Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coca-Cola's New Stevia Product: "Truvia"

You won't believe this. The Coca-Cola Company has come out with a "healthy" sweetener that is now available to consumers. It is a stevia-derived sweetener that has no calories, and is now being marketed as "Truvia: A healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners." "Rebiana" is the trade name for this sweetener, probably named after the compound Rebaudioside A, which they isolated from the stevia plant. The reason they have isolated this compound is because it is apparently the sweet part of the plant separated from its usual bitter aftertaste. I do not know how much processing is involved in turning the stevia leaf into "Truvia", but I am guessing from the tiny, pure white granules that there is quite a bit of processing involved. Could we be looking at the same sort of processing that goes on with sugar cane and sugar beets? These are healthy plants--until they have been processed to death!

What I find highly amusing is that stevia has been used as a sweetener for years (for centuries in some countries) and has health benefits including: treating obesity, high-blood pressure, glucose intolerance and diabetes, to name a few. The amusing part is that despite stevia's health benefits and ability to be used as an alternative sweetener, in 1991 it was ousted by the FDA. The FDA labeled stevia "unsafe" and banned it until 1994 when the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act got the FDA to revise their stance. Even then, however, it was only considered safe to be used as a dietary supplement, not a food additive!

Here is what has happened over the years: Coca-Cola comes out with soda in the late 1800's. It is loaded with sugar and two main ingredients: cocaine and caffeine. They reconfigure the ingredients after 1904. The company is under the constant watch of nutritionists because of the links between its soda and diabetes, obesity, caffeine addiction and other health issues. In 1985 Coca-Cola switches its formula again. They now no longer use white refined sugar. It is now cheaper to use high fructose corn syrup. They are still under careful watch because corn syrup has its own list of negative side effects. The company is still under careful watch for using other controversial ingredients like sodium benzoate. In 2005 they come out with a soda containing Splenda and aspartame. Artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola is currently working on phasing out the ingredient sodium benzoate, which has been linked directly to DNA damage and hyperactivity in children. They say they will phase it out as soon as they find an alternative ingredient to use in its place. Now, it's 2008 and they have produced Truvia, which sounds like a nice, natural sweetener to get the health nuts out there to lay off. But, not so fast! How is this processed? What are the effects of consuming this product, short term and long term? Is it still capable of being a health tool and treating obesity and diabetes? Or have those constiuents been left out because of the mildly bitter aftertaste?

What has happened is that Coca-Cola can not last without revamping their product model. It is common knowledge that their ingredients are less than desirable, have been studied to show health risks, and they don't want to be sued! They are going to jump on the "natural sweetener" gravy train, if you will, and offer a product to people who will believe they now have unprecedented rights to consume all they want without any risk. Imagine the FDA banning stevia now. It's never going to happen now that the giant, multi-billion dollar Coke company has begun using it. How they have been using it is still in question.
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia -http://truvia.com/

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nana's Cookies and My Insatiable Sweet Tooth

I'm not sure who coined the term "sweet tooth", because it's not my teeth that crave the sweet stuff, nor is it my teeth that experience the total satisfaction of eating Nana's Ginger Cookie. My brain, my heart and my entire mouth are engaged in this euphoric trip. Currently, my tongue is a happy little monster as I devour this chewy cookie that bursts with flavors of cinnamon and ginger. I was preparing for a late-morning nap, when all of a sudden, I remembered that I had hid this cookie deep in the pantry for a special occasion. Today is a special occasion! I'll think of a reason why later.

I am sitting here writing and chewing at the same time. This is seriously one of the best cookies I have ever had. I am a cookie freak. I have been making cookies since my mom taught me how, sometime in my grade school years. I have been experimenting with ingredients and recipes ever since. Sometimes, though, the greatest treat is the one you buy and can eat right away. I usually don't save Nana's cookies. I usually tear into the bag right away. The last time I bought her cookies, I bought several (individually wrapped) and forgot about them. I kind of remember hiding them on purpose. I would find them when I really got the hankering for an instant rush of sweetness. There is nothing I love more than enjoying the sweet rush without the sugar. Fruit juice is the sweetener in these cookies, and the addition of rice flour makes them extra sweet and chewy.

