Category Archives: ingredients


The Self-Care And Pampering Box

I’m thrilled about the contents of this month’s Lean Clean Green Subscription box. This first box has some great products and the theme for this month is self-care and pampering. Why? Because let’s be honest, most of us are so busy taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves. And it’s difficult to carve out that time for yourself. Well now I’m sending you a self-care kit.* In a box. Delivered right to your door. So there’s no excuse.

This month’s products

Valor Facial Lotion - LCG BoxValor Facial Lotion

This amazing lotion is so smooth and wonderful (and it smells absolutely fabulous). One of the things I love best about it (aside from how great my face feels when I use it) is that you can actually read all of the ingredients without needing a magnifying glass. And even better, they’re all real words. No degree in biochemistry needed to understand what you’re putting on your face. 

 

Essential Living Witch Hazel - LCG Box

Essential Living Witch Hazel Toner

This wonderful toner is made from 100% American witch hazel. There’s no alcohol or preservatives in the bottle, just witch hazel. Of course, I’ve never understood why anyone would put alcohol into something that’s supposed to be good for your face, alcohol just dries out your skin.  Witch hazel is useful for:

  • Nourishing for dry skin. And if used immediately after a shower can help seal in moisture
  • Reducing acne and redness
  • Helps to relieve sunburn discomfort
  • Supportive against itching and inflammation from eczema
  • Soothing against razor burn
  • Can help reduce bruising (apply 3 times per day to the affected area)

Turkish cotton makeup towel - LCG BoxTurkish Makeup Towels

I love these towels. It honestly never occurred to me to wonder why we always use white towels to remove makeup. But after 2-3 months of daily use, you just throw it out. Even though you’ve been running it through the wash, it looks like an art project, with lipstick, eye-liner, eye shadow, blush, foundation, whatever you wear. And it just looks gross. Even if you don’t wear much make-up, white towels still get stained with skin oils and daily pollution exposure. Now with this wonderful, soft, Turkish cotton towel, you don’t have to worry about that.

Turmeric Tea and If You Care Tea FiltersTurmeric Tea + Filters - LCG Box

This tea is amazing!! I wish I had smell-o-vision right here on the screen so you could enjoy the fabulous aroma of this incredible 100%-organic-no-added-crap tea. It’s delicious hot or cold and I can’t make up my mind if I like it better as a morning cuppa or in the evening (even though it’s called Dawn).

And these filters? They’re unbleached, durable, and really wonderful. The great thing is that you can use these filters for more than just tea. Check out this video on my Facebook page to learn how else you can use them.

 

Himalayan Salt for Sole - LCG BoxHimalayan Salt 

Rounding out this month’s amazing box is this bag with CHUNKS of Himalayan Salt.  Use this to make Sole (pronounced solay) an adrenal support drink. It is very supportive for those with low energy, fatigue, or anyone who needs a good mineral boost.  Here’s how you make it:

Fill a glass jar about 1/4 of the way with Himalayan salt chunks
Fill the rest of the way with water
Let sit 24 hours so that the water becomes super-saturated
The salt will still be visible at the bottom of the jar
Take 1 teaspoon of the sole, mixed into some room temperature water first thing in the morning (if desired this can be put into a cup of nourishing broth)
Keep refilling your jar with water when it runs low
As the salt run out add another chunk

This bag should provide around 9 months of sole if used daily.

When you join the Lean, Clean, Green Subscription box family you’ll get a themed box filled with holistically healthy, well-sourced products personally curated by me. Each month you pay only $47.

The August 2019 Self-Care Box is worth $78.62!!

* The best part about the box is that you’re in control of how often you get it. Monthly, every other month, every three months, it’s up to you. And if you miss a box, or need a refill on any of these fabulous finds, as long as you’re a subscriber you have access to the Marketplace. That means you can log in and still get the items you want.

If you’ve just found this post and you’re not a member of the family, join us, you’ll be glad you did.

Top tips for clean eating

Three Top Tips For Clean Eating

What is clean eating?

There’s a lot of media exposure and talk about “clean eating” but what is it exactly? The widely accepted definition is that clean eating means avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugars, and eating a diet rich in whole foods in their most natural state. For fruits and vegetables that means buying organic for The Dirty Dozen. When it comes to animal products, it means buying free-range or pastured with no antibiotics, pesticides, or added hormones.

For some people a clean eating diet also means no gluten.  The challenge with going gluten-free (whether on a clean eating diet or not) is that you need to avoid the gluten-free crutch foods that are scattered all over the grocery store shelves. These highly processed gluten alternatives are not a healthy choice.

