: Organic Hemp-a-licious and Organic koku seaweed. I picked the sea weed one because I have been conscienciously adding more sea vegetables to my diet lately.

The Lundberg line-up including Hemp-a-licious, which I thought I might try.

The Lundberg line-up at Whole Foods Market.

“Hmm.” I thought, “these are pretty sweet. How come?”

How come. HOW COME? Hello! . . .  Because they have cane sugar in them!

If this doesn’t shock you, believe me I understand. The quality of food in our so-called healthy foods stores is rapidly spiralling in the wrong direction. I read food labels no matter where I’m shopping. I just didn’t think I had to read this one on the Lundberg Rice Cakes.

But I sure should have. I threw the seaweed rice cakes out. Actually, seaweed can help your body get rid of things like excess dairy and can help you re-balance your body when you have been eating sugar. BUT NOT IF THERE IS SUGAR RIGHT THERE IN IT!

Cane sugar in seaweed rice cakes!  Are you kidding me?  Eldon and Harlan Lundberg must be rolling in their graves!

I checked out some other flavors in the Lundberg lineup to see if they had sugar, too. Several did—such as the Organic Hemp-A-Licious. Guess I won’t be trying that one after all, boys. Organic Sesame Tamari? It has sugar and it didn’t used to. Organic Sweet Chile Rice Cakes? Yup, it has sugar and brown rice syrup. (What is the point of that? Can someone please explain?)

There are also some flavors that still do not have any cane syrup in them, but they are in the minority these days down on ol’ Lundberg Farms.

I’m disappointed in the Lundbergs, no doubt about it. But I am also going to continue to buy their excellent products that I consider worth eating like their organic rice, their organic brown rice syrup and their rice cakes that don’t have sugar in them. Ultimately, I can do without the rice cake and stick with the whole grain brown rice.

After all, Lundberg Farms has played a very big role in promoting organic, sustainable farming and they still do. They have done as much for the expansion of the natural food industry as most any other company. They take a stand against GMO’s and I applaud them for that. Perhaps they figure a little sugar in some of the rice cakes to keep the bottom line from crashing is a price worth paying in order to continue holding the line against powerful enemies like Monsanto.

Well I don’t agree. Tell the Lundberg boys they are sliding down a slippery slope—the slope that places profit over quality. But actually, WHO is sliding down that slope?

Is it Lundberg Farms? Or is it us? Would it be a good idea to boycott this company for putting cane syrup in their rice cakes? Or would it be better to not buy those particular products and continue buying their fine, organic, sugarless, rice products? Should we “pick our battles” as they say? Or have we underestimated the hold the sugar industry has on us and our economy?

You tell me. I, for one, will continue to vote with my dollars. But it is a tricky business. I go in my Whole Foods store and week after week they have discontinued items I bought regularly and they have filled the shelf space with new products, many of which I will never buy because of what’s in them. They do this because these products are “what sell,” explains the Customer Service representative. I get it. There’s only so much space on the shelf and they have got to move their inventory and make a profit.

I wouldn’t want a company like Lundberg Farms or Whole Foods to go out of business. Then where would we be? I have been putting in more time to shop at the smaller health food chains and a local co-op that often have some of those hard-to-find products and I try to find time to go to local grower’s markets when they’re open. My voting dollar has a little more power in these smaller arenas, I feel.

But I do have the ability to do more than vote with my dollar and so do you! I also “vote” with my voice, my blog and any other appropriate communication channel. I talk to someone at Whole Foods customer service frequently. I tell them what the problem is and sometimes they bring something back onto the shelf that is of far better quality than what they had. Sometimes I talk to other shoppers. Most of them are in there because they do want to eat healthier food and they simply don’t know their way around yet.  I’ve helped a few and have learned a lot myself from doing that.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much difference my actions will make. But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. Been doing this since my childhood days as a member of the United Farm Workers Union.

I am putting my shoulders to the wheel with a lot of other individuals who have already made a big difference and we are going to just keep going! The question I first asked was, Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’  Yes, if enough of us get busy telling the story so we have lots of votes.

And, I am going to write a letter to those wayward Lundberg brothers.