So, where to find these cookie gems... Some Whole Foods stores carry them, but some do not. Here is Nana's Cookies phone number to call just in case: (800) 836-7534 and the website: http://www.healthycrowd.com/

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cereal, Sugar and You: A Health Food Person's Worst Nightmare!

I have been reading a lot about cereal lately, and thought I should further investigate the ingredients of mainstream, popular cereals, their advertising campaigns, and the result of eating cereal regularly as part of a daily habit. I'll start by saying that since I have given up refined sugar, it has been extremely hard to find cereal without any sugar. Sugar comes in the form of: corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar, raw sugar, organic cane sweetener, etc. Most of these ingredients you will find in "healthy" varieties of cereal, otherwise, the ingredient label will most likely just read, "sugar". I have recently decided to eat only whole grains for breakfast and no more packaged cereal. I just know better but have been lazy! I mean, I have been eating cereal with no sugar, but even then, I know it's not as healthy as fresh sprouted grains and fresh fruits.

Cereal was brought to my attention by (http://paynowlivelater.blogspot.com/2008/08/worst-sugar-pushers-of-all-health-food.html) including that even health food stores don't discriminate much when it comes to packaged food ingredients. You may find that there are no "trans fats" (very trendy words right now) and maybe even no corn product, but you will most likely be sure to find sugar as an ingredient. The marketing behind the cereal/sugar pushers is outrageous! They are so good at making their product look good, that I find myself doing a double take when I see advertisements like this one: http://www.kelloggs.co.uk/specialk/challenge.aspx, which is called "Kellogg's Special K Challenge", where they advocate eating two bowls of their cereal to help you lose weight! Let me tell you that Special K does not care about the health of their customers! If they did, they would promote whole foods, vegetables and fruits at every meal, and would not try and sell crap in a box (here are the ingredients in an American sold box: Rice, wheat gluten, sugar, defatted wheat germ, salt, high fructose corn syrup, dried whey, malt flavoring, calcium caseinate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), reduced iron, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, and vitamin B12.). What I think is so interesting, is that Special K changes their ingredients for different countries. Although they include "sugar" as an ingredient for all countries, the UK and Australia do not have the "high fructose corn syrup" that we have. Weird! Special K is a giant marketing beast and care only about monetary gain. How they get that money is through very believable, expensive marketing.

I don't mean to pick on any one cereal company, in fact, there are plenty of "healthy" cereals that are doused with loads of sugar! It is so ironic to me. You can't trust any one store, or any one brand. I would say trust your instincts, but I guess if we truly did that, we wouldn't eat anything packaged to begin with!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

World's Best Gingersnap Cookie Recipe

In case you were wondering how living sugar-free could taste so good, I have provided proof in the form of the best cookie on earth. The recipe has been in the family for a long time, but I have switched one of the ingredients: sugar. Use date sugar instead of white refined sugar, it is worth the money. Date sugar is delicious to bake with because there is virtually no difference in taste and quality of the baked goodie. However, it does not melt well which makes it a poor substitute for drinks and items that will not go through a heating process.

The World's Best Gingersnap Cookie Recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup date sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
Mix these ingredients together, then add:
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix these and then add:
2 3/4 cup flour (can use whole wheat flour...)
1 tsp. baking soda
Mix until they are ready to roll into balls (do NOT roll in sugar of any kind) and place evenly on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes until they are cracked on top. I always like to take them out early so they are especially soft and chewy. Every oven is different, so check often and enjoy!