1. Start with breakfast

Many people often skip breakfast, possibly because they’re running late or they’re too busy to stop and have a meal. But breakfast is how you fuel your body for the day ahead. If you are going to have breakfast, don’t just choose simple carbohydrates or a fast food option. You want a real food breakfast that will provide healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Simple Swaps

  • Hummus is a great alternative to mayonnaise. But instead of being mostly fat, it’s mostly protein. And it has a similar consistency to mayo making it perfect for wraps, dressings, and spreads. If you’re buying it in the store be sure to read the label in order to make sure you are getting the cleanest possible option. Or make it really clean by simply making your own at home.
  • If you’re looking for yogurt it’s easy to be distracted by the fruit-flavored varieties on the dairy case shelves. But the prepared fruit yogurts tend to come with excessively high levels of sugar and may also have other artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, none of which you want on a clean eating plan. Instead choose plain, whole milk yogurt, either regular or Greek-style and add your own sweeteners and flavoring. Options could include fruit, honey, chopped nuts, or delicious spices like cinnamon.
  • Our modern diet has led us to feel that we have to have rice or potatoes or pasta with a meal. We’ve been taught that you “need” a starch. If you feel you still want that to make your meal complete, choose more complex carbohydrates like riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or simply double up on your veggies. Cauliflower can also be used as a substitute for mashed potatoes without too much extra effort.
  • Salad and dressing seem to naturally go together. Unfortunately, if you take the time to read the label on the back of the bottle it’s not good news. Filled with loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients, these are definitely not part of the clean eating ideal. Instead make your own vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the herbs or seasonings of your choice.

3. Don’t Do This

Just as important as all the things listed above that you want to do, there are few things that you need to keep in mind to not do:

  • An easy way to clean up your diet is to skip those foods that are most highly processed and offer the least nutrition. That includes white rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, and chips. Choose nutrient-dense foods that will actually support your health like raw nuts, veggies, and quality proteins.
  • Juices, juice drinks, and soft drinks are empty calories. Truthfully they’re nothing more than liquid candy bars. They provide little to no nutritional value and should be avoided. Eat those fruits instead of juicing them so you can enjoy the fiber which helps to slow down how quickly the sugars hit your bloodstream. If you’re thirsty choose water, herbal teas, or home-made green juices instead.
  • We’ve been misled to believe that artificial fats like margarine are good for us. We’ve also been guided towards vegetable fats like canola or corn oil. What you really want is healthy fats like butter, ghee, or beneficial oils like avocado, olive, and coconut. These are nourishing, satiating, and supportive.

As you start your clean eating journey it can be helpful to use a food journal so that you can see the progress that you’re making. It’s also important to remember that it’s not easy to make all of these changes at once. Baby steps are the key to success here. Start with one thing, like eating breakfast or making a healthy swap. Master that and then move on to the next thing. Before you know it you’ll be well versed in what those clean eating choices are and you’ll be focused on your health goals.

Clean eating is a good step towards a healthy life. In fact, it’s one of the #IngredientsForAHealthyLife. If you’re looking to do even more and clean up not just your diet but your lifestyle, be sure to check out the Lean Clean Green subscription box

Headache or Migraine

Food Facts For Migraine Health

What are Migraines

Migraines are more than just a severe headache. They often tend to be made up of several symptoms including:

  • pain or throbbing of the head, forehead, neck or stomach
  • visual aura
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sensitivity to smell, sound, or light
  • sensitivity to touch or weight of clothing or blankets
  • tingling or numbness of hands, feet, or face (sometimes only on one side of the body)

Symptoms may not be the same from episode to episode and the length of an episode can vary from several hours to several days. There are a wide variety of triggers however food and food-based ingredients tend to be a big culprit. Below are four different categories of migraine triggers that may have to do with what you are eating or drinking. We’ll discuss each of the categories below, at the end of the article we’ll share a strategy for monitoring

Food Triggers

One potential trigger for migraines can be a sensitivity to or inability to properly process certain foods. These often include fermented or aged foods including:

  • alcohol
  • cheeses
  • chocolate
  • citrus
  • shellfish
  • caffeine
  • MSG
  • natural flavorings”
  • or preservatives such as nitrates, nitrites, and sulfites

About Tyramines

Another potential trigger for migraines can be tyramine, a trace element from the amino acid tyrosine. It functions as a catecholamine releasing agent (the catecholamines are neurotransmitters in the brain, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine). Foods that are high in tyramines include:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • beer
  • cabbage
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • most cheeses
  • soy products – soy sauce, soy bean paste, tofu, or natto
  • sauerkraut
  • pineapples
  • eggplants
  • figs
  • red plums
  • raspberries
  • peanuts
  • brazil nuts
  • coconuts
  • yeast
  • cacti
  • processed meats (lunchmeat, sausages, canned fish, etc).

