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Decoding the Label: Sweeteners April 20, 2011

Cancer diagnosis, behavior disorders, obesity and type 2 diabetes are on the rise nationwide. It is widely accepted that processed foods are partially if not mostly to blame. Many people are trying to be smarter grocery shoppers. You’re reading labels and avoiding corn syrup. But sometimes you just don’t know what all of the ingredients on the label mean. Here is a little pocket guide of some of the most common sweeteners and alternate names found on the market. Items in red are on my don’t buy list. I suggest you highlight it, hit Control P and print selected area. Take it with you for a few grocery trips.


  • Acesulfame is an artificial sweetener sold under the brand name of SunSweet.
  • It is also known as acesulfame K or acesulfame potassium.
  • Although FDA approved, long-term health effects have not been adequately researched.


  • Agave syrup is a natural sweetener made by extracting and heating the juice of the agave plant.
  • Regardless of color, agave syrup is mostly comprised of fructose sugar.
  • Fructose has a lower glycemic index than sucrose (table sugar). Although agave is safer than sucrose, it is still a sugar and should only be consumed in moderation.


  • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener sold under the brand names of Canderel, Equal, NutraSweet.
  • The FDA rejected any scientific attempts at proving long-term negative health effects in the 20th century as false with a little urging from Monsanto’s lawyers. I would tell you how I feel about Monsanto but they might sue me.

Barley Malt

  • Barley malt is a natural sweetener typically used for fermentation. It is used as a nutritive supplement in the U.K.
  • It is also known as maltose or maltose syrup. Maltose is a unique type of sugar.
  • Maltose has a lower glycemic index than sucrose. Maltose is a still a form of sugar and should only be consumed in moderation.

Corn Syrup & High Fructose Corn Syrup

  • Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are natural sweeteners typically derived from extreme processing of genetically modified corn.
  • Corn syrups will soon be called corn sugars. Regular corn syrup is mostly a glucose sugar. High fructose corn syrup is more processed and is appropriately named fructose.
  • The effects on the body are similar to sucrose. While corn syrup itself isn’t that bad. The overuse of it is killing us. Many thanks to Monsanto for providing the world with useless genetically modified seeds.


  • Honey is perhaps one of the oldest and most natural foods available!
  • Honey is pure glucose.
  • Honey is very chemically stable and the body knows exactly what to do with it. Honey is my preferred sugar substitute. Moderation is very important if you are diabetic.


  • Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener on the market.
  • Saccharin was once banned by the FDA as unsafe for human consumption and on the EPA’s toxic chemicals list. It has since been removed and deemed safe for consumption. Questionable, very questionable.


  • Sucralose is an artificial sweetener processed with chlorides.
  • Sucralose is sold by the brand names Splenda and Nevella.
  • Sucralose may kill beneficial bacteria in the gut and have a laxative effect. No long-term health effects have been proven yet.


  • Sugar is a natural sweetener and is the control that all other sweeteners are compared to. It is typically manufactured from cane sugar or beets.
  • Sugar is also known as sucrose. Sucanat is a less processed form of sugar cane.
  • Unless you are diabetic, I recommend using sucanat in moderation when making sweets. Excessive sugar consumption can cause issues with insulin production and weight gain.

Sugar Alcohols or “itols”

  • Most sugar alcohols are food based but heavily processed and often labeled as natural. Most are derived from corn. Some are derived from birch or fruit. Sugar alcohols are relatively new on the market and many are only approved as supplements or have just received food status from the FDA.
  • Almost any ingredient ending in itol is a sugar alcohol. Mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc. all fall under this category.
  • Sugar alcohols are typically marketed towards diabetics as safer than sugar and more natural than artificial sweeteners. They are also used in oral hygiene products and chewing gums. Be cautious with sugar alcohols. They can cause headaches or have diuretic and laxative effects. I don’t consider them a danger yet but I try not to buy them very often because they are so new. The long-term effects have yet to be seen.


  • Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from a category of plant leaves related to sunflowers. The level of processing depends on the brand. It is currently sold as a supplement, not food, in the U.S.
  • Stevia is also known as SweetLeaf or SugarLeaf
  • Stevia is a form of fiber and may have a mild laxative effect. Stevia is safe for diabetics and may even improve glucose tolerance! Due to “industry complaints” stevia has been the subject of controversy remaining unapproved by the FDA. In more recent studies, the World Health Organization has found no validity to the complaints. Stevia sweeteners are top sellers in supplement stores. Coca-cola has jumped on the centuries long trend and I expect that it will be fully approved by the FDA very soon.

Free Weleda Brand Body Oils April 13, 2011

Filed under: Beauty,Hot Deals — njr711 @ 1:34 pm
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One of my favorite holistic skin care lines is Weleda. I encourage you to visit their website and learn about truly clean beauty products. *Today they are offering a free sample of one of their homeopathic body oils if you like them on Facebook. I posted the link to their Facebook page under “useful websites” on the right hand side of the page.

*while supplies last.