Red Lodge & Bozeman Montana

We have arrived in Montana, after 10 long days on the road. This road trip has been as amazing as it has been exhausting. Who would think that sitting in a car driving on the open road could require so much energy? Today I have been taking it easy in Bozeman, after spending the morning in Red Lodge, Montana. Red Lodge is an adorable little town. Its main street is lined with original brick buildings, complete with attractive, large loft windows on the second stories. The first place we visited in town was the bakery. I have NEVER seen so many delicious baked goods in my life. As soon as I walked in, my eyes roved immediately to the showcase of pastries, including a 10-inch high flaky cream puff, cut in half and filled with about 3 inches of cream. The donuts were so fresh they were the only thing I could smell. Luckily my husband bought one so I could take it in my hands and smell it to death before he ate it. I joked that if he didn't tell, I wouldn't tell--that I would eat a donut, too. Of course he looked at me mortified in case I wasn't joking. I was joking of course, but I had to say that so I could visualize for one second just sinking my teeth into one of those deep fried, frosted donuts. Breakfast. Alas, I ordered my usual coffee and walked away with yet more willpower than I have ever had before. If ever I was going to eat sugar before the year's up, it would have been at this bakery. There was a line of customers behind us, but that didn't stop me from blocking the view of the donut case as I photographed that unbelievable, gigantic cream puff.

Before we left town to hit the road, we wandered through Red Lodge's little farmer's market. Gorgeous purple onions and green cucumbers beckoned to me. I tried to figure out how to utilize them on the road, but I couldn't figure it out. While I was thinking about it, I spotted a table covered with giant green cabbages. Could we travel with these? Of course not, they would get wilted and I wouldn't be near a stove for at least another week. Before I left the block of tables I visited a booth where a lady was selling wool, both spun and raw. A basket of beautiful, naturally colored wool really got my attention. I touched some of the bounciest wool I have ever felt. When I decided to buy a bunch of beautiful, bouncy gray wool, the host of the booth asked if I would like to buy some bak lava that she was randomly selling at her table. I told her "no, thanks" and that I was sugar-free for the year. She looked up surprised and said, "I am, too! My husband and I have gone without sugar and white flour for four years, now." That led to some interesting conversation and supreme motivation on my part. They both lost weight and don't ever crave sugar. I asked her if she ever used honey or molasses in her baking. She said that she doesn't use any of those sweeteners. She uses white sugar for her baked goods that she makes for others, but does not consume them, herself. I am wondering if I would benefit from cutting out all sugars including the natural sugars in honey, molasses, fruit juice, etc. I am considering doing this for a month to see what happens. Of course I will never cut out whole fruit, but this lady was so trim and healthy-looking, it motivates me to try to cut out sugar alternatives, as well. I'll start one week at a time. Thank you C-, at the farmer's market, for the inspiration!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Sugar Blues of the Mid West

Nothing but green fields of corn stalks, peppered here and there with gigantic metal silos. The interstate roars through peaceful little farm lands. The fields of corn move rhythmically, swaying slightly at their thin yellow tips, but the sky is clear blue. A hawk sits upon a tall, dead tree that was planted out of place in this farmer's field. Gigantic semi-trucks rage into the rear view mirror and then quickly change lanes to pass us on the left. We have been driving across America for 5 days, now. My supply of sugar-free goodies is dwindling in our little cooler! We found a Whole Foods Market nearby our hotel in Chicago, but that was 3 or 4 days ago. Since then, we have been in grocery stores where all the food is packaged! Even the fruit and vegetables! There is sugar in everything, here! My favorite thing to look forward to is coffee (which is apparently not popular here in the mid-west....it's hard to find and it's awful) and nuts found at gas stations! I'm looking forward to finding a farmer's stand along the road where we can buy fresh fruits. More soon-I have to go to the lobby here at the hotel and look over the little free breakfast they offer. I've made a habit of grabbing bananas and apples at these continental breakfasts, to stockpile for myself, and Krispy Kreme donuts for my husband so I can live vicariously through him.