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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What's the Beef With Milk Sugar?

Do you eat or drink milk products?

Did you know that there is a naturally occurring "sugar" in milk, called lactose? Lactase is an enzyme in our bodies that allows us to digest this milk sugar.

Ever heard of an allergy to milk? Apparently, it's not an allergy after all because there is, "not an immune response". (USA Today)

A milk "allergy"is more correctly defined as lactose intolerance: "Lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products, because the required enzyme lactase is absent in the intestinal system or its availability is lowered. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood."

I came across an interesting article about milk sugar that discusses this in more detail:

"People who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar -lactose- found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so -lactase- stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea."

For more information than you ever wanted to know about lactase, the enzyme (that we don't all have, and have in differing amounts) allowing us to digest milk products, check out this article in the European Journal of Human Genetics. "Most people cannot drink milk as adults without the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and most lactose intolerance is due to absence of the lactase enzyme in the gut."

I'll continue to get my "natural" sugars elsewhere.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Whole Foods Gets Honest

"We sell all kinds of candy. We sell a bunch of junk," said the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, to the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

American Heart Association Recommends Less Sugar

The American Heart Association, "Recommends reduced intake of added sugars. Study highlights:
  • High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Added sugars and solid fats in food, as well as alcoholic beverages are categorized as “discretionary calories” and should be eaten sparingly.
  • Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.
  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet.
'Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories,' Johnson said. 'Consuming foods and beverages with excessive amounts of added sugars displaces more nutritious foods and beverages for many people.' The statement says that most women should consume no more than 100 calories (about 25 grams) of added sugars per day. Most men should consume no more than 150 calories (about 37.5 grams) each day. That’s about six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and nine for men. In contrast, the statement cites a report from the 2001–04 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that showed the average intake of added sugars for all Americans was 22.2 teaspoons per day (355 calories)."

If on average we are eating over 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and the AHA is recommending women reduce sugar intake to 6 teaspoons and men reduce to 9 teaspoons, this is a DRASTIC REDUCTION IN THE DAILY AMOUNT OF SUGAR WE OUGHT TO BE EATING.

For women, this means cutting back our sugar intake by 73%.


Here's a pie chart to illustrate just how much the AHA is recommending we cut back.

This huge percentage is a sign that sugar has wedged itself as an all too common ingredient in people's diets. The data is interesting; the average daily intake is from a report dated 2001-2004. We are probably eating more sugar now than then, but that is the current data we have.

Not only do we have to make a change, the AHA is suggesting we make a drastic change. Our health and the health of our children depends on it. Cutting our sugar consumption in half is not enough.

As we enter into the "Age of Transparency" cutting down on sugar should become easier. As we, the consumer, demand more nutritious foods and less sugary junk food, the food producers will scramble to satisfy our demand. This is not going to happen overnight, but I have high hopes that the pendulum will swing in favor of health food. For the AHA to make such a giant statement about sugar, it is a sign that we are already heading in that direction, or my blog must be very convincing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Irony of Junk Food

Websites that promote apples do not disparage oranges or peaches or cherries. If you look at websites that sell whole grains, they do not disparage other healthy whole food products.

What I find interesting is that Junk Food "A" may talk very highly about their product, but have something terrible to say about Junk Food "B". The sugar people will go off about alternative sweeteners, and the alternative sweetener folks will go off about both HFCS and sugar. All the while, each company's product is touted to be quite superior. If each of the junk food companies has something legitimate to say about the other junk food company's products, isn't this a sure sign that it's all....JUNK?!

Here are some examples:

What the Sugar Association has to say: "HFCS does not exist in nature. It is a highly processed product that requires the ingenuity and efforts of man for its creation, and was unknown to the world until the 1970s. Sugar is all-natural and has been the primary sweetening ingredient worldwide for thousands of years and still is the predominate sweetener in every country, except the United States. Sugar exists naturally in almost every fruit and vegetable but most abundantly in sugar cane and sugar beets."

The Sugar Association has gone so far as to create a website called The Truth About Splenda which further disparages another competitor.

Here is what SPLENDA has to say: "SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener may be used as part of a healthy diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods in moderate portions. Because SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener tastes like sugar and can be used for cooking and baking, it helps meet consumer demand for good-tasting foods and beverages without all the empty calories of sugar."


"Although sucralose (generic term for SPLENDA) is made from a process that begins with sugar, the body does not recognize it as sugar or a carbohydrate. It is not metabolized by the body for energy, so it is calorie-free.....it passes through the body without being broken down for energy, so it has no calories, and the body does not recognize it as a carbohydrate. " This is saying that SPLENDA is not recognized by the body as a food, which in my opinion means we have no business putting it in our bodies!!

