Sweet to the Soul

Well, the holiday season is here.  Candy is literally everywhere and everyone is thinking about those tantalizing, decadent desserts so prevalent this time of year.  Some of you may disagree (ha!), but I thought now would be a good time to take a closer look at sugar.

 

Most granulated sugar originates from the sugar beet and sugarcane plant.  Did you know that there are powerful companies who have genetically modified the sugar beet so that it will tolerate repeated spraying with herbicides?  And that the EPA has just increased the allowable amount of herbicide residues on the actual plant part that becomes sugar by 5000%?  Now think about this:  half of the world’s granulated sugar comes from the sugar beet. GM sugar is already in most all processed foods in the form of high fructose corn syrup, including your children’s breakfast cereals, but before long it will be in your sugar bowl and in all of your favorite homemade treats.  The only way to avoid this is to buy organic and cook all of your meals from scratch.  If you are not aware of the dangers of genetically modified food (known as GM or GMO or GE for Genetically Engineered) then you need to watch “The Future of Food,” a documentary produced by Deborah Koons Garcia, at www.mercola.com.  Or visit www.futureoffood.com.

 

Back to sugar.  Even if it isn’t genetically modified, sugar has been through 10 steps in the refining process before it ever reaches your sugar bowl.  Even organic sugar.  And by the way, organic sugar is nothing but a guarantee that it is not GM.  The extensive processing of sugar cane removes the vitamins, enzymes, protein, and minerals that God originally put there and leaves you with a substance not only devoid of all nutrition but harmful to your health.  The list of ways sugar damages your health is mighty long.  Here is a sampling:  Sugar can …suppress your immune system; interfere with your body’s ability to absorb valuable minerals; increase your bad cholesterol and triglycerides and even lower your good cholesterol; cause hyperactivity, anxiety, and crankiness in children; feed cancer cells (especially breast and ovarian cancer, among others); cause autoimmune disease (including arthritis); cause depression; contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease; lead to addiction; cause learning disorders; cause hormonal imbalances …. And much, much more.  I didn’t even mention tooth decay, fatigue, gallstones, ulcers, or heart disease!  For 24 hours after eating sugar, your immune system is literally suppressed making you more susceptible to colds and viruses every time you eat a piece of candy, drink a soft drink, have some ice cream, or have “just one” cookie.

 

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is another, even more dangerous, form of sugar.  It is the number one source of calories in the U.S. due to soft drink consumption.  HFCS is also in most processed foods.  It is sugar from corn.  Based on all that I have read, the corn that isn’t pretty enough to sell as corn (and this includes most all GM corn) gets shipped off to the processing plant where it is processed so many times I couldn’t begin to list all of the by-products that wind up in your different processed foods.  But HFCS is one of them.  It carries with it all the dangers of regular old sugar except it is worse because your body metabolizes it faster than any other sugar.  On a side note, did you know that because of the numerous by-products from the processing of corn that go into your food, examination of a snip of any American’s hair or fingernail would reveal corn isotopes?  Yes.  Check it out in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, pages 19-23. 

 

If you have read my previous blog entries, you will know that it doesn’t take rocket science to see that God did not create white sugar or HFCS.  All good things come from God, and these are not good things.  These sugars are definitely not whole foods, they are not nutrient dense or synergistic or anything good at all!  God did create us to enjoy sweet things, however, and he perfectly designed sweeteners for us to enjoy that would boost our health at the same time.

 

Raw honey is yet another amazing whole food creation.  It tastes great and at the same time is loaded with nutrition.  In fact, according to Beth Holland’s booklet, “Some Common Nutritional Fallacies,” honey is made of at least 165 different components, including “amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and at least 25 different kinds of sugar.”  Unlike sugar, raw honey actually helps your body’s metabolism.  Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal.  It contains vitamin B2, B6, iron, manganese, and a slew of many other nutrients.  I read about a study where honey was used on the incisions of c-section patients.  These patients had far less infection and more rapid healing than the patients treated conventionally.  Honey has many medicinal uses, whether topical or internal, from sunburns to coughs.  You shouldn’t be surprised that honey can do so many things because, after all, God created it just for us.  Don’t forget Proverbs 16:21 where God gives us the bottom line on honey … it is sweet to the soul and health to the bones.  But remember this is talking about raw honey.  Pasteurization destroys all of these great things, and most honey at the grocery store has been pasteurized.

