Category Archives: Green Health

How Do You Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup… I Mean, “Corn Sugar” in Your Food?

There’s been a lot of talk about how unhealthy high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is. There’s been enough talk that the industry is changing its name to “corn sugar” in the hopes that people won’t realize they’re the same thing. They go on about how it’s perfectly safe in moderation, without noting how, in the standard American diet, it’s really hard to consume HFCS in moderation. That stuff is in foods you’d never expect to need sweeteners.

No matter which side of the argument you’re on, you can probably agree that avoiding unnecessary sweeteners is a good thing. Most of us don’t need the extra calories or the potential health issues. It pays to know that studies are showing definite issues with HFCS, such as a study done at Princeton where rats fed HFCS gained more weight than rats given table sugar, even when the total calories were the same.

There’s one simple step that will help you avoid significant quantities of HFCS: avoid processed foods.

It’s amazing when you look at the labels of processed foods and realize how many of them are sweetened, usually with HFCS. It’s massively overused because corn subsidies make it a very, very cheap sweetener. It’s one of the big reasons why I don’t like corn subsidies. There are many crops I would rather see grown.

You will also need to look at things like the bread you buy. Many store bought breads are made with HFCS. I was quite surprised to see sugar, honey and molasses listed on the ingredient list of my favorite store bought bread, which costs less than many other brands. Too often that’s not the case.

Rather than eat processed foods, focus on cooking from scratch. Yes, it is more work. With a good attitude, cooking is something you can look forward to. Give yourself some time and you won’t think all that well of the taste of processed foods.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a big part of this. In season is best, but go with what’s available to you to keep things fresh rather than processed.

Try a variety of grains too, rather than sticking with basics such as rice. My kids don’t like quinoa on its own, but if I cook it with the rice, they like the combination better than rice alone. I like that we’re getting something a little better than plain rice out of the deal, and it’s no harder than making regular rice. I even use my rice cooker.

Most especially, avoid most sodas and fruit drinks with HFCS added. Some sodas have regular sugar added instead, and if you want a soda, that’s a better choice than HFCS sweetened products. Some juice drinks have significant amounts of sweetener added, and very little real juice involved. Check the ingredient list and go for the real stuff if you’re after sweet.

When you’re talking about your health, you have to pay attention to what you’re eating. Don’t let a name change fool you into thinking a product is new or better. You’re better off eating foods where it’s clear what they were made from, rather than processed into blandness, then sweetened to make them more appealing. The flavor variety of real foods is far more interesting.

Guava for Natural Constipation Treatment

My mother has a pineapple guava tree in her backyard. It’s a nice little tree, produces quite a bit more fruit than she can handle, and the kids love cleaning out the ripe fruit that has fallen from the tree for her. They pretty much aren’t ripe until they fall, and they blend in very well with the leaves, so picking the fruit from the ground is the best way to get the good stuff.

We love the guavas in our family for a few reasons. For one, they taste pretty good. Very unusual flavor. But they’re also great for handling constipation.

I mean it. Don’t eat more than one, maybe two a day, or you’ll regret it more likely than not.

My son has a long standing issue in that area, so he’s been enjoying the harvest daily. But we got enough that we can’t use them fast enough, so I pureed and froze the excess. It’s really easy.

Slice the guavas in half and spoon out the flesh. Put the flesh into the blender and discard the skins. This is one of the times I love our VitaMix, although any blender would do for this job.

Blend lightly. I don’t like to completely puree it – I think the cubes taste more like the original fruit if they still have some of the original gritty texture.

Pour the blended fruit into ice cube trays. I suggest using trays that are smaller than standard ice cubes or just not filling each cube completely. A full size guava cube might be a bit of a strain on the digestive system, if you get my drift.

Freeze and use as needed. They also add an interesting touch to fruit smoothies, in moderation, of course.

I can’t promise that these will cure any constipation issue, but in my experience they’re pretty powerful.

Time to Give Up on Aluminum Water Bottles?

If you decided to get an aluminum water bottle to avoid waste, and perhaps BPA, there’s a bit of rather frustrating news out today that I came across on Twitter. The Z Recommends website reports that Gaiam’s supposedly BPA-free aluminum water bottles leach far more BPA than Sigg’s bottles did.

Somehow oops doesn’t cover it.

Makes me really glad to have my daughter using a Klean Kanteen. She loves it, and it puts up with the abuse she gives it at school, which is plenty. Hers is going on a year old and has some small dents, mostly around the bottom, but is otherwise still in good shape. I just like that there’s no question of what kind of coating is inside, as stainless steel doesn’t need one.

It’s sad that you can’t always trust a company’s claims about the safety of its products, especially when they lie about specific selling points. But you can remember who gets caught in a lie.

Is Taxing Soda the Answer… or Even an Answer?

Checking out some news stories today, and I saw that the idea of taxing soda is coming up again. The idea is to combat obesity.

I’ll quite readily agree that too much soda isn’t good for you. I’ll even agree that obesity is an issue. But I don’t think this is a good solution at all.

There’s a lot more to people gaining weight than drinking soda. Lack of access to healthy foods, for example. There are many neighborhoods where fresh produce is simply not accessible. It’s awfully hard to eat healthy if the majority of foods available are processed, high sugar junk.

Then there are the farm subsidies for corn. Most popular sodas use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), in part because it’s so cheap due to the subsidies. Might it make more sense to cut back on the subsidies? There are a lot of less healthy foods that use HFCS. Why focus only on soda?

For that matter, why raise a tax if cutting a subsidy could have a similar impact?

Yes, not a popular notion for farmers, but if they could be encouraged to grow something else, maybe not so bad. It’s not a topic I know that much about, so I’m not going to make precise suggestions.

This is just a proposal by health experts, not legislation pending right now. But when I see something like this that strikes me as a bunch of foolishness, I like to respond.

By all means, let’s take a look at what causes obesity and what can be done about it. But I’d rather see work done toward making healthier foods more available in places they aren’t than a tax on sodas and similar things.

A Problem with the Flu Vaccine

In general I’m pro-vaccine, but with caution. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never gotten a flu vaccine or had any of my kids get one. This article on kids with the flu shot being 3 times more likely to be hospitalized with the flu really got my attention.

That’s a pretty amazing difference.

This is not a huge study or anything. 263 children with confirmed cases of influenza from 1996-2006. In other words, it’s not conclusive. But it is something to consider when you’re thinking about getting a flu shot for your kids next year.