Tips For Selecting A Gym or Personal Trainer April 12, 2011

Filed under: Fitness — njr711 @ 8:49 pm
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Selecting a gym or trainer is mostly about personality. Take Jack Lalanne, Richard Simmons and Jillian Michaels for example. They led thousands to better fitness using vastly different approaches. It is often frustrating to have so many options available. Try these tips to get you started:

Assess your needs.

  • If you want to socialize and stay active: You may want to consider a dance class, a recreational sports league, boot camp or an outdoor enthusiasts club. Check your church, health food store or local city/county website for options.
  • If you want to make lasting lifestyle changes: You should consider joining a gym or a fitness class for a year to get back in shape. Then try to get involved in a dance class, a recreational sports league, boot camp or an outdoor enthusiasts club to make friends who will support your new lifestyle.
  • If you are trying to beat your butt into bikini shape: You need a trainer.

Choosing a gym.

  • Search gyms within a 5 to 8 mile radius if possible. The more convenient it is, the more likely you are to attend regularly. Pick three to checkout. Call them to schedule a visit.
  • Does the variation and quality of equipment and floor space meet your needs? Is it clean? Are the employees mostly body builders or general fitness enthusiasts? Are all of their employees certified through an NCCA accredited certificate program?
  • What type of payment plans do they offer? Can you really afford it? If you break the monthly amount down per visit is it a good deal? What does it take to break the contract? Check out other two gyms before you sign!

Choosing a trainer.

  • You can always find a trainer at the gym. You can check the bulletin board at your local health food store or a chiropractic/natural health school. The best way to find a good trainer is to ask around. Get a referral from a friend or family member.
  • Interview them like you are a hiring manager and they are a potential employee. What is their background? Do they have client references? Will they provide a free 45 to 60 minute trial session? Check out more than one person but respect their time too. Try to complete the process within a week.
  • Make sure they are certified. I posted a link on the right under “useful websites” to find an ACE certified trainer. ACE is just one of several  NCCA certified programs.
  • Surprisingly, prices actually don’t vary much. You can expect to pay about $30 – 40 per hour. Or approximately $100 – $150 for a 6 or 8 class package deal.

Whatever you choose to do, always be honest and upfront about all disabilities, health concerns or injuries. Make sure your instructor, gym or trainer is capable of and willing to work with your specific issues.

Don’t be afraid to change things up, have fun and enjoy your new activities!


Clean Oatmeal On The Go April 8, 2011

Filed under: Recipes — njr711 @ 12:00 pm
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Check out this wholesome oatmeal recipe posted in reference to the previous article. This is a terrific breakfast recipe for someone on the go. It cooks while you’re in the car. 


  • 1/2 cup Regular Rolled Oats
  • 1 Tbsp Almonds (Slivered)
  • 1 Heaping Tbsp Raisins
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Directions: Combine dry ingredients in a thermos or insulated to go mug. Pour in 1/2 cup boiling water. Cover immediately. Wait 15 minutes and enjoy. You can add 1/3 cup milk or yogurt after its ready if you like.


    The Great Greenwash Brainwash

    Filed under: Natural Living — njr711 @ 9:08 am
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    Americans have made it clear that they prefer natural products. When you go to your grocer today, it would seem that manufacturers and stores have risen to the challenge and made these products much more available. There is always an option in a light brown and olive green bottle boasting “includes natural ingredients.” Some products claim to be “dye free” and others “includes whole grains”.  Dairy products proudly label they are free of Rbgh. My absolute favorite marketing term that’s been used since I was a kid and always makes me laugh in the aisle is “100% juice.”

    America is good at two things really: innovation and marketing. Nobody can BS like our marketing gurus. They’ve heard our cry for safer natural products and they’ve BSed us. Think about the term “includes natural ingredients” and use oatmeal as an example. You start with wholesome oats, tasty cinnamon and a drop of honey. All of these are lovely natural ingredients. The you added sucralose or aspartame, peach flavoring (what the heck is this even made out of?) and preservatives. Now you have a toxic cocktail in your warm nourishing oatmeal. Well, they didn’t lie. Truth in labeling movements can’t help you here. It included natural ingredients. You didn’t think about what that label didn’t mean when you put it in your cart.

    Take a look at this seemingly wholesome natural product. Two things struck me right away. First, notice the multiple terms for sugary syrups. This is a diabetic nightmare. Second, tripotassium phosphate is not the kind of potassium you find in a banana. It is a chemical used in pesticides and often blamed for the death of aquatic wildlife. It may be used here as a preservative or it might be left from the production of the oats and sugar. I’m not quite sure why it is in this but it shouldn’t be. My advice in this situation would be to buy 100% organic oats. Surprise, they are pretty much as instant as instant oatpacks. You can add your own honey and real fruit to taste.

    You need to pay attention to beauty products and home cleaners too. Unfortunately the U.S. doesn’t really have any labeling guidelines when it comes to these two so you’ll have to do a bit more research. The bottom line is: Don’t fall for the marketing hype on the front of a container. Read the ingredients every time. If you don’t know what something is, look it up when you get home. When a product contains ingredients you don’t want to be eating, don’t stress yourself out. You’ll know to try a different product next time.

    Next Lifestyle Blog: Decoding the label – Food


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