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Sugar and Sweeteners

2017.08.17 by

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The sugars contained in fresh, natural foods are adequate to provide for everyone’s energy needs. Nonetheless, people like sweet tastes. If you must have additional sweets in your diet, here is a review of your options.  Or you can skip to the bottom line at the end of this article.

No one should eat added sugars on a regular basis. Many books have been written about the dangers of sugar consumption and its ability to depress the immune system, impede cellular function, and stimulate the overgrowth of candida (yeast).  Sugars and other carbohydrates stimulate excess insulin production that results in storage of sugars in fat cells, wildly fluctuating blood sugar reactions, and an increased incidence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Excess sugar consumption interferes with the body’s absorption of minerals (calcium and magnesium), raises cholesterol levels, and causes allergies, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems. This knowledge has led to the concept of low carbohydrate diets to control weight and prevent and cure disease.

Sugar sweeteners

Refined sucrose made from plants (beets or cane) is depleted of vitamins and minerals. The refining process also adds several potentially toxic chemicals (bleaches and stabilizers). Natural sugars in the form of raw sugar, rice syrup, malt syrup, and raw honey are purported to have more nutritional value and they have less added toxic ingredients, but do nothing to reduce the deleterious effects of eating sugar. Brown sugar is refined sugar with added molasses. Sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.

High fructose corn syrup is 20 times sweeter than sucrose, cheaper to make, and convenient for food manufacturers because it retains moisture and blends well with other ingredients. The free fructose in corn syrup interferes with the heart’s use of minerals, depletes the ability of white blood cells to defend against infections, and raises cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fructose inhibits the hormones that make us feel full (insulin and leptin), and it triggers the hormone that makes us feel hungry (ghrelin). Children do much better on diets free of corn syrup. Many commercial, sweet, processed food products contain high fructose corn syrup. These products include candy, soda, energy bars, sweetened yogurt, energy drinks, and baked desserts.

Natural Sweeteners

Honey should be used only in its raw form because the heating process destroys enzymes and vitamins natural to the honey. Honey stimulates insulin production with the same mechanism as other forms of sugar. Do not give honey to infants under 12 months of age because of their inability to defend themselves against botulinum spores that may contaminate honey.

Stevia is an herb native to Paraguay. It has no calories and manufacturers claim that the plant actually has health benefits. It contains vitamins and minerals. It lowers high blood pressure, discourages bacterial growth, and improves digestion. Some people object to its mildly bitter taste, but others find it perfectly palatable. Some brands are more bitter than others. Try KAL brand Stevia extracts (liquid or powder).

Maple syrup made from the sap of maple trees is up to 60 percent sucrose. It is essential that consumers use certified organic maple syrup because of the danger of chemical residues from forests sprayed with pesticides. Additionally, many maple syrup producers use formaldehyde pellets in the sap holes to prevent the holes from closing and formaldehyde in holding tanks as a preservative. Chemical anti-foaming agents may also be added to non-organic maple syrup.

Agave syrup is about 50 fructose. The commercial forms of agave syrup (or nectar) are highly processed and devoid of any health benefits of the agave plant or its extract.

Malt syrup is made from barley and contains primarily maltose, which is less than half as sweet as sucrose. Rice syrup is made from barley and rice. Date sugar is simply ground, dehydrated dates. Coconut (Palm) sugar is a refined form of palm tree sap. It does have some minerals, but does not seem any safer than other refined sweeteners, although it usually has less additives than commercial, white refined sugar. Health food products often contain these natural sweeteners in packaged products.

Sugar alcohols (-ol)

Xylitol is a five-carbon rather than a six-carbon sugar (glucose, fructose). The body produces several grams of xylitol every day, and ingested xylitol is converted to glucose. Many bacteria cannot metabolize xylitol, and its presence is harmful to some bacteria. For that reason it is promoted in toothpastes and sugar-free chewing gum to prevent plaque build-up and cavities. It contains the same number of calories as sucrose, but is absorbed more slowly. Sugar alcohols do raise blood sugar levels, though not as much as sugar. Stomach cramping and diarrhea are potential side effects of xylitol and other sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols draw water into the intestines. For this reason they can also promote dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Eating a large amount of sugar alcohol-sweetened food and then exercising could create problems with muscle cramping and heat stroke.