The NutraSweet Company is proud of their product because of its lack of calories: "Aspartame has many benefits. Aspartame can reduce or replace the sugar and calories in foods and beverages while maintaining great taste. Thus, aspartame offers one simple step in helping people move closer to achieving a more healthful diet." That's funny.

Saccharin comes right out and says, "Although the totality of the available research indicates saccharin is safe for human consumption, there has been controversy over its safety. The basis for the controversy rests primarily on findings of bladder tumors in some male rats fed high doses of sodium saccharin." Oh, woops. Just bladder tumors. No worries. Then I wonder why convenient stores have saccharin warning signs in their store windows?

Again, healthy whole foods will never be controversial. We don't need science to tell us what our common sense leads us to believe about healthy foods....that an apple is good nutrition, for example. If there is any controversy about a food you are eating, I would suggest you consider eating something that has never been controversial.

You can't go wrong by eating whole foods, keeping in mind portion sizes. You might go wrong by eating JUNK. To me, it's not worth risking what I don't know.

Lastly, I include with the Corn Refiner's Association take on their product HFCS, because it is so funny to me: "Mention corn syrups and consumers think of the sweetness and energy they offer--outstanding characteristics--" More like mention corn syrup and watch people roll their eyes. The press, the commercials and the lobbying is just ridiculous. I can't imagine anyone going to such great lengths to lobby for steel cut oats or lima beans.

Here is an interesting article about HFCS, with quotes from the president of the Corn Refiner's Association, Audrae Erickson. HFCS or sugar? Sugar or HFCS?

The press on this right now is downright silly. We have companies responding to consumer demand by taking HFCS out of their products and going back to using sugar. Hooray? Really? To me this is the silliest battle between highly processed junk foods that we should eat less of altogether. I don't eat either one, and it's difficult to avoid because most packaged products have one or the other. I usually end up eating fruit, darnit.

My point is that no matter how ignorant we might want to feign to be, it's obvious what is healthy whole food and what is not. I don't believe that the "foods" created in the laboratories were made to improve our health, although many of the artificial sweetener producers would argue and say that they are providing a low-calorie sweetener alternative. What good does it do to put a low-calorie sweetener in a product that is loaded with junk and many other types of calories?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sugar Politics

To understand sugar policy, good luck.

However, to get a notion of what the "sugar crisis" is about, jump over to Marion Nestle's Food Politics blog or the Atlantic's identical report.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Humongous is the New Small

Jeff and I were at the theater today and he ordered a small soft drink. (Sigh....)

When he walked up with his "small" drink, I was shocked. I grabbed it and said, "You HAVE to photograph this!"

I asked him if he was going to drink it all even though he wanted a smaller size. He looked at me like I was telling him what to do, not asking. Okay, maybe I was passively suggesting that he didn't have to drink it all. He said next time he'll order this same size and if we are with a group of people who want soda, too, he'll order three or four empty cups. I wonder how that would go over....

He told me that when he stopped in at a coffee shop yesterday for a mocha the cashier asked what size and he said, "Small." He said the cashier asked why he would just want small when for a few cents more he could get a much larger mocha.

Just because you can get more for less, doesn't mean you should. On that note, I can't believe McDonald's is currently advertising all soft drinks for $1. In this case "more" is just more sugar, calories and chemicals that our bodies suffer from. We get NO nutrients from soda!

"Super-sizing" our portions is undoubtedly super-sizing us!

When I did a search hoping to pull up the actual dollar drink ad, I found instead a bunch of blogs of people who are really excited to be getting this good deal....

Hide Your Twinkies, Stockpile Your Sodas: It's a Sugar Shortage!

Can you imagine a land where soda doesn't flow freely and donuts are boot-legged for three figures?

Well, folks, we may be entering a sugar crisis. How do I know? I watched this video clip starring guest Marion Nestle.

My dream has come true: my husband may have to eat fruit instead of chocolate, juice instead of soda, ice water (gasp!) instead of ice cream...

Parents may have to give their children fruit and vegetables as snacks instead of ice cream and chips and Twinkies........

.....like this poor little girl (photographed in my hometown!) that someone brought to my attention recently:

I don't typically post pictures like this, but the image has been stuck in my mind for days and it's an important one. A child does NOT gain this kind of weight normally. I read a statistic recently that out of all children born after the year 2000, one in three are expected to develop diabetes. This is NOT normal! Sugar and junk food have EVERYTHING to do with this! Kids don't gain this kind of weight eating healthy meals. Parents not only have the power to help their children eat healthy, it is a responsibility. In my opinion, the amount of junk food that kids are typically allowed to eat is a form of child abuse. Kids are getting addicted (physically and emotionally) to sugar at an early age and gaining weight and developing early on-set diabetes. WHAT?! Not my kids. This topic is open to discussion, and as always, there are certain exceptions here, but not many. The number of overweight children in the US is staggering, not to mention that roughly 1/3 of all Americans are overweight.

