Thursday, February 19, 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, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

Sunday, February 1, 2009

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, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

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: 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. 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, call (262) 389-9907 or go to