Sorbitol and Mannitol contain six-carbons like fructose and glucose, but with an additional hydroxyl (alcohol) group that make them independent of insulin metabolism. Sorbitol is a natural ingredient contained in many fruits that have the potential to cause diarrhea (prunes, apples, pears, peaches).

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners seek to provide the sweet taste of sugar without raising blood glucose levels. These alternatives to sugar tend to be hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose. Their safety has always been a matter of controversy. Studies have both identified saccharine (Sweet ‘N Low) as a carcinogen and also exonerated saccharine as safe. However US government reports of known carcinogens have continued to include saccharine in their lists since 1981. Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) has been roundly condemned by many sources as a dangerous toxin capable of inducing hundreds of symptoms. It has been affectionately nicknamed Nutradeath. Besides causing headaches, allergic reactions, and symptoms that mimic autoimmune diseases, aspartame causes the accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain and other tissues, which can cause damage to the nervous system and immune system.

Because of the negative publicity about these sugar-free sweeteners, other alternatives have been developed. The newest kid on the block is sucralose (Splenda).

Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar (sucrose). Three chlorine atoms substitute for three hydroxyl groups. Although Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Splenda, claim that sucralose is not absorbed by the body, the FDA has determined that up to 27 percent of ingested sucralose is absorbed. Other chlorinated molecules, such as the chlorinated pesticide DDT, are accumulated in body fat. Similarly, up to 30 percent of absorbed sucralose is metabolized and concentrated in the liver and kidney. Research in animals has shown that sucralose can result in shrunken thymus glands (up to 40 percent shrinkage), enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, and decreased fetal body weight. No long term or independent studies on sucralose have been conducted on humans, and no organizations are monitoring health effects. Many individuals have reported adverse effects of sucralose, including anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, nerve, joint and chest pain, allergic type reactions, and diarrhea.

The bottom line

Get most of your sugar from whole foods (fruits, vegetables, grains). If you need to use a sweetener, the best forms are raw honey, stevia, and date sugar. Acceptable sweeteners are organic maple syrup, coconut sugar, xylitol, and sorbitol. Avoid corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, and use refined sugar very sparingly.

 

 

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Fats and oils for children’s health

2017.08.03 by

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Fats

Children need fats. Low-fat foods can create fatty-acid deficiencies. Children especially need saturated fats and cholesterol to maintain healthy tissues and healthy cell membranes. Cholesterol and saturated fats from breast milk, organic eggs, cream, coconut oil, and meats are essential parts of your child’s diet. Children also need omega-3 fats for brain development. Breast milk contains the omega-3 fat DHA for this reason.

Vegetable oils

Most children and adults eat too many polyunsaturated fats in the form of vegetable oils (omega-6 fats). Children get all the omega-6 essential oils they need from breast milk, grains, seeds, vegetables, and nuts. They should eat as little additional polyunsaturated oils in the form of vegetable oils as possible (corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc.). A diet high in polyunsaturated oils impairs growth and learning, and promotes heart disease, cancer, and immune system dysfunction. This process arises when polyunsaturated oils become oxidized after exposure to heat, oxygen, and moisture in processing and cooking. They release free radicals that attack cell membranes and damage DNA, initiating cellular and tissue damage that can promote tumor growth and inflammation of blood vessels with plaque formation (Fallon, 2001).

The best oils to use at home are extra virgin olive oil for salads and marinades (monunsaturated fat), and olive oil, butter, or coconut oil for cooking. Olive oil will not cause any health problems, but it does not contain either of the two essential fatty acids LA or ALA. Coconut oil contains health-promoting lauric acid, which helps prevent infection and aids in the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are necessary for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bones. At least 50 percent of dietary fat should be saturated (Watkins, 1996). Omega-3 fats are retained better in tissues in the presence of saturated fats, and saturated fats promote healthy immune systems because of their antimicrobial properties that prevent the buildup of harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract. Contrary to accepted beliefs, saturated fats do not cause heart disease, they prevent heart disease and cancer.

Cholesterol acts as a precursor to vital hormones including sex hormones and corticosteroids that protect the body against heart disease and cancer. Cholesterol is also a precursor of vitamin D that is essential to bone growth. Babies and children need cholesterol-rich foods to ensure proper development of the brain and nervous system (Fallon, 2001). Breast milk is especially rich in cholesterol.