Reduce Refined Sugars

Sugar can be highly inflammatory; consuming high levels of sugar and simple, or highly refined, carbohydrates can negatively impact blood sugar levels. When this happens the body releases insulin which in turn causes a drop in blood sugar. This cycle, sometimes referred to as a blood sugar roller coaster, can be a potential link to headaches or migraines. Learning to understand where sugar hides in the diet can be key to managing your blood sugar levels and possibly have a positive impact on your migraines.

Healthy Hydration

For many migraine sufferers dehydration can be a trigger. Making sure that you are getting proper hydration is an important part of migraine health. To figure out how much hydration you need calculate body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid. Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off set your liquid in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again. Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either. Hydrating foods such as soups, herbal teas, and food with lots of liquid (like watermelon) all count towards a daily hydration goal.

Be Mindful of Micronutrient Status

Nutrient deficiencies are a possible trigger for headaches which may or may not include migraines. And in addition to eating a highly processed diet, or a diet that is low in nutrient density, taking certain medications can deplete nutrients, potentially adding to the issue. Working with a medical or nutrition professional who can order appropriate testing to check your micronutrient status would be helpful.

Food Changes

Because there are so many different foods that are highly linked to migraines, one way to possibly support reducing migraines is to remove them. But while removing whole foods can be helpful, it’s important to know that some processed foods can contain hidden ingredients that can be migraine triggers . And because many of these ingredients are used in a wide variety of items, this makes reading the labels, understanding these ingredients, and avoiding them an important part of your migraine wellness plan.

Monitoring your headache/migraine activity while avoiding triggering food groups can help you more clearly identify which ones may causing your issues. Using a food journal can be a good way to do this. As you build a complete picture of your food-based migraine triggers and change your diet this should help to reduce your episodes. It’s important that if you are working with a doctor and/or nutrition professional to help you resolve your migraine issues you let them know about these changes.

Shopping The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Is it Safe on the Outside?

There are over 50,000 items for sale in a typical grocery store. The sad truth is that most of them are not food. They are processed conglomerations of ingredients. Because of this, there’s a common myth that if you shop the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll be “safe” from food challenges. More and more people are shopping just the “outside” of the grocery store, convinced that if they avoid what’s in the middle they’re only getting healthy food. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Most grocery stores are set up in a similar pattern. Walk into the produce section which is usually near the bakery or the deli. Moving around the outside edges, the perimeter, of the grocery store you’ll find the fish counter, meat, poultry. The dairy section is at the back of the store. This is because the further into the store you have to walk to buy staple ingredients, such as milk, eggs, and butter, the more time you spend in the store. The longer you are there the more money you are likely to spend. On the inside aisles is where you’ll find all of the packaged, canned, and frozen foods. You often have to walk through them to get from one section to the next, increasing the possibility that you will be tempted by what is in the aisles.

Does It Belong Here?

While the fresh food is usually found on the perimeter of the grocery store it’s important to be aware of two big issues that impact that section of the grocery store. The first is something called product placement or product creep. Grocery stores and food producers are well aware that consumers are purchasing more heavily from the outer edges of the store. Their job, however, is to sell as much as they can. One way they try to influence consumers is by moving in items that would not normally be in a particular section (but that go with those foods).

One example of this would be finding packaged shortcake, glaze for strawberries, and cool whip or some form of canned whipped cream in the produce section at the height of strawberry season. The grocery store may attempt to promote this as being “for your convenience” but the truth is it’s there to tempt you to purchase it and to increase their sales and profits.

Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to read the labels you may get more than you bargained for. That glaze for strawberries, for example, contains genetically modified ingredients, excessive sugars, artificial colors, and possibly MSG. Rather than just getting fresh fruit, if you purchase these add-on items you’re also buying a wide range of chemicals and additives which may be harmful to your health.

This happens all around the grocery store. Salad dressings by the salad, seasoning mixes and marinades by the meat, etc. Product placement is a big factor for grocery stores. As a matter of fact, food manufacturers pay something called a slotting fee to grocery stores to determine where in the store their product will appear. This idea of manipulating the perimeter is a big reason that eggs and dairy are all the way in the back of the store. The grocery chain, and by extension the food manufacturers, are looking to get you to spend as much time in the store as possible and encourage impulse buying. They know that the longer you are there the more you will spend.

What’s In What You’re Eating?

Another major concern with shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is not just what the food items are, but what’s in them. Unfortunately, it’s things that we can’t really see that pose an even bigger challenge to health.