We have a national health crisis on our hands (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, to name a few) and the fact that there may be less sugar available for those outrageously cheap prices really blesses my heart.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Yes, I'll have shrimp with a headache on the side, please."

I had a really bad experience recently.

I was exploring the harbour of City B- and met my cousin at a fabulous little Italian restaurant. The bruschetta was out of this world and made with fresh ingredients. The romaine lettuce in my salad had been grilled and was delicious. It came with three giant shrimp. I love shrimp and have never had a problem with it.

However, while I was eating, my head burst into the most massive headache I have ever experienced. I don't get headaches. The only time I've ever gotten headaches is due to caffeine withdrawal or a bad case of the flu.

Not knowing why my head was throbbing, I finished my salad and the shrimp and headed out on foot to continue exploring the city. My headache grew worse. I knew it wasn't in any way caffeine-related because the back of my head hurt as much as the front. After barely making it through a museum, Jeff and I decided to head home. He mentioned that I could be dehydrated. It's possible, I thought, as I glanced at the pedometer which read 12.75 miles.

We added to the mileage by running several blocks of the city to make the train. Once we reached the train station, I felt like I was going to pass out if I didn't have water. I walked to the front of the train and asked the conductor if he had any water. I was delirious and desperate. He opened his personal cooler and pulled out an ice cold bottle of water. I felt like I was witnessing a miracle. It was as if he was expecting me....The water was nice but my headache raged on. I tried closing my eyes but it made noises louder and more aggravating. I felt bad for Jeff. There was nothing he could do even though he kept asking.

He did some Google searches and guessed from the research that I was experiencing mercury poisoning from the shrimp. Many others had experienced the exact same thing while eating affected shrimp and some pointed to possible mercury contamination. Weird, but this doesn't prove anything.

I did a tiny bit of looking around at shrimp issues, even though I am finished eating shrimp. There are better ways to get protein in my diet and the risk is not worth taking.

As a disclaimer, I really can't say that the shrimp for sure caused my headache. My point is that because I got such a terrible headache and found some interesting information about shrimp as a result, I'm done eating it....whether or not it was the culprit in my case.

Check out these sites for more information:



http://www.epa.gov/fishadvisories/advice/ -According to the EPA, shrimp are low in mercury....

Posts about SUGAR soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Strange & Tasty Snack: Seed-Filled Nori Roll

I used to spend $1.99 for each package of Nori rolls, containing two, thin rolls. Delicious--but I figured I could make them myself.

Oh, yes.

Easy, delicious snack food....I've "used" them in the face of extreme sweet tooth moments and they deliver the chewy, filling satisfaction that I ultimately crave.

I don't love seaweed. I would never eat it by itself. However, as a wrap with hidden flavors bursting from inside, it's more than tolerable. It's really good. The lemon is everything in this salty, sour snack.

To make these, I looked at the ingredients on the wrapper and ascertained how much of each to use. Feel free to toy with it yourself, but here is how I did it:

Healthy Nori Rolls

several sheets of Nori
2-4 sun dried tomatoes (I used the dry kind, so I don't know how the sun dried tomatoes soaking in oil would work...probably fine...)
1/2 C. sunflower seeds
1/4 C. sesame seeds
1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
sea salt

I chopped up the sun dried tomatoes after leaving them out all day. (If you use them directly out of the package, they are extremely hard and difficult to cut) I cut them into tiny pieces and set aside. In a food processor I ground up both seeds and added them to the bowl of sun dried tomatoes. Then I added the nutritional yeast and squeezed fresh lemon juice to make the mixture stick together somewhat. Sprinkle a little sea salt to your liking.

I then used the lemon juice to wet the Nori sheets (or lightly dampen with water...but don't soak the Nori sheets or it will all curl up) and I put the seed mixture at one end of the damp sheet and rolled it up tightly.

Seal the end of the sheet with a damp finger to stick the Nori together.

I refrigerated these and ate them for the next few days. They are good and filling. There's nothing I love more than a super healthy, delicious snack.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Peach Upside Down Cake

Yesterday morning as I sipped my coffee I imagined what a perfect, sweet breakfast would be. As I dreamed of exotic omelets and fancy breads with fresh jams, I glanced down at a lonely peach sitting on my counter. I knew I had to eat it, but I wanted to bake it somehow. It seems like of all my recipe resources, both online and in books, I can't help but gravitate towards my old trusted favorite, Sweet and Sugar-Free.