Limit fried foods

Fried foods are unhealthy because extreme heat damages fats. The damaged polyunsaturated oil and cholesterol release free radicals into the body that will in turn damage tissues and cells and promote disease processes. In addition, many fried foods are cooked with hydrogenated fats. Children should limit their intake of commercial french fries, potato chips, and corn chips. These are not health-promoting foods.

Another problem with fried foods is the presence of a class of carcinogens called acrylamides. These are formed when starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, corn, oats, or wheat are subjected to high temperatures (above 360 degrees) for prolonged periods, as in deep-frying. French fries, potato chips, doughnuts, and even oven-baked french fries contain acrylamide. This chemical is monitored in drinking water because of its ability to cause cancer.

Omega-3 fats

By contrast omega-3 fats have health-promoting and far-reaching preventive health effects. They create a flexible and permeable cell membrane that allows nutrients to pass easily into the cell. Omega-3 fats may be the key to prevention of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, and the best thing going for allergies, asthma, and healthy brain functions.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should take a DHA-containing omega-3 supplement to ensure adequate levels of DHA in breast milk and adequate brain development in their babies. The DHA content of most American women’s breast milk is lower than that in milk from women in other countries, and the DHA content of a woman’s breast milk correlates with her dietary intake of DHA. Vegetarian women have the lowest levels of DHA in their breast milk (Fidler, 2000). When women supplement their diets with DHA in the form of fish oil, high-DHA eggs, or a DHA-containing algae capsule the content of DHA in their breast milk increases. The increase in breast milk DHA also translates into higher DHA levels in infants (Jensen, 2000). In another study, infants whose mothers took fish oil supplements during pregnancy also had higher blood levels of DHA at birth than a control group that did not take a supplement (Connor, 1996).

It is difficult for children to get enough omega-3 fats from their diets once they are no longer breastfeeding. Children need to have supplements of omega-3 fats. The best sources of the omega-3 fats are cod liver oil (1 tspn per 50 lbs of body weight), fish oil capsules (containing at least 250 mg of DHA for children over 7 years old), or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplements derived from algae (Neuromins). Chicken, eggs, and beef are also sources of omega-3 fats if the animals eat green plants and not just grains. Therefore, only cage-free chickens that eat green plants or algae and pasture-fed cattle are reliable sources. Small fish (wild salmon and sardines) are another good source of omega-3 fats, but larger fish (tuna, shark, swordfish, mackerel) and farm-raised (Atlantic) salmon may be contaminated with mercury and harmful pesticides. Children should not eat these larger ocean fish or farmed fish.

Healthy fats

In summary, give your children good amounts of saturated fats (eggs, butter, dairy, meats, coconut oil). Avoid using vegetable oils (except for olive oil). Take an omega-3 supplement while pregnant and breastfeeding. Give older children omega-3 fats (cage-free chicken eggs and an omega-3 supplement in fish or vegetarian form).

 

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Food Guidelines for Children

2017.07.28 by

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Healthy options #1

 

Nutrition is a cornerstone of disease prevention and maintenance of good health in children. Here are some guidelines for children’s diets. Choose the most nutritious foods you can. Focus on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein sources. Avoid toxic exposure and highly sweetened foods. Maintain a variety.

Children may thwart these well-designed principles. They will gravitate to the sweetest foods possible. Our culture seems bent on subverting your best intentions, bombarding children with advertisements for various sugar products that masquerade as a wholesome breakfast, and tempting them with candy tie-ins to their favorite cartoon characters. Unfortunately, our culture is a modern, western model that includes fast foods, inordinate amounts of sugar, indiscriminate use of pesticides, and a commitment to excessive carbohydrate consumption.

Rules of the house

Here are some suggestions for rules of the house. Do not keep candy in the house. If it is not there, children will only eat it on very unusual occasions. Your children may not ever develop a taste for sugar and chocolate if their exposure in early childhood is minimal. Buy packaged foods carefully, and read ingredient lists. Avoid foods with added sugar, corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated fats. Bake your own cookies. Use fruit as dessert.  Be a nutritional role model for your children. If you eat well, if you base your diet on healthy principles, rather than cravings and addictions, then so will your children.

