stevia approved by FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just granted approval to the natural herbal sweetener stevia.   You may know that I endorse stevia as a sweetener I use because it is plant-based without altered (synthetic) molecules, it has no impact on blood sugar, and no adverse health effects have been reported from its use.   In short, it’s a dramatic improvement over chemicals like Splenda, saccharin, and the widely used aspartame (brand name NutraSweet).


Aspartame is a public health nightmare.     More complaints have come in to the FDA from its use the past two decades than all other food additives combined (and we have over 4,000 approved food chemicals).   The frightening array of complaints include migraines and other neurological phenomena.


This doesn’t mean, incidentally, that your FDA is a friendlier organization somehow changed to truly protect your health.   Far from it.   The very same organization is well documented to have blocked stevia from store shelves just years ago.   You couldn’t sell it as a food in health food stores (it had to be labeled so as to not make consumers think they could eat it).   A company was banned from using it as an ingredient in its recipe book.   Companies attempting to use it were threatened with fines.   And stevia imports were seized and destroyed.


But due to public pressure following years of complaints about aspartame, Pepsi and Coca-Cola petitioned the FDA for stevia approval to replace aspartame in its products.   So the FDA has yielded once again to big business, not somehow become committed to science, the public health interest, and safety.


The patented product they’ll be using is called Truvia, and from what I can learn, it does not contain any altered, synthetic ingredients.   (I’ll let you know if I find out otherwise.)   While this is good news, of course, two things I want you to think about:


  1. The FDA is still bowing to corporate interests and its activities shouldn’t be the rubber stamp you use to guide your purchasing decisions.
  2. Even when Diet Coke has stevia in it, it’s still really bad for you, so please don’t think it’s a health food.  

Tomorrow, important information about another sweetener I endorse, agave nectar.

is agave good food?

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: What about the controversy surrounding agave?

Answer: I have seen a couple of people with clout on the internet say that one should be careful with agave.   They make a decent point that since much of the product imported into the U.S. is from Mexico, we don’t always know what we’re getting.   Sometimes imported product can be pretty wild and woolly, especially from developing countries.   An allegation has gone around that high fructose corn syrup is cut into the agave.   That would certainly be a way to increase your profit margin, if you’re an agave manufacturer.

The agave I use, that I buy in huge bulk for my local buying group a couple times a year (66 cases of 4 gallons each sitting in my garage right now), I know does not contain corn syrup.   Personally, I react very negatively to HFCS, and I feel great when I use this agave.   I required the company I buy from wholesale to produce their organic certification.   I checked into the importer’s reputation and didn’t find anything amiss.   I got the nutritional sheet on both the light and dark, and compared (overall, no big difference).

You can get agave RAW or not.   I don’t believe there’s any way the product is literally cold-pressed from the cactus straight into the bottle.   I don’t personally believe it’s truly raw.   So I use agave sparingly, as a replacement for items that are more processed and more destructive to your blood sugar.

Agave has 1/3 the calories and 1/3 the impact on your blood sugar that other concentrated sweeteners do, like HFCS, sugar, and honey.   That’s pretty brilliant.   Don’t take that as a license to go crazy with it, though.

If you want to be an absolutist or  purist, don’t use any sweeteners at all.   Just eat fruit and dates.   Even most raw foodists do use maple syrup, which is never truly raw, and agave.   If you want to use occasional sweeteners for baked goods, etc.,  a good brand of agave  is probably the best or one of the best sweetener options.   (Madhava, a brand a few of you have mentioned,  does have a good reputation.)

Locals, I bought some extra agave, so let me know if you want a case: 4 gallons for $130 (raw, organic).

cardiovascular health: nature vs. nurture

I went to give blood today, hoping that my always-borderline hematocrit was high enough.   It was.   Though one point lower and I’d have been rejected–again.   Like most other things the RDA does, those hematocrit averages aren’t based on the ideal, but rather the average.   The averages are, of course, of a heavily meat-eating population with (IMO) a too-high iron concentration in the blood.   By USRDA standards, though, a 120-lb. woman needs 44 grams of protein daily, and a 150-lb. man needs 55 grams.   The average American gets 100 grams daily!   A higher hematocrit is just one result of the tragic false education of the American public that has led to a lethal diet.