Sure enough, I found a recipe for a Peach Upside Down Cake. It looked perfect.

As always, I fudged with the ingredients, but the end product delivered the sweet, chewy goodness that I was craving. The only thing I would do differently next time is add more peaches. My gigantic peach went a long way, since I chopped it up into small pieces, but I would definitely add more like the recipe calls for.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Chop 2-3 peaches and toss with a tablespoon of melted coconut oil or regular cooking oil. Sprinkle mixture with cinnamon and put in bottom of small baking dish.

Next, mix 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 C. fruit juice, 1/4 C. oil and 1 large, beaten egg. Then, instead of adding white flour, I used 1/2 C. brown rice flour and 1/2 C. almond flour. To that add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Add more flour if batter is runny. It should be nice and thick but still pour easily. Beat well and then pour batter over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20-30 minutes.

Enjoy piping hot with a mug of coffee or tea!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

I made a mistake.

It's what I get for posting a recipe without trying it first.

I posted the Coconut Flour Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes before I made them, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. Sorry I didn't try it out first! However, when I made them the next day, I made a mistake. I actually forgot to put in the coconut flour. The funny thing about it is that I went out of my way to visit a health food store that I knew would have the coconut flour. I was so excited to try it for the first time. Perhaps I should have been concentrating on my recipe instead of bouncing back and forth between my puzzle and my kitchen.

I was high on coffee which is problem number one, and a little preoccupied trying to find Sumatra (where this particular coffee bean blend originates) on my world map, which isn't actually listed specifically on the puzzle.

I wondered why my cupcake batter was so runny, but figured it must just be different than what I'm used to.

Besides the batter being thin and runny, I was perplexed because I couldn't find my muffin tin. I finally discovered it in the freezer where I have been keeping my delicious Mounds bars. Almond Joys, really. Anyway, the only other muffin tin I have is for tiny little bite-sized muffins. I went for it.

Right before I poured the batter in the greased little muffin slots, I added my organic, frozen raspberries.

Trying to prepare minuscule muffin tins only 2/3 full was rocket science. Keep in mind at this point I still had no idea that I had left out the coconut flour.

I set the timer and sat back down to work on my puzzle. Several minutes later the most amazing fragrance reached my senses. I love the smell of chocolate baking. I was curious to see if the batter was spilling over the tiny muffin tin, so I checked on them. That's when I glanced on my counter and noticed my un-opened bag of coconut flour. My heart sank. The ingredients I used in this recipe are not cheap! I flitted about my kitchen trying to figure out what to do, and then let it go. It was too late, as the cupcakes had already risen quite a bit.

To my amazement, when the toothpick came up dry, I took them out of the oven and each one popped out of the tin easily. I had expected a runny mess.

When they had cooled just enough, I bit into one. Chocolate, raspberries and vanilla filled my mouth and it was perfectly chewy. The honey had caramelized a bit adding a candy-like, crunchy sweetness to the edges. They were divine. After three, I had to leave the kitchen and focus on my puzzle or I could have stood there all day eating each one slowly and decadently.

I plan on making this recipe again using the flour, but also plan on taking notes for how these turned out. I gave Jeff one to sample and after his first bite he said they were too bitter. He eats milk chocolate all day long, so his sweet tooth is calibrated towards much sweeter foods. After two or three more of the little cupcakes, however, he decided they were perfect.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

I'm on a recipe kick.

My sweet tooth steadily rages on, but I am not satisfied with making concoctions I've already made. I need to give my lusty sweet tooth something new to chew on. Enter chewy cupcakes.

I can't help but check out Nourishing Gourmet's blog regularly. She is always coming up with the most exquisite adaptations of a recipe. I love the fun, unusual ingredients she uses like coconut flour and coconut paste. For these cupcakes I will probably use honey instead of coconut paste, but at least I learned something new! I've never heard of coconut sugar paste...

Happy Birthday, Mr. President Obama! If I could knock on your front door and deliver these tasty morsels to you, I would!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes:
    1/4 cup coconut flour
    1/4 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon vanilla (make sure your vanilla is gluten free, if needed)
    1/2 cup of honey or coconut sugar paste (maple syrup would work too, I bet)
    1/4 cup of coconut oil
    1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
    3 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1-Grease muffins tins, or put in muffin papers.

2-Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

3-Add the wet ingredients (but not the raspberries) and whisk well, until all lumps are gone.

4-Fold in the raspberries, and fill muffin tins, 2/3 full.

5-Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top if firm and a toothpick comes out clean, when poked in the middle of the muffin. Take out of the muffin tins and cool on cooling racks.

Thank you Nourishing Gourmet!