Offer your children a variety of healthy, nutritious foods. Tell children that it’s best to eat foods the way they grow in nature, not from packages and boxes. Keep fresh fruit readily available at all times. Provide choices at mealtime and do not be deterred by petulant refusals. Continue to offer foods even if your child has refused them in the past. Children will often become accustomed to a new food or taste only after repeated exposure.

What to eat

Children require a diet with a large percentage of calories coming from fats. Children also need the energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals derived from whole grains. Most children need a higher percentage of calories from carbohydrates than adults, although some children clearly do not respond well to gluten products and thrive on gluten-free diets.

Proteins in grain, especially gluten, are difficult to digest. Soaking grains will partially break down gluten and other proteins into simpler components that children can absorb more safely. Soaking grains also allows enzymes and helpful bacteria to neutralize phytic acid. All grains contain phytic acid bound to phosphorus in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid combines with minerals including calcium and magnesium, blocking their absorption.

Children also need the vitamins and antioxidants they derive from fruits and vegetables. And of course children need protein and calcium sources.

The food group portions table provides general guidelines for feeding children based on the Rule of 3. This includes three daily portions from the groups whole grains, vegetables, dairy, and meat/eggs, 3-6 fruit portions each day, and some nuts or beans.

Food group portions  –  The Rule of 3

Fruits: 3-6 per day

Vegetables: 3 per day

Whole grains: bread, pasta, cereal  2-3 per day

Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese  2-3 per day

Animal products: Chicken, turkey, beef, eggs 2-3 per day

Nuts and beans: 1-2 per day

 

These general rules will need to be adjusted for specific circumstances. Many children do not digest and process grains or dairy. Children with developmental problems or food sensitivities may require restrictions and elimination diets. A holistic practitioner can provide guidance in these areas.

As children grow into the teen years they express their food preferences more vigorously, and they make make choices that are not always ideal. However, they will still look to parents for guidance around weight concerns and help with growth and athletic prowess. Take these opportunities to  reinforce the principles of healthy eating.

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Parenting Style for Babies

2017.07.19 by

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Attachment parenting practices are based on the assumption and philosophy that a close relationship between you and your baby will result in a secure and confident child. Close means that you keep your baby close to your body nearly all the time. Attachment parenting implies three principles concerning the way you attend to your baby, breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, and bedsharing. None of these practices are new; people all over the world have applied these three principles to infant care since time immemorial. Breastfeeding on demand is an infant centered response to your baby’s natural needs. No external expectations or artificial schedules need to be engrafted on your baby’s instinctual desire to nurse when hungry or for comfort. Babywearing means that you usually carry your baby with you in your arms, or in a sling or a front carrier. This practice is taken for granted as appropriate in most cultures throughout the world. Wearing babies in a papoose or a sling is the accepted and expected mode of mothering in most areas of the world. Keeping your infant close to your body at night during sleep helps ensure the baby’s safety and health. Children learn bodily functions of breathing and sleep patterns from their parents’ bodies. This learning process requires close proximity and skin to skin contact. Attachment parenting is primitive, natural, and sensible.

Our culture has encouraged the separation of mother and baby for a number of reasons. We have mistakenly assumed that formula feeding is better than breastfeeding, discouraging mothers from sharing and exposing their breasts. We have isolated and neglected infants in separate rooms called nurseries. And we have incorrectly encouraged independence at an age when babies are completely dependent. None of these modern practices with infants help to develop healthy children. Babies need lots of touching, holding, and constant attention. Caring for your baby in this way is actually easier and simpler than instituting schedules and inflicting unnatural habits on this completely dependent and vulnerable little being.

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Children: Organic Foods and Pesticides

2017.07.08 by

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Pesticides

Pesticides pose several risks to children. They cause physical symptoms, mental impairment, hormone disruption, and increase the risk of developing cancer. Physical symptoms of pesticide exposure include respiratory problems and asthma, headaches, nausea, skin rashes, genetic damage linked to neurological disorders, and impaired immune function. Mental symptoms include disorientation, attention problems, and fatigue. Several types of cancers in children have been linked to pesticides, including leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma.