Produce

When shopping in the produce department the second thing you need to be aware of is the Dirty Dozen. Those twelve fruits and vegetables which are highly contaminated by pesticides. Eating them increases the toxic body burden. This list changes each year as the Environmental Working Group evaluates the current state of pesticides and toxins used to grow produce. The only way to avoid the toxic burden of the Dirty Dozen is to purchase organic for those twelve fruits and vegetables. To make it easy to remember the list (and stay on top of the changes) simply download the Environmental Working Group’s free app, EWG Healthy Living (ios and android).

Meat and Poultry

In the meat and poultry section buying organic is your best choice. Conventionally raised animals are given high levels of antibiotics, partially to keep them healthy in spite of the crowded conditions they are raised in. It’s also because these antibiotics act as a growth stimulator. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are passed on through the to end product when we then wind up consuming them. It’s important to note that the overuse of antibiotics in farming has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs. Conventionally raised animals are also allowed to be raised on genetically modified (GM) feed which is often heavily laden with pesticides. These items can have an impact on your body as well as affecting the environment. Note that the term “natural” is not the same as organic. Although there are some rules around the natural label when it comes to meat products, this label still allows for the use of GM/pesticide-laden feed. The only way to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and genetic modification is to choose organic.

Dairy

The dairy section is another area of concern. Not only because of the antibiotics, GM feed, and high levels of pesticides found in conventionally sourced dairy products, but also because of added hormones. rBST sometimes referred to as rBGH, is a growth hormone which causes cows to produce more milk. Studies have shown that dairy with rBGH tends to have more Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). This, in turn, has been linked to cancer, specifically of the breast, prostate and gastrointestinal tract. Although it is possible to do the research and avoid dairy with added hormones if it is conventionally raised all of the other issues still remain. Once again, choosing organic is the best, healthiest option.

Summary

  • Be on the lookout for product creep — items that are in a category where they don’t belong
  • Be mindful of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetable, buying organic for those choices
  • Choose organic meats to avoid added hormones and antibiotics
  • Avoid added hormones and antibiotics in dairy products by choosing organic
  • Read labels to help you avoid negative ingredients

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable


STRESS RELIEVER
According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

ELEVATES MOOD
Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

THE UN-TECH EFFECT
Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

IMPROVES FOCUS
Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

ANYONE CAN COLOR
Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

HIGHLY PORTABLE
Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

Titanium Dioxide: What Is It? And Is It Safe?

What is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring compound used as a coloring agent in cosmetics, personal care products, supplements, and processed foods.

It whitens and brightens as well as prevents discoloration. Titanium dioxide also blocks ultraviolet (UV) rays, which is why it’s found in many sunscreens.

The compound used in manufacturing is chemically processed to remove impurities. And it’s supplied in a powder form.

Powdered titanium dioxide generally appears to be safe. However, the widespread use of titanium dioxide “nanoparticles” has raised some concern.

What are Nanoparticles?

Nanoparticles form when titanium dioxide powder is further ground into microscopic particles. And while these microscopic particles are chemically identical to their larger counterparts, their behavior and reactivity may differ due to an increase in surface area.

Further, their minuscule size may increase absorption and circulation within the bloodstream.

What are the Potential Risks?

Research has shown that titanium dioxide nanoparticles have the potential to cause free radical damage (a.k.a. oxidative stress), which results in cell damage, DNA mutations, inflammation, and immune system activation.

When inhaled, these particles have the capacity to travel directly to the lungs and brain. As a result, neurological damage is highly possible. This is why it’s never a good idea to use spray sunscreens, especially on the face.

Further, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified titanium dioxide nanoparticles as “possible carcinogenic to humans” according to animal inhalation studies.

These nanoparticles are also considered an “occupational carcinogen” by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Human studies using sunscreens have shown that titanium dioxide nanoparticles don’t substantially penetrate the skin. However, long term safety studies have yet to be performed. In addition, the potential risks of oxidation caused by sun exposure are unknown.

Titanium Dioxide in Food

Titanium dioxide is found in the largest concentrations in candy and chewing gum. But it’s also found in cottage cheese, yogurt, condiments, processed meats, and snack foods.

However, it’s worth noting that only one third of the titanium dioxide used in food is in the nanoparticle form.

Nevertheless, we still don’t fully understand how titanium dioxide is absorbed, distributed, and excreted by the body. Thus, we couldn’t possibly understand its toxicity when consumed orally.

Although, one study found that oral consumption of titanium dioxide nanoparticles contributed to gut inflammation in those with inflammatory bowel disease.

How to Reduce Your Exposure

Unfortunately, food producers can use up to 1% titanium dioxide (food grade) without declaring it on the label. Or, it may be hidden behind terms such as “natural color” or “natural coloring agent.”  