As usual, the Red Cross worker took my resting heart rate, and then took it again.   Do you exercise a LOT, she asked?   Well, six days a week, I answered.   Then she called the supervisor over to do an override, since the computer does not believe them when they input my resting heart rate of 45.   The supervised asked: are you a runner?    I answered in the affirmative.

 Sure, good heredity plays a part.   It’s nice to have blood that moves languidly through clean blood vessels, not straining inflamed heart muscle.

But according to the literature, environmental influences play a much bigger role in heart disease than genetic ones do, and fortunately, you can control that with five things.   Don’t drink or smoke, and bring your weight into the healthy range.   Get the blood pumping and muscles and heart toned with exercise: ideally, three things:

 (1)         cardio (walking, running, Stairmaster, aerobics)

(2)          weight-bearing (Nautilus and free weights)

(3)         lengthening and toning (yoga or Pilates).

And of course, eat more unrefined plant foods and fewer animal and refined foods.

Thing is, I didn’t have good cardiovascular measurements at ALL when I was 26 years old.   I got pregnant after 5 years of trying, lost one of my twin babies in the first trimester, and was afraid to so much as sneeze thereafter.   I didn’t exercise, the whole pregnancy.   I indulged all my demonic cravings–for stuff I’d never eaten in my life.   Burgers/fries and 7-11 nachos were my two favorites.   (Haven’t eaten either one before or since–go figure!)   Sometimes at night I’d eat half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.      

You guessed it: I gained 65 lbs. during the pregnancy, had horrible edema (swelling) and drastically increased blood pressure.   I basically sat around like Jabba the Hut, watching TV and bossing the poor guy who got me pregnant (I figured he owed me), and my sister (who was entirely innocent), to get me stuff.   People don’t believe me, so I haul out the photos of the day that sweet little 9-lb. baby was born.   They shriek with horror.  

That’s right.   I was my very own version of Supersize Me, my blood sugar was out of control, and my blood pressure was higher than the national average (120/80), even though I’m usually 95/55).   All that in a few short months.

And DH?   At the time of our wedding, he was 22 years old, a 6’4″ tall, 257-lb. college offensive lineman.   He had high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease (aunt, father, grandparents).   Eating what I fed him (whole plant foods for all but the aforementioned one year), he’s had low cholesterol and very healthy blood pressure for 20 years.

My point? Obviously heredity is not the most predictive factor for heart disease.  

how to buy yourself diabetes for only $0.50 a day

You know drinking soda is bad for you.   Perhaps you and I talking a bit about  WHY will be just the trigger you need to kick the habit—or get your kids to do so.   Have  a kid you care about  read this.   According to the Nutrition Research Center (Oct. 2007), here’s what you can expect in the first hour after drinking one can of Coke:

Within 10 minutes, 10 teaspoons of sugar, 100 percent of your recommended daily intake, shoots to your bloodstream.   (Keep in mind that nowhere is refined and acidic corn syrup or sugar actually “recommended.”   Good sugars don’t come from a can of Coke.)   Phosphoric acid cuts the flavor—otherwise, you’d throw up from the overwhelming sweetness.   That same phosphoric acid is draining calcium from your bones and teeth.

Within 20 minutes, your blood sugar goes through the roof, and your liver responds to the resulting insulin burst by turning massive amounts of sugar into fat.

Within 40 minutes, the enormous caffeine stimulation causes your pupils to dilate, your blood pressure to rise, and your liver to dump more sugar into your bloodstream. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain (just like street drugs do).

After 60 minutes, you start to crash.   You’ll feel shaky and desperately crave more sugar and caffeine.   Run to the machine for another can of Coke, and do it again daily until you develop diabetes.   Shouldn’t take too long.   Then you’ll have daily blood testing and insulin shots to look forward to, plus a shortened life expectancy and a host of very unpleasant  risks, like  limb amputation, for instance.