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

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Keep It Simple Sweetie – Five Basic Rules for Knowing What to Eat

Me:  “Hunny, could you get the soap box outta the closet for me please?  I think it’s under that basket of hats and gloves.”

Hunny:  “Again?  Why don’t you just keep it out if you’re going to use it so much?”

Me: “I know.  I know.  I’m trying not to get on it but sometimes I just can’t help it.  Believe me, I would love to write a nice, pleasant little blog that everyone knows and loves.  But it is not always possible.”

~~~~~

[Guests walk in.]

Oh!  Hello there!  So glad you dropped by!  Can I offer you a recipe or two?  How about a nice cup of tea?

[Silence]

Hmmm.  You seem upset about something.  What can I help you with?  Oh I get it!  You’re confused about all these foods that people are running around raving about and telling you that you need them in order to be healthy?  You’re under pressure to consume acai berry but you don’t really understand why?  You’ve heard you shouldn’t eat soy, you should eat soy, you have no idea if you should eat carbs and now you’ve read my blog and wonder what the hell there is that you can safely sweeten your food with?  You never in a million years imagined that plain old feeding your face was really so complicated?

No problem!  Let me tell you the basic rules of knowing what to eat.  The rules are so simple, I’m sure you’ll say you really already knew them.  I’m just reminding you.

1.  Choose whole foods.  These are foods that have all their edible parts left intact.  They have not been heavily refined or processed.  Examples of whole foods are unpolished grains, beans, whole vegetables, whole fruits, whole animals.  Yes!  Have a cow!  Really, if you are going to eat animal protein at least eat something that resembles a part of the whole animal instead of meat-like products that are ground, pressed and blended with God-knows-what.  About a year ago I learned that ground beef is often mixed with other things and that this is not necessarily included on the label.  And just recently we all read about “pink slime” and how some school districts are vowing to eliminate it from the school lunch menus.

2.  Eat organically grown and raised food.  There is plenty of information available about what organic farming is.  But it can get confusing if you don’t know the legal definitions so here you are (from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture website):

100% Organic and Organic:  Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.

Made with Organic Ingredients:  Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either “soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots,” or “soup made with organic vegetables.”

3.  Choose foods that are as fresh and local as possible.  Sure you can buy a can of organic pinto beans, some frozen organic brown rice (and I have been guilty of both on occasion) but it is simply not possible to preserve the nutrients and life energy of a food when it has been harvested a year ago and has been sitting in a warehouse six months after that.  And even if you are buying fresh—let’s take cabbage for an example—your “fresh” cabbage is losing precious vitamin C while it’s waiting for you to pick it up and put it in your cart.  If at all possible, look for “locally grown” and look for any farmer’s markets local farms or other sources of food that is truly fresh.  Better yet, start your own garden, grow some herbs, participate in a co-op or community organic garden or whatever you can.

That is one reason why locally grown food is important.  But there is another reason to choose locally grown food.  That is, your ability to easily get along with your environment. Today we can get any food from any part of the world.  But why do we have to import something like fresh pineapple if we live in Alaska?  Obviously pineapple doesn’t grow in Alaska and in many other climates as well.  So if we ate tropical foods every day while living in a cold climate we’d probably find it harder to stay warm.  Tropical foods are in balance with tropical environments.

I have a friend who was recently consulting someone about their diet.  She found out the person, who lives in a southern state, had a problem of being too hot all the time.  She wisely recommended that he consume less meat because she knows that meat keeps a body very warm indeed.

4.  Include naturally fermented foods.  Naturally fermented foods provide valuable “good bacteria” for your digestive tract.  In a world dedicated to killing every kind of bacteria and “germ” with fluoride in water and toothpaste, chlorine in water and chlorine wipes for every surface, and the king of intestinal flora killers–antibiotics—it’s no wonder that people suffer everything from chronic gas to serious yeast infestations.  First of all, realize that if you are ill and have to take antibiotics, do it responsibly.  Antibiotics kill bacteria but don’t differentiate between the good and the bad.  Every day put back the beneficial bacteria that the antibiotic is killing.  Some people feel this is wasteful and they just wait until they are finished taking the antibiotic.  I don’t agree.  By that time you have been totally stripped, leaving your intestinal tract open to infestation of whatever comes your way.

All traditional cultures have fermented foods.  It was done to preserve foods and it was well known to be helpful to digestion.  Pickled vegetables, pickled fish and yogurt in western cultures.  Naturally fermented soy products such as shoyu (real soy sauce) and miso as well as other types of pickles and fermented foods are used in eastern cultures.

When looking to purchase naturally pickled or fermented foods, beware that many of the cultured dairy products are pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized and then they add the beneficial bacteria such as acidophilus.  When I talk about including naturally fermented foods, I am talking about ones that are developed by traditional processes that result in live beneficial bacteria.  You should also know that the ever-so-popular yogurts available are often flavored with sugar and sugared fruit products.  That defeats the overall purpose of protecting health and leads to my final basic rule for knowing what to eat.

5.  Don’t eat refined sugar.  Get to know what is sugar and what isn’t and which types of sweeteners are complex carbohydrates and which ones are not.  I have written many posts on this blog about the subject.  Sugar is one of the most devastating food additives ever and it has been around so long, and contributes to so many health problems which are blamed on other things that it is truly insidious.

I know many people who consider themselves very healthy and conscientious who say they mostly avoid sugar and only eat it as a special treat.  That is excellent and I admire their intentions to avoid this toxic substance.  But the problem I see is that sugar is in so many things that it is difficult indeed to eat little or none of it.

