All about Honey

This is part of a series on sugars and sweeteners of all kinds – the good, the bad, and the toxic.

While we know that constant consumption of white sugar and artificial sweeteners isn’t a brilliant idea, we also know that something sweet now and again is really nice. When you do go for something sweet, you couldn’t really make a better choice than good quality honey.

Raw Honey (not very photogenic)
 Honey has been with us for quite some time. It’s mentioned in the Bible and the Vedas. It has long been known to have medicinal properties. I remember a radio interview with a dermatologist many years ago. He reported carrying out an experiment in which he treated two groups of people. They suffered from a wide variety of skin disorders. The first group received standard treatment for their particular problem. The second group was treated with honey. In the majority of cases, the honey did a better job.

Honey has slightly fewer calories per teaspoon than sugar. One of its advantages is that you won’t get the same rush and subsequent crash after eating it. Some people find that ingesting locally produced honey helps alleviate allergies to pollen. And as if that’s not enough, it’s a known antibacterial agent, and contains antioxidants, and phytonutrients (a good thing)… the list goes on and on.

Which honey should you buy?

Not all honey is created equal. The ideal honey is organic, unpasteurized (raw), and unfiltered. When you pasteurize honey, it is heated to about 71C (161 F). This gives the honey a more liquid consistency, and darkens the color. Edit: As some of my readers have pointed out, the color of any particular honey will be influenced by the flowers the bees get their necter from. Raw honey shouldn't be pourable in winter. Many of the beneficial properties of honey, (such as the invertase, the enzyme that breaks down sucrose), are lost through pasteurization, so it is definitely worth seeking out raw honey.

On the other side of the spectrum is completely fake honey, made from sugar mixed with artificial flavors and a small quantity of honey and sold as real honey. These fake products might be significantly cheaper than real honey. If the price looks too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true.

How to use it?
If you mostly use sugar as your sweetener, consider using honey instead. If you drink tea with sugar, try switching to honey. It’s not hard to find honey based desserts. If you eat yogurt with fruit, which often comes with a lot of sugar, consider buying white yogurt and adding your own fruit and honey.

Also in this series:

Artificial Sweeteners: Something for Nothing

High Fructose Corn Syrup

White Sugar

This post was shared posted on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

What's in Our Veggies?

We all know that fruit and vegetables – unless they’re organic - are sprayed with pesticides, but it doesn’t stop there. Have a look at this video. This little girl has it all figured out!

How Michael Ellsberg Overcame Bipolar II

Forbes recently published an article called How I Overcame Bipolar II (and Saved My Own Life)  in which Michael Ellsberg tells the story of how a relatively simple dietary change turned his life around. While not every mental illness is so easily cured, it is tantalizing to realize that such profound suffering might be avoidable for some. Check out the article. Thanks to Emily Deans of the fabulous Evolutionary Psychiatry for pointing it out.

Shared on the Healthy Home Economist.

An Easier Tomato Soup



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Artificial Sweeteners: Something for Nothing

This is the first entry in a series on sugars and sweeteners of all kinds – the good, the bad, and the toxic.

People are enticed by the idea of getting something for nothing. Eating and drinking treats sweetened with artificial sweeteners seems like the ultimate have your cake and eat it situation. The operative word here is “seems”.
In this post, I had planned to take a historical approach to sweeteners that were once considered okay, and were then found to be harmful and subsequently banned. My reading showed that the history is more confusing than I imagined. For example, the Canadian government banned saccharin in 1977. The FDA went back and forth, put a warning label on products with saccharin, then removed it. Saccharin is still in use in the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. banned cyclamates in 1969, but they are still in use in Canada. Go figure.
Personally, I believe it is impossible to get a definitive answer on what damage a particular sweetener causes. One study shows one thing, another study shows the opposite. Some of the largest companies on the planet are lobbying to keep the sweeteners they use legal, so it is never easy to get a substance banned.