Thus, the best way to avoid titanium dioxide in your food is to consume more whole foods and to choose organic whenever possible. Interestingly enough, titanium dioxide is not approved for use in organic foods. 

When it comes to medications there is little you can do. However, you can opt for supplements without added colors as well as sunscreens with non-nanoparticle zinc oxide only.

When it comes to cosmetics and personal care products, always read ingredient labels. And if you’re not sure, you can always check the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database.

In conclusion

The information we have thus far on titanium dioxide and more importantly its nanoparticles is concerning. And a lack of data in some regards doesn’t imply safety.

Thus, I recommend applying the precautionary principle and avoiding exposure whenever possible.

References
– Evans, S. M., Ashwood, P., Warley, A., Berisha, F., Thompson, R. P., & Powell, J. J. (2002). The role of dietary microparticles and calcium in apoptosis and
   interleukin-1β release of intestinal macrophages. Gastroenterology,123(5), 1543-1553. doi:10.1053/gast.2002.36554
– Skocaj, M., Filipic, M., Petkovic, J., & Novak, S. (2011). Titanium dioxide in our everyday life; is it safe? Radiology and Oncology, 45(4), 227–247.
   http://doi.org/10.2478/v10019-011-0037-0
– Weir, A., Westerhoff, P., Fabricius, L., & von Goetz, N. (2012). Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles in Food and Personal Care Products. Environmental
   Science & Technology
, 46(4), 2242–2250. http://doi.org/10.1021/es204168d
sugar health war

The War On Sugar

As consumers start to pay attention to sugar consumption and more organizations and communities begin to tax excess sugar, industry giants are trying to fight back. The most recent effort is Coca-Cola’s funding of a study that claims lack of exercise and excessive screen time is to blame for the obesity crisis.  The study further states ‘more work need[s] to be done’ when looking at the influence of diet on obesity. 

The sugar misdirection

While exercise is definitely important and needs to be part of a healthy life, this study is very deceptive. It seeks to shift attention away from diet and from what’s in our food (added sugars are astronomically high in our diet at this point). It redirects the issue in a way that absolutely infuriates me.

Corporate interest is in making money. They do that by spending tens of millions of dollars to figure out how to make a product that is addictive and nearly irresistible. Then they spend even more money to figure out the psychology behind how you buy and to entice you to purchase their product. The outrageous part is when they then claim they have no impact on your health; it’s completely up to you to make the choice not to consume their product. When they take it one step further by funding studies that support the sale of their products and influence reported results that distance them from any responsibility for the impact on health? That’s unconscionable.

While I agree it is a personal responsibility to watch what you eat, I maintain that it’s very overwhelming for the consumer who is surrounded by this sort of corporate deception and manipulation.  In the case of this most recent study, leaked emails reveal that, despite stated claims to the contrary, Coca-Cola contributed funding to the study and had a big hand in helping to design it. 

It’s happened before

This is not the first time corporate funding has co-opted research. Last year Coca-Cola and Pepsi were found to have funded a controversial study that claimed diet drinks were better than water for weight loss. But it doesn’t stop there. Coca-Cola clearly and openly funds many major health organizations such as The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The American Cancer Society, and The American Academy of Pediatrics. When they fund the research these organizations do there is bound to be some sort of a bias in their favor. If, as it appears in this recent case, they have a hand in designing the study as well as funding it, that makes the results even more questionable.

There is a war on. When it comes to your health and the information you need to make informed, educated decisions you can’t rely on headlines. The news media is looking for soundbytes. They’re relying on our inattentive, 3-second-goldfish-mind, to just run news blurbs past us and then move on to the next thing. 

We have to go deeper than the headline news ticker. You need to know who funded the study, who designed it, was there any potential for influence for corporate gain, and is it solid science. This is not the first time this has happened in the war on sugar. It’s not even the first time that there’s been an all-out assault on convincing consumers that an ingredient which is bad for them is actually not so bad.  I’d like to take you on a small journey to the past; looking at a different ingredient war.

What’s wrong with HFCS

At this point we know that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is bad for us. It’s damaging to our liver, contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Invented in the 1970’s it was approved for use in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983. It was seen as a safe sweetener and began to find it’s way into a wide variety of foodstuffs, juices, desserts, baked goods, and more. HFCS as an ingredient sometimes appeared in on the front of the label.

Over the decades evidence began to show up revealing that HFCS was not as benign as we had been lead to believe. As more consumers began to stop consuming HFCS the Corn Refiners Association began to push back. They started an ad campaign, “What’s wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup.” You know those commercials. Someone offers another person a popsicle and the person it’s being offered to says, “No thank you, that has high fructose corn syrup in it.” The person offering it says, “So? What’s wrong with that?” The other person then stands there looking stupid as if they have nothing to say. Unfortunately we now know that there is a lot wrong with HFCS and it should not be part of our diet. But they put it in everything. And even with consumer backlash HFCS is still being used. It’s in sweet things like jams and applesauce. It’s in savory things like condiments. It even appears in some commercial vitamins.

