Monday, May 18, 2009

Holistic Hottie™: Sweet Surrender

Surrender? Well, kind of. I kicked my chocolate addiction to the curb and am 100% refined sugar-free, but I DO still enjoy sweet things. I mean really - a life without sweets?!? Fortunately, besides fruit, there are so many great alternatives out there to satisfy my taste buds. None of which include artificial sweeteners.

Did you know that artificial sweeteners can actually intensify sugar cravings and contribute to weight gain or worse? Since they are chemical sweeteners, the body sees them as toxins. Toxins suppress the immune system and make the liver work harder. A burdened liver makes things like shedding bodyfat more challenging. And really, who wants that?

Equal and Splenda are a couple of the most popular chemical sweeteners on the market:

Equal is aspartame-based. Aspartame is a combination of phenylalaline and aspartic acid, bonded by methanol. The bond breaks down into formic acid, formaldehyde, and diketopiperazine(DKP). These are neurotoxins. In other words, they are toxic to the brain and nervous system. Signs of aspartame toxicity include: migraines, skin eruptions, ADD, joint pain, and muscle spasms. Toxicity can also mimic diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome, MS and fibromyalgia.

Splenda is a combination of sucralose, chlorine and bulking agents. Since sucralose is 600 x sweeter than sugar, Splenda is comprised mostly of the bulking agents - dextrose and maltodextrin. These bulking agents are sugars taken from high-fructose corn syrup. Yikes!

It's also important to note that Splenda bases it's low-glycemic health claims on studies with sucralose - not the actual Splenda product. Sucralose by itself does not affect blood sugar. But when it's combined with sugar (the bulking agents), it will. This doesn't sound good for diabetics or for weightloss.

Because of Splenda's chlorine content (class 1 carcinogen), its chemical composition is similar to that of other chlorocarbons: DDT, PCBs, mustard gas, and other harmful pesticides/insecticides. While the long-term effects of Splenda are unknown, chlorocarbons have long been known for causing organ, genetic and reproductive damage.

For more info on artificial sweeteners, check out Dr. Mercola's book - Sweet Deception.

So what are some tasty, non-chemical, real food alternatives to sugar?

1. Stevia - an herb, 0 calories, doesn't affect blood sugar levels, bitter aftertaste that can take getting used to; refined stevia is not nutrient-rich as whole leaf stevia - but both are non-toxic. Brands include: Sweet Leaf, KAL, and NOW Foods. (SHOP now.)

2. Yacon Syrup - from the yacon root, contains FOS (a prebiotic - it feeds the good bacteria in the colon that boosts immunity and digestion), contains antioxidants and is rich in minerals. Brands include: Rawganique, Navitas Naturals, and SweetyLight. (SHOP now.)

3. Lo Han Guo - 0 calories, native to China, has been used for various medicinal purposes in Chinese herbal medicine for centuries. Brands include: Trimedica, Jarrow Formulas, and NuNaturals. (SHOP now.)

4. Xylitol - a sugar alcohol that is also reported to prevent tooth decay because of its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties; I only recommend this in very small doses - sugar alcohols can cause gastric upset. Personally, I only like it in my toothpaste. Brands include: Xclear, NOW Foods, and KAL. (SHOP now.)

5. Raw, unheated, unfiltered honey - contains pollen, propolis, vitamins, enzymes and trace minerals. Brands include: Really Raw Honey and Y.S. Organic Bee Farms.

(Most of these products can be purchased at My Store. Or you can find them at your local natural foods store. Stevia is sold in the vitamin section.)

So - what about Agave Nectar? Sad but true - it is not really a health food. Shocking, I know. Agave nectar is mostly fructose, much like high-fructose corn syrup and is, furthermore, pro-diabetic. While the agave plant is low-glycemic, the nectar is not. The nectar is highly processed and is far from "raw" no matter what the label says. It's too bad because it is quite tasty.

I have yet to try Miracle Fruit. Miracle Fruit is a West African berry called Synsepalum dulcificum. Apparently anything you consume for about an hour after eating one tastes sweet! I'm intrigued.

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