Hormone disruption is an especially insidious effect of pesticides. Cells have hormone receptor sites that recognize specific hormones that will then trigger a response in the cell. Pesticides, and some other environmental chemicals like petrochemicals and plastics, can mimic hormones and bind to the same receptor sites stimulating the same effects as hormones. Precocious puberty in young girls for example has been linked to pesticide and hormone exposure from foods. Fifty percent of African-American and fifteen percent of Caucasian American girls now begin menstruating by age eight. All of this estrogenic activity also increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and reproductive organ cancers. These same pesticides may also have the opposite effect, blocking hormones and causing infertility and masculinization of girls.

Pesticides from foods do accumulate in children’s bodies. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has confirmed that children who eat a diet of predominantly organic foods have a much lower amount of pesticide exposure than children fed a conventional diet. The researchers measured byproducts of organophosphorus pesticides in the urine of 39 children fed organic and nonorganic diets. All children were aged 2 to 5 years old. Their parents kept a diet diary for three days and then provided 24 hour urine samples for the study. The nonorganic group had six times the level of pesticide byproducts compared to the organic group (Curl, 2003).

Children are much more likely to develop toxic effects from pesticides than adults. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted an assessment of cancer risk from toxic exposure in children. Based on animal studies and the dynamic action of carcinogens, the report estimates that children under two years of age are ten times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to carcinogens than adults, and children between ages 2 and 15 are three times as likely (US EPA, 2003).. Small children have less ability to metabolize toxins, and children’s exposure to environmental pesticides tends to be greater than adults’ because of their increased exposure to floors, lawns, and playgrounds, more mouthing of objects, and because they breathe closer to the ground than adults. In addition, children have more skin surface for their size than adults to absorb environmental toxins.

The answer to this problem of pesticides is to limit children’s exposure as much as possible. Never use commercial pesticides in your home or in your garden or lawn. Lobby in your community to stop the spraying of pesticides at schools. Finally, eat organic foods whenever possible.

Produce

Buy organic produce if possible. Commercially grown produce should be cleaned with a vegetable and fruit wash available at health food stores that is made from enzymes and surfactants that remove residual sprays on produce with skins. This is not a completely reliable method of eliminating pesticides because they may be absorbed into the body of the fruit or vegetable, but it helps.

Some fruits and vegetables have much more pesticide residues than others. A study from the United Kingdom showed that pesticide residues on some fruits are uncommonly high. Some apples, pears, raspberries, and grapes contained pesticides that exceeded the legal limits of permitted residues. The list goes on. Lettuce, cherries, and pumpkins all contained potentially dangerous levels of toxic pesticide residues. The produce originated from all over the world, grapes from Brazil and Europe, lettuce from Spain, and cherries from Canada (Pesticide Residues Committee, 2003).

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The EWG recommends buying foods in the most contaminated group from organic sources. Other produce items are relatively safe from commercial sources with consistently low levels of pesticides. These safer foods include blueberries, pineapple, broccoli, melons, and California grapes (www.foodnews.org).

Highest in pesticides

(buy organic or unsprayed)

Apples
Bell Peppers
Celery
Cherries
Grapes (imported)
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Potatoes
Red Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries

Lowest in Pesticides

Asparagus
Avocados
Bananas

Blueberries
Broccoli
Cauliflower

Citrus
Kiwi
Mangos

Melons
Onions
Papaya
Pineapples
Peas (sweet)

Animal products

Buy animal products, including milk, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, and pork that are free of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones whenever possible. Organic eggs are readily available. Commercially raised chickens are housed in individual one-foot cages stacked in huge warehouses. They are fed a diet of antibiotics and grains laden with pesticides. Free-range chickens have access to the ground and to the outdoors. If they are labeled organic, then their feed contains no pesticides. Similarly, organic dairy cattle are fed no animal products and no pesticide treated grass or grain. They are not treated with antibiotics. And they are given no growth hormones.

Beef and pork products should be free of hormones and antibiotics. Packaged meats should be nitrate and nitrite free. If you cannot get free-range poultry, then don’t eat the skin. Pesticides tend to concentrate in the fat. The highest quality beef is labeled organic. This means that the grain fed to the cattle in feedlots is free of pesticides.

 

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