So why do I still think you should completely avoid all artificial sweeteners?
Our bodies were designed to eat food
Our bodies expect to be nourished by things like eggs, broccoli, fish or butter, not C6H12NNaO3S or C14H18N2O5 or 7H5NO3S. Enough said.
The cheat doesn’t work
Let’s look at results. If someone said:  “Look, I love my Coke. Can’t give it up. I drink five glasses a day. Let me at least drink diet soda so I don’t get fat,” the theory sounds reasonable at a glance, but a study published in 2008 in Obesity by Sharon P. Fowler shows that this is an illusion.
According to the study carried out on 5,158 adult residents of San Antonio, Texas, subjects who drank diet sodas showed a statistically significant increase in obesity over a ten-year period. [1]

That means the people drinking diet soda gained more weight than the people drinking regular soda – and we know that drinking regular soda isn’t the fast track to weight loss. According to Fowler, "There was a 41% increase in risk of being overweight for every can or bottle of diet soft drink a person consumes each day." Ouch.
Just to be clear, Fowler et al don’t know why this is true. Is the artificial sweetener doing something to the body’s metabolism? Is it a psychological difference – did the people think they were getting something for nothing, so felt they could also eat an extra piece of cake? It isn’t clear. What is clear to me is that tricky ways of getting around eating real food don’t seem to work.

What's been your experience with artificial sweeteners?

Also in this series:

All About Honey

High Fructose Corn Syrup

White Sugar
This post was shared on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Cooking for Beginners: Garlic

Transitioning to real food means learning to buy and prepare new ingredients. Each post in this series will introduce you to a food with which you may never have cooked. Let’s get to know fresh, new ingredients.

Oh my, the smell and taste of fresh garlic. Almost every savory dish is enhanced by its pungent taste. Assuming you are not sensitive to it – and some people are – fresh garlic is definitely one ingredient you’ll want to incorporate into your cooking.

Garlic is sold in stores by the head.

Head of Garlic

A head is made up of cloves.

A Garlic Clove

In the store, look for a head without spots and make sure the garlic hasn’t sprouted. You can also do a smell test. If it has a strong garlic smell, it is overripe - don’t buy it.

Storing Garlic
When you get the garlic home, store it in a dry place. It doesn’t need refrigeration.

Peeling Garlic
To peel a clove of garlic, cut off either end with a sharp knife. Then gently bash the clove with your fist on the side of a large knife or with your palm.

Don’t completely smash it to a pulp – just enough to loosen the peel. It should slip off easily.

Crushed Garlic
Often when a recipe calls for garlic, it asks for crushed garlic. For this you’ll need a garlic press. It’s always a good idea to clean the press before the garlic dries and gets stuck to it.

Sliced Garlic
I often prefer to slice my garlic very thinly instead of crushing it. When you do this, let it sit on the cutting board for about 10 minutes before using. This allows the allicin, reported to be medicinal, to form naturally from alliin after the garlic is cut.

Medicinal Qualities of Garlic
Garlic is revered in many cultures as a medicinal food. Western medicine has also recognized garlic as a food that provides benefits such as lowering levels of triglycerides, blocking formation of cancer cells and more. [1] The Western medical jury is still out on exactly how helpful garlic is, what it is good for, and what it is in the garlic that does the trick.

While they work that out, (usually in studies carried out using isolated components of garlic), I prefer to go the real food route and put garlic in my stew and salad dressing rather than take a garlic supplement for its health benefits.

Type of Garlic
Garlic powder is a very sorry substitute for real garlic and people who use it should be shot. I don’t advise you to buy it.

Frozen garlic is readily available in Israel in supermarkets. I confess that I used it for years, simply because it saved time. It isn’t as bad as garlic powder, but it gives a different taste quality that isn’t quite right. I think it is worth the few extra moments it takes to use real garlic.
Cooking with Garlic
It takes only a minute to burn garlic if you add it alone to oil or butter. Burnt garlic is very bitter and its taste will not be masked by the other ingredients in your dish. 

Getting Rid of Garlicy Smells
There are two tips for getting rid of the smell of garlic on your hands. One is to rub your hands on the bottom of an aluminum pot. The other is to rub your hands with a slice of lemon. In the interest of science, I cut up a clove of garlic and rubbed it all over the fingertips of both hands. I used aluminum on my right hand and lemon on my left. Both did the job.

For the smell of garlic on your breath, try chewing a sprig of parsley.

This post was shared on Hartke is Online and Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Viral Video on High Fructose Corn Syrup

Videos that get over 1,500,000 views are usually cute, short, and funny. This one is none of those things, unless biochemistry amuses you. It's a lecture on why your liver doesn’t like dealing with high fructose corn syrup. Dr. Robert Lustig MD puts forth a strong argument that HFCS is the worst offender among the substances fueling the obesity epidemic.