 

Other natural sweeteners that God created for us include molasses and maple syrup.  Like honey, both of these have nutritional value.  Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc.  This makes it rich in antioxidants.  Maple syrup is also good for prostate health, your immune system, and your heart.  Maple syrup that has been cooked over a wood fire, the traditional way, is the best because it avoids equipment that has been cleaned with formaldehyde.  My favorite source for maple syrup is www.vermontel.com/~knsh.   Molasses, especially Blackstrap Molasses, is loaded with good things as well.  It is rich in iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium.  It is good for your bones, your heart, skin, hair, hormones, nervous system, and boosts your energy.  Make sure you buy unsulphured molasses so it is free of processing chemicals.

 

Sucanat is yet another healthy sweetener.  It is simply un-refined sugar cane.  The brand name means Sugar Cane Natural.  According to Wikipedia, Sucanat is simply pure, dried sugar cane juice which is extracted by machine then heated and cooled, which forms the brown granules.  Because it is un-refined,  Sucanat retains its molasses content.  Sucanat is not as loaded with nutrients like honey, maple syrup and molasses, but of all the sugars derived from sugar cane, Sucanat is the most nutritious.  It most resembles brown sugar in flavor but I have used it successfully as a one for one substitute for white sugar in recipes.  Some people do not like its strong flavor and use Sucanat with Honey instead.  I am not sure about this product, but I do know that it is still a better alternative than white sugar.

 

Everywhere I go it seems that someone is pushing candy on my kids.  From the bank teller to church, there is candy everywhere.  If your child participates in any kind of class, there is often a candy treat passed out at the end.  Even in my 2 year olds mid-week Bible class, there is always candy passed out when class is over.  Is this really the message we want to send to our children?  That candy is a reward for having done nothing but show up?  People think I am over the top when I complain about this.  But think about it — diabetes, obesity, endocrine problems, auto-immune disease, depression, cancer, learning disorders ….addictions …   “It’s just candy!” 

 

God knew that we would enjoy sweet things.  He talks about a land flowing with milk and honey.   It is good for us to enjoy sweets on occasion, especially when they glorify our creator by nourishing our bodies!  That, my friends, is so sweet.

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And, Behold, It Was Very Good

God makes good things.  Of the many wonderful things he created, whole foods are one of them.  But just what are whole foods?  And then there are processed foods.  What are they?  How does one tell the difference between the two?  My purpose here is to help you understand and identify both.  Then you will be well on your way to making good choices for your family dinner table!

 

Apples, eggs, steaks, whole milk, butter, lettuce, carrots… Hungry yet?  These are all examples of whole foods.  Foods that are considered whole are foods that God created, and they are as close to the way he created them as possible.  The list above is a good example of this.  Whole foods are natural and they haven’t had anything done to them to change them much from the way they are in their original state.  For example, you could buy a carrot in the grocery store in a cellophane bag, or you could buy a bunch tied with a rubberband with the green tops still on, or you could buy them sliced/diced and frozen.  They can be eaten raw or cooked.  But these are all easily recognizable as carrots and they are a whole food. 

 

Whole foods are not always identical to each other; within one food group there is a lot of room for variety, shape, color, size, texture, taste, etc.  Apples are a good example of this:  there are red, green, and yellow apples, some are sweet, some are tart.  Another example is whole raw milk.  Depending on the breed of cow, her feed, health, and the time of year the milk may be creamier at times than others, it may have a creamy color or it may be slightly yellow, and it may taste sweeter than at other times.  And if the cow has gotten into a patch of onion grass, the milk will taste like it!  Raw honey is also a whole food with many variations in flavor and color depending on what flowers the bees visited.

 

Whole foods will provide a variety of necessary vitamins and nutrients when eaten alone, or you can take whole foods and combine them together for even greater nutrition.  This is synergism, which I will talk about later. Whole foods always contain the specific vitamins and nutrients that God intended for them to have, because he created them for the purpose of nourishing our bodies, which he also created.  Another aspect of whole foods to consider is that different whole foods are produced through the earth at different times of the year, and in different regions, as opposed to being available year round.  This is all part of God’s plan.