When the ad campaign was not as effective as they hoped the Corn Refiners Association pushed to have the name changed to Corn Sugar. Their thinking was that this would seem more benign that HFCS and be more acceptable to consumers. As I wrote in The Pantry Principle, that effort failed and they were forced to keep the name High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS is still the occasional subject of articles that claim it’s not any worse for you than sugar. But now the ads have all but disappeared. The front of package labels say No HFCS in bold letters. 

Fighting back

It took over 40 years to get to where we are now with HFCS. There’s no telling how long it will take with sugar.

I promise you it’s a war; one that the manufacturers will defend as vigorously and as long as they can. Sugar taxes and clear labeling cuts into their profit margins. That’s enough to make them misdirect and engage in morally questionable practices like funding misleading study results.

Don’t be fooled by the headlines. You can make a change for yourself and choose health. Read the labels. Be aware of how much sugar you’re consuming and where that sugar comes from. The more you learn about the different types of sugar and it’s effect on the body the more you will be able to look past the manufacturer manipulation and misdirection. And the more you will be able to eat well to be well.

Related Links
Channel 4 dispatches: Secrets of Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets
Coca-Cola ‘spends millions on research to prove that fizzy drinks don’t make you fat’
Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in obesity
The role of high fructose corn syrup in metabolic syndrome and hypertension
High-fructose corn syrup-55 consumption alters hepatic lipid metabolism and promotes triglyceride accumulation

 

Jell-O Simply Good (or Still Just As Bad?)

Kraft recently released a new line of “Jell-O Simply Good” products. According to them, they are “delightfully honest” and “made with the good stuff.”

However, I found several questionable ingredients still lurking inside. Let’s take a look…

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Jell-O Simply Good

Cane sugar is the most abundant ingredient in this product (19 grams per 1/2 cup serving to be exact). And it’s most likely made from genetically modified and pesticide laden sugar cane.

Gelatin gives Jell-O its gel-like consistency. And it can be a health-promoting ingredient if sourced from grass-fed and pastured raised cows. However, in this case, the source of gelatin is unknown.

Dried strawberry juice provides a “natural” flavoring. But, it doesn’t add any nutritional value. In fact, it only adds more sugar.

Adipic acid gives Jell-O a bit of tartness. While it is an organic compound, adipic acid is the precursor of nylon. And it rarely occurs in nature.

Disodium phosphate helps control acidity. Scientists synthesize it by combining phosphoric acid with a sodium compound. According to the Environmental Working Group, sodium phosphates may increase one’s risk of heart and/or kidney disease when consumed in excess.

Sodium citrate also controls acidity. And it is generally considered safe in small doses. However, it’s most likely made from genetically modified corn. Thus, those with corn allergies should avoid products with sodium citrate.

Natural flavor additives lead consumers to believe the flavor is all natural. However, this is far from the truth. While the final product is derived from something found in nature, chemical solvents are used to manufacture them. Further, food companies are not required to disclose the actual contents of natural flavors. Thus, we’ll never really know!

It’s also worth noting that Jell-O Simply Good truly gets its flavor from these “natural” flavors as opposed to strawberry juice. Juice is actually quite bland and its flavor diminishes over time. On the other hand, scientists specifically design natural flavors to be potent and shelf-stable.

Fumaric acid is another additive used for tartness. In general, small quantities are considered safe.

Turmeric oleoresin is supposedly a “natural” coloring agent made from turmeric. However, volatile chemical solvents are used to make it. And when fed to rats and mice in this study, it had carcinogenic effects.

According to the same study, consumption of turmeric oleoresin was also associated with a higher incidence of stomach ulcers and inflammation of digestive organs.

And in case you’re wondering, human safety studies don’t exist. They wouldn’t be ethical. And this is true for most food additives.

Vegetable juice is used for coloring in this product. And it’s relatively benign. However, the type of vegetable juice used is unknown. And the vegetables are most likely grown with pesticides.

Jell-O Simply Good versus Original Jell-O Mixes

The main difference between Jell-O Simply Good and the original Jell-O mixes is the removal of artificial flavors and dyes. This is a step in the right direction. But, far from “simply good” or “delightfully honest” in my opinion.

Other than the flavors and colors, the products are almost identical. Both have questionable additives, zero nutritional value, and an abundance of refined sugar.