Get comfortable, make yourself a cup of tea, and enjoy the lecture.

Dr. Wortman MD Reverses Type II Diabetes with Diet

Dr. Jay Wortman is a Canadian physician who suffered from type II diabetes. He went on a very low carbohydrate diet eight years ago and reversed his condition. He’s been free of diabetes ever since.

In the video he admits it was difficult initially to keep off the carbs because they’re so addictive. He claims it’s like being in drug withdrawal (this gives me a mental image of a drug addict begging for a dinner roll). Luckily, he reports that the withdrawal stage passes quite quickly and then it’s easy to stay low carb.

Check out the video.

This post is linked to Food Renegade's fight back Friday blog carnival.

Easy Transitions: Salt

Maybe you aren’t ready yet to revamp your diet completely, but there are some easy steps you can take towards ridding yourself of processed foods.

Make the switch from regular table salt to natural sea salt. Regular salt is highly processed and often contains added anti-caking agents. Sea salt has a multitude of trace minerals and magnesium salts that our bodies need.

What kind of salt should you buy?When you find sea salt that is perfectly white, that’s a sign that it’s been processed. I prefer sea salt that has been sun dried in the traditional way. The salt I’m currently using for cooking is grey Celtic Sea Salt. I still have white sea salt in my salt shaker, so as not to freak any visitors, at least for now.  

Grey sea salt

Whatever the U.S. is Doing… It Ain’t Workin’!

The following information was posted recently on the Fooducate blog.
1. Adult obesity rates rose in 16 states over the past year. NOT EVEN ONE state decreased.
2. Twelve states, led by the southeast, now have obesity rates above 30 percent: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

3. Just 4 years ago, one state was above 30%.

4. Obesity rates exceed 25% in more than two-thirds of states (38 states).

5. Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.4%.

6. Colorado had the lowest rate at 19.8% . It is the only state with a rate below 20% (but next year will probably be above)

7. Adult diabetes rates increased in 11 states and Washington, D.C. in the past year. In eight states, more than 10% of adults now have type 2 diabetes.
We can’t pinpoint with total accuracy what the main offender is behind this alarming increase in obesity and disease – there are too many variables – but one thing is clear to me: whatever the U.S. is doing, do the opposite.
So what does a standard American diet (commonly referred to as SAD) look like:
- fast food

- processed food

- sugary soft drinks

- lots of carbs and sugar

- vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, margarine) or low fat

- trans fat

Here in Israel, obesity rates are still much lower than in the States, but you just have to take a walk down any street to see that they are climbing rapidly.

When I arrived in Israel in 1980, there was almost nothing in the way of ready meals. People cooked. Supermarkets have changed considerably since then (Tivol, Namess B’kos, Mama Off etc.), and it isn’t a change for the better. Israel and the rest of the world are importing American products and American ideas about nutrition. How is that working out? Hmmm… Not so good.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not looking to mainstream America for my information on diet.

Food pyramid anyone?

This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival.

What’s for Breakfast?

You’re in a hurry and you want to get out the door, maybe you want to get your kids off to school. Cereal is quick. Eggs take a little bit of preparation.

Let’s compare what you get in a Froot Loops® breakfast to a fried egg breakfast. Here are the ingredients in Froot Loops:

Froot loops breakfast

+ milk.

The main ingredient in Froot Loops is sugar. No need to say much about that ingredient. Then comes whole grain corn flour, which sounds good (whole grain) but it is likely genetically modified corn, which I’d rather avoid. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil = trans fat. The rest is a chemical soup of food coloring and BHT, which may cause hyperactivity and cancer, but hey, look on the bright side, it may not!  Let’s compare this to the ingredients for a fried egg breakfast:

Eggs, butter, salt.

Sounds more wholesome to me. And if you get pastured eggs and butter from grassfed cows, even better.

But what about the time factor? You can’t argue with the fact that cereal takes no preparation. Surely it saves time.

Well, yes and no. Let’s look at the big picture. Some kids, not to mention, adults, are going to be bouncing off the walls after a breakfast of sugar, food coloring, and BHT. Ever try to convince an out of control child to get dressed and out the door in the morning? Ever try to get yourself organized when you can’t think straight? The preparation time you save may be spent elsewhere.

By the way, it’s not only the colorful, sugary cereals that make a bad start to the day. The so-called “healthy” cereals are problematic too. More on that in a future post.

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