~~~~~

Me: “I’m done with the soapbox now, Hunny.  Help me get down, please.”        

Hunny:  “Shall I put it away?”                                                                                              

Me:  “For now, thanks.  But I might need it again so don’t bury it too far into the closet.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

Have you found that one blogging topic leads to another, and another, and another?  It is sure working that way for me right now!  Plus I am getting great comments that are giving me clues on what direction to go.

So this is a blog for my blogging buddies and friends who read my “output” here because I’d like some ‘input.”  I think I’ve just about exhausted what I wanted to say about sugar (maybe I’m sugared out for now.) and I found that the topic has naturally evolved into one about refined flour products vs whole grains which I’ve also written about.

While I was on a label-reading excursion at my natural food store, I noticed some other ingredients on the labels that I realized I don’t really know much about.  That might be a good topic.  Do you think so?  I could write about other ingredients that sound okay but then again, who knows?  Like annatto, palmitate or glutamic acid which my blogging friend mentioned in comments.

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a crowd in New Yo...

Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a crowd in New York City in 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sugar topic has also spurred me on to write about a topic I’m extremely passionate about having to do with the massive plague of prescribed psychotropic drugging that is going on and the fact that there are alternative treatments–including dietary changes like getting off sugar–that are rarely discussed and definitely suppressed by those with vested interests in drugging people instead . . . [Okay, Patty.  Step away from the soapbox.]

Well . . . I’m going to prepare for this one and not just deliver an on-the-spot rant because this is actually an extremely important topic that affects each and every one of us whether we personally are “diagnosed” with a mental disorder or not . . . [Oops!  There she goes again. . . someone distract her, please!]

And, just to show you how my mind works (or doesn’t work might be the way to say it) I am also getting ready to show you some more salads you may not have seen before.

I have no idea if one is supposed to write a blog like this.  I guess it’s a sort of test run or “trailer” of potential blogs and now that I’ve written it I’m just going to press “publish” after I ask you all to please let me know what interests you the most!

  • Ingredients that don’t sound like food?
  • Alternative/Dietary approaches to mental distress?
  • Salads?
  • Something else you’d like to read about?

Got Sugar?

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My oh my!  This sugar topic is certainly a hot one!  I have gotten more responses, “likes,” and comments about my sugar posts than anything else I’ve done. Thanks to all for stopping by to read these and taking the time to comment.

And I plan to stir the pot further about sugar right now.

Since I’ve been writing about the evils of sugar, I was curious to see how many items in my natural food store had sugar in them that I would not have suspected.  I don’t know the exact number as there are so many, but here are some that are pretty obvious and some that are not so obvious. [When I say “obvious,” I mean that you probably already know or heard that it’s got sugar in it.]