A Healthy Alternative

real gelatin peach gummiesAs previously mentioned, gelatin can be a nutritious addition to your diet. However, quality matters. I recommend using a clean, no additive gelatin made from grass-fed and pastured raised cows.  My preferred brand is Vital Proteins.

Here is a fun recipe you can use to make homemade “jello” gummies with fresh juice and natural sweeteners.

Do you already use gelatin? If so, what are your favorite ways to incorporate it into your diet?

Ingredients Based On Corn

Corn is one of the most highly genetically modified (GM) ingredients in the United States.  Because of the challenges that genetic modification presents for our health and for the environment, I encourage people to eat organic corn. This also helps to avoid the high levels of pesticides and glyphosate used in growing the crop. The ability to use these chemicals are the primary reason for the genetic modification in the first place.  

Varieties of corn

There are many different forms of corn. When eating fresh, frozen or canned, it is sweet corn which only represents approximately 1% of all the corn we grow in the United States.  Field corn, sometimes referred to as dent corn, is the most common variety grown in the U.S. It represents nearly 60% of the entire corn crop. This variety is used for ethanol and livestock feed.   

Other uses for corn include corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup and in the confectionary business.  Popcorn is a separate variety. According to the Popcorn Board, the average American eats 42 quarts per year for a total consumption of 13 billion quarts.

Corn is also used in the textile industry and as a biodegradable plastic.

On the label

 Corn by itself is easy to identify in foods or on the label. The challenge is that it can be turned into a rather startling variety of ingredients. These ingredients make an appearance in nearly every single food category at the grocery store. This is problematic for the nearly 10 million people in the U.S. diagnosed with an allergy to corn. 

For those trying to avoid it, whether due to allergies or a desire to avoid GM contamination, it’s not always easy to know which ingredients got their start from corn.  If you’re looking to avoid GM products the easiest way is to choose either organic or GMO Project Verified products.  In the case of a food sensitivity or allergy use this list as a resource to help you know which products to avoid.

Corn-based ingredients

  • Ascorbic Acid – also sometimes listed as vitamin C
  • Baking Powder – this may contain cornstarch
  • Brown Sugar – made from white sugar with caramel coloring added 
  • Calcium Citrate – also known as ‘calcium salt of citric acid’ 
  • Caramel – coloring agent frequently used in soft drinks.  Can be made from cane sugar but most commonly made from corn; a known carcinogen
  • Cellulose – a form of plant fiber (note: this ingredient can also be made from wood) 
  • Citrate – this sour flavor enhancer comes in several different forms: Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, etc. 
  • Citric Acid – made by adding the mold Aspergillus niger to a base of corn steep liquor, molasses, hydrolyzed corn starch, or other cheap sweet solutions
  • Corn
  • Corn Meal – as well as being used for cooking, cornmeal can be used for dusting baked items
  • Corn Starch – may be found in OTC tablets
  • Corn Syrup – may be found in liquid OTC medications such as cough syrup
  • Decyl Glucoside – often found in shampoo and other personal care products
  • Dextrin, Maltodextrin – used as a  thickening agent for condiments, frozen confections, and other foods
  • Dextrose (glucose) – found in sweets, may also be present in processed meats
  • Ferrous Gluconate – an ingredient found in black olives
  • Flavoring – Artificial or “Natural Flavors” may be corn-based
  • Golden Syrup 
  • Honey – HFCS is sometimes fed to bees causing their honey to then have corn in it
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Iodized Salt – Dextrose may be added to iodized salt to help stabilize the iodine 
  • Lactic Acid 
  • Magnesium Citrate – Magnesium salt of citric acid
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Malic Acid
  • Malt/Malt Flavoring
  • Maltitol – a sugar alcohol made by hydrogenating maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol – This sugar alcohol is often blended with corn-based sugars
  • Methyl Gluceth – a cosmetic emollient
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – MSG can be made from corn
  • Polydextrose
  • Polysorbates (i.e. Polysorbate 80)
  • Potassium Citrate 
  • Powdered Sugar – may contain cornstarch
  • Saccharin
  • Sodium Citrate 
  • Sodium Erythorbate – may be made from beets, corn, or sugar cane
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate – may be made from corn, rice, or potatoes
  • Sorbitan – made by dehydrating sorbitol  
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – may be found in various types of yeast (baking, brewing)  
  • Sorbitol – this sugar alcohol often appears in diet candies or gum, can also be in oral care products
  • Starch – unless otherwise specified (such as potato starch) this is probably cornstarch
  • Sucralose – Splenda is often made with dextrose or maltodextrin 
  • Sweet’N Low – made with dextrin 
  • Vanilla Extract – may be made with corn syrup 
  • Vinegar, Distilled White 
  • Xanthan Gum – often grown on a base of corn or corn sugar 
  • Xylitol – can be made from birch or corn, in the US it is frequently corn
  • Zein – used in time-release medications

More Food Allergy Info

All About Eggs
Do You Have Oral Allergy Syndrome?
Food Intolerance Testing

 

 

 

 

What’s Really In Sport Drinks?