 

And now let’s look at the opposite of whole foods:  processed foods.  After reading this I hope you will understand that the phrase “processed food” is actually an oxymoron.  The following items are all processed:  boxed cereals, soy milk, canned soups, Velveeta, American cheese, toaster pastries, soy hot dogs and other concoctions, white flour, white sugar, boxed mixes, low-fat and skim milk, animal crackers, Crisco, and the list goes on and on and on …  Examine this list and you will see that none of these items occur naturally.  Whole foods become processed when they have had things done to them that change them dramatically from their original state, altering their original God-given nutrition.  The end result is always not only less nutritional but often damaging to your health in the long run.  Also note that many processed items have had vitamins added to them – flour and cereal are enriched, low-fat and skim milks have vitamin D added, etc, because vitamins cannot survive the process of processing.  There is no processed food that can grow from the ground or that can come directly from an animal.  All processed foods originate in a lab, then go to a factory and finally arrive neatly packaged at the grocery store, gas station, or vending machine.  Processed foods are always the same, box after box, with no variation.  Processed foods are available everywhere, all the time.

 

White flour, white sugar, and table salt are good examples of processed foods.  White flour originates with wheat that grows in the field and is then harvested and ground into flour.  But there is another part of the process:  the germ and the bran are mechanically separated from the wheat.  What is left over is then often bleached to make it a snowy white.  This is white flour and it is all starch — no nutrition — so synthetic vitamins are then added back into it to keep people from getting debilitating vitamin deficiency-related diseases (pellagra, for example, and even insanity in some cases).  But don’t be fooled.  Of the 90+ vitamins that are removed, only about 4 are added back and they are not in the amounts or forms that God created.  The germ and the bran are what contain all of the nutrition and are sold off for other uses – animal feed, or neatly packaged jars of wheat germ, or bran cereal, etc.  Business executives have made a lot of money from this.  White flour is a processed food.  The same is true of white sugar.  Sugar cane actually has some nutrition in it, but all of it is stripped away in the process of making white sugar.  What is left is bleached and refined so that you have freely flowing, snowy white sugar granules that have zero nutrition.  Then there is table salt.  Real salt is coarse and gray with colored flecks in it and is full of naturally occurring minerals.  But this beautiful food that God created is put through many processes, including intense heat and bleaching, which results in the healthful benefits being lost and gives the consumer a freely flowing snowy white product known as table salt.  White flour, white sugar, and table salt are well known to have adverse health effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.  The list of documented problems with just these three items has no end.  And you will find at least one of them, often all three, in almost every processed food item available.

 

Here are more examples of foods God created and are healthful in their whole state, but are ruined through man’s processing:  Raw honey is loaded with nutrients.  It has living enzymes and is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Pasteurized honey has no nutrition.  Corn is a healthful, seasonal vegetable but corn syrup is dangerous to your health.  Fresh, whole, raw milk is loaded with beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are good for your digestion, and it is also antibacterial.  Pasteurized, homogenized milk has lost all of these qualities and can actually be harmful to your health.  Low-fat and skim milk have dry milk powder added back to make it thicker and add color.  I could write pages about ways  man has messed up God’s perfect creation by processing it.

 

There are some areas where it may be difficult to identify whole or processed foods with confidence.  Dairy is one of those areas.  Milk has already been discussed.  Cheese was mentioned briefly; cheese is basically a whole food however many cheeses have had undesirable things done to them and added to them leaving them nutritionally deficient.  Yogurt is a whole food yet most yogurts available are highly processed as they have had many undesirable ingredients added to them.  When faced with uncertainty, it is extremely important to read the labels!!  If it is full of hard to pronounce ingredients that you know didn’t come from the farm, then you are looking at a processed food.

 

Whole foods have synergy.  The different parts work together as part of a whole package. Processed foods cannot do this.  According to Webster’s dictionary, the term “synergy” means, “combined action or operation.”  Think of each component of a whole food as a synergist – “something that enhances the effectiveness of an active agent.” This is how you get “synergism” … the interactions of each “agent” (think: nutrient) working together results in a “total effect…greater than the sum of the individual effects.” (Quotes are from Webster’s Dictionary)  Let this sink in a moment.  We marvel at the amazing parts of God’s creation, such as the ocean, the stars, the many animals … yet we tend to totally ignore his incredible creation of food that is so diverse and has such potential to nourish and heal us, if we would only let it.

 

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God created us.  God created the earth.  God, in his infinite wisdom and with his intimate knowledge of us, created perfect foods to nourish us.  To God be the glory!