Obvious:  Most fruit-flavored yogurts and vanilla yogurt have sugar in them.

Not-so-obvious:  “Made from real almonds non-dairy frozen dessert [I almost bought this today until I decided to check the ingredients.  Probably it was wishful thinking!]

Obvious:  Chocolate or vanilla soy milk.

Not-so-obvious:  Original, organic, plain soy milk found in cartons in the refrigerated section of the store.  This one truly surprised me.

Obvious:  Ketchup and cocktail sauce.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic low-fat mayonnaise.

Obvious:  Canned soups.

Not-so-obvious:  Most brands of organic and/or kosher chicken broth, beef broth and vegetable broth in the aseptic boxes list cane juice.

Not-so-obvious-and-just-plain sinful:  Organic miso soup in an aseptic box.  I was offended!

Kudos to IMAGINE FOODS brand of soup broths.  They do NOT have sugar!

Obvious:  Most barbecue sauces.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic lemon herb rub (for fish) with thyme. And sugar.

Obvious:  Many breads and flour products.

Not-so-obvious:  Organic, whole wheat panko bread crumbs.

Not obvious but for a different reason:  Salad dressings.  Some of the natural and/or organic brands have sugar in them and some don’t.  It’s about 50/50 so just check the labels because it’s a TOSS UP!  (Okay, okay. Bad pun.)

All I can really say is read every label no matter what store you are in.  I asked an employee at my natural food store what items had sugar in them that surprised her and she said, “Nothing surprises me here.  This isn’t a health food store.  Have you seen the bakery department?”

We can gripe about the natural food stores and what they decide to sell or not sell all we want.  They are there to make a profit and they have so much shelf space to designate for a product line.  What makes the most difference is what we decide to purchase.  They provide what we will purchase.  It’s as simple as that.

You can find some alternative suggestions below and I’m going to add one more treat to this list–it’s something I just discovered.  Suzanne’s Specialties Brown Rice Syrup products “Just Like Honey” and  “Ricemellow Creme” for a special treat.

How the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs Got Started (With Romance Added)

Hey kids!  It’s story time! Gather ’round the campfire.

Campfire

Campfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ONCE upon a time, there were two campers who were spending the night out in the woods up in Canada on a very chilly night.  Ralph–the first camper–brought his 4X4 with him to the campsite but decided he’d sleep outside and look at the stars before falling asleep.  So he got his gear all laid out, his sleeping bag unrolled and started building a fire. Ralph gathered up some dry sticks but he was pretty tired so he didn’t spend time going out to forage for some big pieces of wood for his fire.  Besides, Ralph had a boatload of old newspapers in his truck that he wanted to get rid of.

Using a little of the newspaper to get the fire started, Ralph had no trouble getting his pile of sticks lit up.  Now all he had to do was keep feeding his newspapers to the fire and he’d be warm enough.

Lucille, on the other hand, had set up camp about 500 yards from Ralph’s campsite.  She too planned to sleep outside and look at the constellations.  So she too went out to gather fuel for her fire to keep herself warm.  Lucille had a more traditional approach.  She had started setting up camp early so she would have time to forage for fire wood.  She took her time, enjoying her walk through the woods and finding nice hard wood–mostly hickory– to burn in her fire.  She got the fire set up with tinder, kindling and the dry hard wood and went  over to her VW Bus to grab some newspaper to start the fire with.

Lucille had made a wonderful campfire!  She liked it so much she took a picture of it!  (The one at the top) And then she settled back in her sleeping bag gazing at the stars and adding a log here and there.  Oh, it took a while for that campfire to really get roaring.  But once the fire got going, it burned through the night and Lucille fell asleep and was warm all night long.

And then . . .

Getting back to Ralph, Ralph did not have such a relaxing evening.  In fact he was busy all the time and hardly had any sleep or fun looking at the stars.  Poor Ralph.  He would get that pile of newspapers and throw some on the fire and whoosh!  Big flames!  But they would die quickly and he’d have to go get more newspaper.  Again a big flare up (very dramatic looking) and the big cool down.  If Ralph was going to stay warm and get any rest that night, he’d have to think of something else.

And he did.  Ralph was a very bright fellow!  Ralph figured it out that the newspaper was just too thin and burned too fast.  So he went and got a really big pile of it out of his 4X4 and got some string and started rolling that paper up into tight, tight logs and tying them to hold their shape.  Why those logs were denser than cardboard!  And boy did they burn better!  Ralph kept making those paper logs and they burned for at least twenty minutes each.

Ralph was happy with his discovery and he even decided to experiment more with his idea when he got home.  He figured out more tricks like coating the paper logs with wax and putting good-smelling stuff in it so it would smell like pine or hickory. And Ralph invented machinery that could roll the paper up so tight that those logs were guaranteed to burn for an hour.  He thought, “I’m selling these babies because most people don’t want to have to get their own fire wood for their fireplaces.  They’d rather have something simple and convenient like my paper logs.” (Ralph got rich doing this, by the way.)

The moral of the story here, kids, is that different types of fuel burn at different rates and sometimes the fuel that burns the longest also takes more work than the others but in the long run, provide the best fires.

The end.

No, not the end!  What am I thinking?  There’s more I wanted to say.  Oh yeah, I wanted to say that there is something more basic to know about eating sugar than just how bad it is for you.  And there is something to know about another ingredient in many of our foods that acts just like sugar in your body.  It is refined carbohydrates.

How could these be the same?  Well first you need to understand that sugar and starches (any kind of starches refined or not) are both carbohydrates and when you eat them your body breaks them down into glucose.  The glucose then raises your blood sugar level and triggers your pancreas to secrete insulin to balance the blood sugar level out by sending the glucose to your cells to be burned off as energy.  This is one of the two main ways you fuel your body.

If you already have enough fuel in your cells and don’t need more at the moment, then the insulin tells your body to store the fuel for later in the form of fat.  This is just the way your body works and there’s nothing wrong with that but you should understand it because it is also how carbohydrates got such a BAD reputation and why so many people think that they have to forego carbohydrates almost entirely in order to lose weight.

Are they right or not?  It all hangs on whether they understand the differences in the types of fuels they are using.  A refined carbohydrate, such as white sugar, white flour and most of the gazillions of food products made with them provide fuel like Ralph tried to use at first.  Quick energy, quick burn out.  Blood sugar up, blood sugar down.  Insulin up, insulin down.  It’s enough to make you dizzy (maybe for real).  And if you eat enough of these refined, processed carbohydrates, your cells have had enough and then all the rest of it get turned into fat.  And you’ve got a cheap energy source that doesn’t last and that puts your hormones on a rollercoaster ride and yes, makes you gain weight.

No wonder “carbs” got a bad rap!  But the food industry has been taking care of that.  They have created all kinds of “new and improved” food products that look a lot more like real hard wood logs and a lot less like loose newspaper.  Just like Ralph invented his rolled up paper logs!  (This is called a metaphor.  I’m not suggesting you eat either loose or rolled newspaper, silly! Just stay with me here . . . )

A variety of foods made from wheat.

A variety of foods made from wheat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They invented all kinds of “healthier” food products like white sugar coated with molasses to make it brown – the ultimate color of “health” food. They introduced products with various types of sweeteners that sound much healthier than plain ol’ sugar and labeled them “natural.”  They made breads with “wheat flour” in the ingredients and touted that it is “wheat bread” even though most all the white flour also came from wheat and could be called “wheat flour.”  They even have foods with a percentage of unrefined carbohydrates (aka the hardwood logs that burn a long time) mixed in with the sugar and refined flour.  And alas, a lot of these foods go right to the belly or hips for storage.

Then there are some folks who know that if they stick to unrefined, whole grain foods, they can eat some carbohydrates with no worries.  This is your hardwood fuel.  This is the stuff that lasts a long time.  Why?  Because whole grains retain most of the layers of the grain which includes all the fiber and minerals and protein. (Yes, there is protein in things like brown rice and other whole grains.) Let’s take rice as an example. Unlike white rice which is stripped of all those good layers and burns faster than one of Ralph’s paper logs, brown rice breaks down slow and easy.  It doesn’t cause a sudden increase in blood sugar level and trigger rapid increases of insulin. It’s a nice long, slow, steady burn that gives your body time to use it and not have to store it.

Whole grains and unrefined whole grain flour are something we can really live with!  They are a bit more trouble (but lots of fun) to prepare but they have so much more flavor and are so satisfying because they provide actual nutritional value and take a long time to burn.

AND THEN . . .

However there is more to this story saga.  The more people spotted the fact that carbs might have something to do with gaining weight, the more they shouted “Low carb!  No carb!”  Food manufacturers had to do more than make paper logs–oops–I mean healthier sounding flour products and sweeteners.  They had to take people’s attention off their carbohydrate products and enlighten the consumers about the evil fattening ogre–FAT!  Why yes!  Even the name “fat” is, well, “fat.”  Perfect for the campaign.

So the manufacturers themselves started the campaign against fat and even made their own brands of new and improved fat-free and low-fat products.  Just listen to them explaining that fat makes you fat!  It’s so easy to believe because, after, all fat is not what we want to be.  And you are what you eat, right?  So don’t eat fat.

Who cares if fat is the other major source of fuel for your body besides carbohydrates?

But they had a problem when it came to making these reduced and no fat foods.  Taste.  Ugh. Taking the fat out makes their food almost unappetizing.  But they knew what to do!  They knew what makes food taste great and what will make people come back to purchase them time and time again!  Can you guess?

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s sugar of course!  Sugar in all it’s glorious forms.  Just mix it in with a bunch of other additives using words like “maltodextrin” and “fructose” and whatever-ose.  And you will probably agree that the new, improved low-fat and non-fat products “Don’t taste too bad.”  (Only slightly bad.  Are you going to settle for that?)

And this, children, is how the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs was started.  And the war rages on and on.  All the while, the clever food manufacturers and their henchmen have convinced you that you have to take a side in this War and that they, after all, are the experts who can “help” you to know what’s best to eat.

And what of Ralph and Lucille?

Well, they were only 500 yards away from each other at that campsite.  Ralph was getting tired of making his paper logs and saw the light from Lucille’s strong, steady fire and went over to see what she was doing.  Lucille was so vibrant and healthy, she glowed even brighter than her wonderful campfire.  It was love at first sight.  And after all, Ralph was trying to do something better than use loose newspaper–he was on the right track and innocently so (not like the food manufacturers). Lucille loved how creative Ralph was and she loved that fact that he openly showed her so much admiration for her fire-building skills.

Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedi

Soon they married and began eating unrefined whole grains and whole food together and spending many a romantic evening gazing at the stars together and cuddling before a beautiful hardwood fire.  And they lived happily and healthfully ever after and they also became activists and protested the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs every chance they got.

~~~~ The End ~~~~

And if you got all the way to the end of this big ol’ post and read it and understand it, then you are one smart cookie  rice cake!

Sweeten It Up Without Sugar

It is possible to make and eat desserts and other sweet treats without using sugar.  When I say “sugar,” I include honey, agave syrup, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, glucose . . . ALL the “ose’s,” molasses, brown sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar.  That’s right! Even if you see them in your health food store, that does not mean they aren’t sugar or at least they act like sugar in your body and wreak all kinds of havoc with your hormones, your blood sugar, your arteries, your digestion.  (You can read about this in my article “What Is Sugar?” on the Street Articles website.)

Some brands will do anything to make you think they are healthier for you including putting their product in a brown package or labeling it with an enticing buzz word.  Would you believe that when I went to my health food store today I saw a package of refined white sugar labeled “Vegan!”  Who do they think they’re kidding?  Vegan is getting to be very popular, so why not say that sugar is “vegan.”  It is true.  Sugar did come from a plant.  It was a plant a long, long time ago before it was mashed and stripped and chemically-treated and altered and granulated and bleached and who knows what else.

What you choose to use instead of sugar can be a difficult decision because it depends on how far you are willing to go to protect your health and how far you personally should go to improve any conditions you currently have that are sugar-related or sugar-aggravated.

My mantra is always the same:  pick the closest thing to whole food as possible.  I don’t actually know of any sweetener that is a complete whole food.  All of them, even the best choices, are processed and refined to some degree.  Probably some of you might say 100% raw honey right out of the honeycomb is an unrefined, whole sweetener.  And I’d have to agree with you on that.  The problem I have with honey is that it still consists of glucose and fructose just like table sugar.  However it has some other benefits and because it is so very sweet, you can use a lot less of it than you would sugar.  So maybe it is a good gradient choice if your system can tolerate honey.

I prefer not to use honey and instead I use whole grain sweeteners that have been naturally fermented.  I use organic barley malt and I use organic brown rice syrup.  I use these because they are not simple sugars and therefore do not rapidly spike your blood sugar level but instead they burn more slowly.

A good analogy would be to think of building a fire.  If you build a fire and used newspaper as fuel, it will burn up in a flash and then be gone.  That is like eating sugar.  It is a fast and furious fuel at first and then it’s gone, leaving the rest of your body in a state of chaos to keep up with the rapid change the sugar made.  If you build a fire with good, aged hard wood, you can keep that going for hours as it burns at a slow, steady rate providing light and heat.  That is like fueling your body with whole grains and whole grain sweeteners.  They are what is called, complex carbohydrates and do not produce the rocky ups and downs that sugar does.

Grains are naturally sweet.  Here’s a test you can try:  Make yourself some brown rice and take a mouthful, chewing it and chewing it but don’t swallow.  You will taste how your saliva breaks down the whole grain and produces a beautiful sweet taste.  (Okay, eventually you can swallow!)

Here are a few ways to use whole grain sweeteners in cooking:

FRUIT CRISP
This is made by putting barley malt into a heavy pan (cast iron works well) and heating it until it is bubbling like you would make a soft candy. By adding toasted oatmeal flakes and chopped nuts to it, and maybe a little whole wheat flour, you can get a nice mixture to put over sliced apples or other fruit. Bake it in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes and you’ve got yourself a nice apple crisp that won’t ruin your health.
BROWN RICE CRISPIES
  • 6 cups of brown rice crispy cereal (read the label and make sure there is no sugar or honey added)
  • handful of raisins
  • handful of peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice syrup

Mix the brown rice crispy cereal, raisins, peanuts and cinnamon in a bowl.  Pour the brown rice syrup into a heavy saucepan or skillet and bring it to a boil.  Simmer until the rice syrup is very bubbly and thick.  Add the rice crispy cereal mix and quickly stir it all up so the cereal mixture is coated.  Press the mixture into a 9X9 pan that is lightly oiled.  Let it cool, cut it into squares and serve!

When I make an apple pie, I drizzle a bit of brown rice syrup over my cut apples to sweeten them before baking the pie.  I also use whole grain sweeteners for puddings, and to create a sweet and savory sauce for an entree.

These are just some very simple, quick-to-make examples.  The possibilities are endless and the best way to learn how to do it is by getting yourself a couple of great cookbooks.  There are all kinds of fancy desserts without sugar.  Let me know which ones you like best!

Sugar: Poison in the Pantry

Anyone interested in improving their overall diet may sooner or later discover that they are consuming way too much sugar and try to “cut back.”  This is a discovery that often takes place after a sugar-laden holiday such as Easter after we’ve consumed all those jelly beans, chocolate bunny ears and “Peeps.”

You are right if you eat a great deal of sugar and come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t.  My first introduction to the problem with refined sugar was back in the ’70’s when I picked up a paperback book called Sugar Blues by William Dufty.  Dufty writes about what eating refined sugar can do to a body and what he did to stop eating it.  In the book, published in 1975, Dufty writes about how he met and married famous actress, Gloria Swanson, and how she taught him about diet and nutrition and helped him get completely off refined sugar.  He describes dramatic improvements in his health by doing so.

This is still one of the best, most straight-forward and informative books about sugar that I know of.  I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Dufty and I also saw his wife, Gloria, in New York at an event held at the United Nations.  I don’t recall how old Gloria Swanson was at that time–but definitely in her 80’s and she was absolutely gorgeous!  Her skin tone was so impressively smooth and youthful for her age.  And I saw her up close and realized that she was not simply covered up with a lot of makeup.  She was truly an example of someone who successfully preserved their health in old age.

Screenshot taken by me (Icea) from the trailer...

Screenshot taken by me (Icea) from the trailer to the movie Sunset Blvd. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Sugar Blues, Dufty discusses sugar in terms of being an addictive drug responsible for many devastating diseases throughout history.  He attacks the sugar industry in his book and points out that American food manufacturers have kept Americans hooked on sugar, particularly by hiding sugar in its many forms in virtually every food product found on the shelves of the supermarket.  Of course the sugar industry didn’t like this book and attacked Dufty for writing it.  But today all you have to do is google about refined sugar and you will find a multitude of authors and experts echoing exactly what Dufty had to say about sugar including his claim that too much sugar can cause depression and mental illness.

No matter whether you want to go in the direction of vegetarianism, vegan, macrobiotic, standard American some-of-everything, or the extreme opposite direction–the Paleo  Diet, which is heavy in animal protein–getting sugar out of your diet will take you a very long way in the right direction toward better health.

Why?

The reasons to stop eating refined sugar are enormous in number but here are the main ones:

1.  Sugar depletes the body of vital nutrients including minerals and B vitamins. That means when we eat sugar we are not only eating something that is itself nutritionally empty, the sugar is taking some of the nutrients we did manage to consume and destroying them too.  This leads to all kinds of imbalances that can affect virtually every system in your body especially your digestion and your hormones.

2.  Sugar (and it’s cousin white flour) heavily contribute to what is known as Candida, a condition in which the body has an overwhelming growth of a particularly damaging strain of yeast.  The yeast lives in the intestines and attach themselves to the intestinal walls sometimes even breaking through the wall and creating what is commonly called leaky gut syndrome.  There is much to know about Candida yeast infections and how easily they come about and you should also know that Candida can be difficult to get rid of and the treatments for it are themselves damaging.  But what I want you to know here is that every living thing on earth needs some kind of food and Candida yeast’s menu of choice is sugar and white flour!  I recently read that 60-70% of Americans have Candida yeast infections.

3.  Because sugar consumption affects so many bodily systems and functions, it heavily contributes to all manner of diseases and disorders:  diabetes, indigestion, gas, high blood pressure, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, heart disease such as arteriosclerosis, cavities, depression and mental illness, nutritional deficiency and weight gain, PMS, and the list goes on and on . . .
4.  Eating sugar is addictive and is a poison in the simplest sense of the word.  If you eat a little, you become more active (as in hyped-up, on overdrive, buzzing).  If you eat a lot, you slow down (this is the typical drowsy, can’t keep your eyes open stupor you may have experienced after a big sugar binge.)  And, like all other poisons, if you eat way too much you will become ill or die (see points 1 through 3).

What to do?

First, you need to educate yourself on what is and isn’t sugar.  The quick study is to start reading labels in the store and asking questions in the restaurant:  “Does this have sugar?”  Realize that sugar includes maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, “natural” sugar, organic sugar, raw sugar, and all those chemical-sounding ingredients that end in “-ose.”  And don’t be fooled by the packaging.  Just because the paper is brown instead of white does not somehow make the sugar better for you.  But  there is much more to know than that and it is worth investing some time to become knowledgeable.

Second, find out what else acts just like sugar in your body.  This is where we get into the subject of refined white flour, alcohol and things that literally convert to sugar when you eat them.

Third–and this is the good news–learn what you can or should eat and drink that will help you overcome your cravings for sugar, help you regain nutritional balance and vitality and help you recover from the damage that sugar may have caused you.  For this I recommend you find a program that works for you and commit to following it.  You may have to look around and try different things.  The bottom line is that you make your decision to stop eating sugar.  Learning what to do instead will only be workable if you have made that strong decision first. (And that advice comes from personal experience.)

Check back with me here for some help.  This is the first in a series about sugar and I will be writing in much more detail about what I know that is useful!