I’m going to be blunt. Under no circumstances would I recommend commercial sport drinks. Period.  Well, maybe if you are dehydrated (literally) and no other liquid exists for miles. 

Sadly commercial sport drinks such as Gatorade and Vitamin Water are nothing but liquid sugar and chemical additives. The cons far outweigh any benefit. Most young children simply need water. Teenage and adult athletes may need extra support, but there are much healthier alternatives. And I guarantee professional athletes are not drinking Gatorade despite the advertisements you see on TV.

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Sport Drinks

While there are minor differences in different sport drinks, many of them have the similar ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in Gatorade…

Gatorade sport drinks nutrition label

Water: Good!

Sugar: And lots of it! An entire 16-ounce bottle contains a little more than 13 teaspoons of sugar. It’s counterproductive to encourage our kids to play sports to be healthy, but then load them up with sugar. Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the primary source of added sugars in the standard American diet. And several studies have linked SSBs to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease [1].

Dextrose: Just another form of sugar. Unfortunately this form of sugar is made from corn and therefore most likely to be genetically modified (GM).

Citric Acid: A flavoring and a preservative. It may seem harmless because it is naturally found in fruit, but the citric acid found in foods and beverages is chemically produced from black mold secretions.  It’s also another product that comes from corn and another source of GM contamination.

Natural Flavor: Don’t let the name fool you. The “fruit punch” does not get its flavor from real fruit. These are flavors made in a laboratory. And no one really knows how or what is used to make them.

Salt: Salt is one of the electrolytes (the other major electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and phosphate) however sea salt would be a better option here because it actually provides minerals. 

Sodium Citrate: A “sodium salt of citric acid” this chemically processed food additive is used to regulate acidity. It has a potential to cause allergic reactions, dizziness, or restlessness. 

Monopotassium Phosphate: This ingredient is a potassium salt that has the potential to cause abdominal discomfort. It’s a common food additive as well as a fertilizer and fungicide. 

Modified Food Starch: Another chemically processed food stabilizer.

Red 40: Artificial dyes are linked to behavior disorders and hyperactivity in children. Some kids are more sensitive than others. For those that are sensitive, it can be disastrous for them and their families. These dyes are made from petroleum and coal tar and are banned in several other countries. [2]

Glycerol Ester of Rosin: A food additive designed to keep oils suspended or evenly mixed in water. It is produced from pine tree wood rosin using a long list of chemicals.

Caramel Color: Another artificial coloring additive. Unfortunately it contains 4-methylimidazole which has been linked to cancer.

Unfortunately the “zero-calorie” options typically contain the exact same ingredients. However instead of sugar, they use artificial sweeteners. While many people turn to artificial sweeteners to consume fewer calories, studies have actually linked them to weight gain. [3]

Healthy alternatives

There are more “natural” brands on the market today, but they’re mostly made of concentrated fruit juice (another form of liquid sugar). And they still have a few unnecessary additives. Therefore, why buy over-sugared drinks when water is a much healthier, and cheaper, option.

And from an environmental standpoint, we’d use much less plastic if every team player brought a reusable water bottle filled from home. Further, you’ll also your reduce exposure to the harmful aspects of plastic by using a glass or stainless steel container.

While one sport drink won’t cause permanent harm, drinking them routinely is another story.

When you or your children truly need a source of electrolytes after an intense or prolonged period of physical activity, try one of these options instead:

  • Make your own electrolyte drink by combining water, lemon, raw honey and sea salt
  • Make an agua fresca
  • Choose coconut water, a well balanced electrolyte beverage (but, be sure to read the label and avoid harmful additives)

 

Containers

One other issue with sports drinks and vitamin waters is that they come in a plastic container. This is a problem due to the BPA (to learn more watch my interview with Lara Adler, The Environmental Toxins Nerd). Bring your own drinks with you and use glass or stainless steel containers as your healthiest option. My personal favorite is Glasstic, a shatterproof plastic cylinder around a glass center cylinder. Easy to take apart and wash in the dishwasher, the company claims these are the last water bottle you’ll ever need. I bought three over a year ago and they’re still going strong. Get 10% off with this link.

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Resources:

[1] Sugar Sweetened Beverages: Over time, too much liquid sugar can lead to serious disease
[2] Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-0ld children 
[3] Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings