Dr Akilah – Celestial Healing Wellness Center

The Natural Health and Holistic World According to Dr Akilah

Tag Archives: agave nectar

The 10 Most Misleading Food Labels

0ghhBy Healthy Living

1. All Natural 
In theory, the term “all natural” should convey a glowing halo of wholesome goodness, with quality ingredients sourced straight from Mother Nature. In some cases, yes, this absolutely applies (like when we’re talking about asparagus or apples). But far too often, “natural” has less than zero meaning, and the number of lawsuits against food companies proves it. The FDA has yet to define “all natural,” so companies can slap it on anything from potato chips to corn oil, even if preservatives or genetically modified ingredients were used. When in doubt, double check ingredient lists and lean toward using whole ingredients you recognize…like asparagus and apples, no labels necessary.

2. Zero Trans Fats 
You’d think zero means nothing, nil, nada, right? Think again. There’s a lovely sneaky clause that allows food companies to weasel in up to 0.5 grams of trans fat, and still market it as containing “zero” trans fats. May not sound like a lot, but serving after serving adds up. And when trans fats are clear culprits in raising “bad” cholesterol and lowering “good” cholesterol, that’s a definite problem. So re-read that nutrition label and make sure that “0” really is listed in the trans-fat line, and watch out for red flag words like “hydrogenated” in ingredient lists.

3. Sugar-Free & No Sugar Added 
Knocking sugar out of our diets is something most of us have attempted at one point or another. And yes, it’s a good idea to keep added sugar to a minimum and look to nature-made sources of sweetness. Too bad products claiming they’re sugar-free or have “no sugar added” are generally loaded with non-natural artificial sweeteners or man-made (manipulated) sugar alcohols, which can wreak havoc on a sensitive digestive system. The word “artificial” says it all. Choose the real deal when it comes to sugar or sweeteners (or treats that include them) like honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, and fresh fruit juices and purees…and keep their amounts on the lighter side.

4. High-Protein
Myth: Bulking up on protein will help you get into buff shape and melt away excess fat. Fact: Too much of anything, even if it’s healthy, isn’t always good. Too many calories overall, and you can kiss that buff shape goodbye; too much protein, and your kidneys can go into overdrive. When it comes to food products touting “high-protein,” the source of protein is often from a manipulated, processed form of an ingredient, like soy protein isolate. Most of us get more than enough protein in our diets, so stick with simple sources like fish, eggs, nuts, organic tofu, beans, and quinoa.

5. High-Fiber 
Somewhat like “high-protein,” high-fiber products are often boosted with doses of processed forms of fiber. Added “functional” fibers like chicory root fiber, polydextrose, and oat fiber don’t necessarily have the same impact as naturally occurring fiber in foods, and may cause bloating and gas. Look to fruit, vegetables, seeds, beans, and whole grains for your fiber intake and you’ll hit your recommended 25-35 grams per day without thinking about it, and without the stomach upset.

6. Low-Carb
The fear and loathing of carbohydrates that has taken hold of health-minded individuals has allowed food companies to run rampant with new “low-carb” products like bagels, brownies, muffins, and more. Most of these items however, contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners and/or processed sources of fiber–which isn’t exactly health-minded. The thing with carbs isn’t to demonize them. It’s about eating them in smart quantities and from quality sources. You’ll fill up faster on less, and will be more satisfied and happier.

7. Gluten-Free
This might just be the “health claim” of the moment right now. Food items that are marketed as “gluten-free” are by law void of gluten or wheat, any ingredient that would potentially cause digestive harm to someone with Celiac disease or a severe wheat/gluten allergy. What these products aren’t free of, however, are calories, and they often contain quite a lot of them. If you don’t have a specific condition, like Celiac, going gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose weight. That said, lowering the amount of gluten or wheat you consume may increase your energy levels or help you feel better digestively, but keep an eye on how much gluten-free bread, cookies, cakes, and chips you eat. Just because they’re sans gluten, that doesn’t give you license to eat with abandon. Look for healthy carbohydrates that are naturally gluten-free, like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, and quinoa.

8. Organic
Grabbing an “organic” item in the grocery store doesn’t mean you’ve hit a pot of calorie-free gold. Organic cheese puffs, ice cream, and chocolate-creme cookies do not a balanced diet make. Organic is defined as any item with at least 95 percent organic ingredients–no hormones, genetically modified ingredients, additives, antibiotics, or radiation. But aim to focus your “organic” attention on items that should appear in your diet frequently, like grains, fruits and vegetables, specifically those with permeable skins.

9. Fat-Free
“Free” isn’t always a bargain. Fat-free items are typically full of empty, unfulfilling calories and may leave you hungry. Surprising as it may be, we need fat (the healthy kind) in order to fill up. Fat-free products often leave eaters scrambling for other foods because they’re just not satisfied. Healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats and omega-6 and omega-3 fats help lower cholesterol and heart disease risk, and they delay signs of aging and mental decline, and help boost mood. Choose excellent sources like olive oil, nuts and nut butters, avocado, flaxseeds, and coconuts

10. Omega 3’s
By no means are we aiming to slam amazing-for-you heart-healthy omega-3 fats. What we are trying to call out are all the excessive claims on products with “added” omegas, from tortilla chips to eggs and yogurt. If it doesn’t come inherently from nature, it’s still unclear how our bodies will respond and metabolize it. And if you’ve got a tortilla chip rich in omega-3s thanks to whole flaxseeds, unfortunately, you’re not getting very far. Flaxseeds need to be ground in order to reap all the benefits. Look for naturally occurring omega-3 fat sources like avocado, ground flaxseed, walnuts and other nuts, and olive oil.

 

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The Truth About Agave Nectar

by Kristen M.

Is agave nectar good? Is agave nectar bad? Believe it or not, I thought I’d written a definitive post on this topic.

As it turns out, I hadn’t. Earlier this week a reader emailed me, seeking an answer to the classic question: Agave nectar — good or bad? She pointed out that she’d done a search for agave nectar on this site and only turned up two entries. In one, I’d said to avoid it. In another, I mentioned that I’d used agave nectar while experimenting with kombucha and didn’t enjoy the results.

So, she concluded: “Why, if agave nectar is a natural sweetener, should it not be used? What about it is bad? I’ve been preferring it to honey and maple syrup on my waffles, pancakes, and yogurt.”

I realized then that I needed to post a definitive guide to agave nectar, answering the question once and for all. This is it.

Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

The short answer to that reader’s question is simple: agave nectar is not a “natural sweetener.” Plus, it has more concentrated fructose in it than high fructose corn syrup. Now, let’s get into the details.

Agave Nectar Is Not A Natural Sweetener

Once upon a time, I picked up a jar of “Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar” at my grocery store. It was the first time I’d ever seen the stuff in real life, and the label looked promising. After all, words like “organic,” “raw,” and “all natural” should mean something. Sadly, agave nectar is neither truly raw, nor is it all natural.

Based on the labeling, I could picture native peoples creating their own agave nectar from the wild agave plants. Surely, this was a traditional food, eaten for thousands of years. Sadly, it is not.

Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup.

But this is not what agave nectar is. According to one popular agave nectar manufacturer, “Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed in the 1990s.” In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write,

Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.

Compare that to the typical fructose content of high fructose corn syrup (55%)!

In a different article, Rami Nagel quotes Russ Bianchi, managing director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development company, on the similarities between agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup:

They are indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes. They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the conversion of agave starches into highly refined fructose inulin that is even higher in fructose content than high fructose corn syrup.

So there you have it. Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. Thus far, the evidence definitely points toward the conclusion: Agave Nectar = Bad.

“But,” you ardent agave nectar enthusiasts say, “agave nectar has a low glycemic index. I’m a diabetic, and it’s the only sweetener I can use!”

What’s wrong with fructose?

First, we need to clarify something. Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin.  Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process. To clarify:

Saying fructose is levulose is like saying that margarine is the same as butter. Refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn’t recognize refined fructose. Levulose, on the other hand, is naturally occurring in fruits, and is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars. Unlike man-made fructose, levulose contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Levulose is digested in the intestine. (source)

I want you to pay special attention to those last two sentences, for they are a huge key that will help unlock the mystery of why fructose is bad for you.

Because fructose is digested in your liver, it is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels. Hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics.

But it isn’t.

That’s because fructose inhibits leptin levels — the hormone your body uses to tell you that you’re full. In other words, fructose makes you want to eat more. Besides contributing to weight gain, it also makes you gain the most dangerous kind of fat.

This has been verified in numerous studies. The most definitive one was released just this past year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The full study is available online, but for the sake of space I’m including Stephan’s (of Whole Health Source fame) summary here:

The investigators divided 32 overweight men and women into two groups, and instructed each group to drink a sweetened beverage three times per day. They were told not to eat any other sugar. The drinks were designed to provide 25% of the participants’ caloric intake. That might sound like a lot, but the average American actually gets about 25% of her calories from sugar! That’s the average, so there are people who get a third or more of their calories from sugar. In one group, the drinks were sweetened with glucose, while in the other group they were sweetened with fructose.

After ten weeks, both groups had gained about three pounds. But they didn’t gain it in the same place. The fructose group gained a disproportionate amount of visceral fat, which increased by 14%! Visceral fat is the most dangerous type; it’s associated with and contributes to chronic disease, particularly metabolic syndrome, the quintessential modern metabolic disorder (see the end of the post for more information and references). You can bet their livers were fattening up too.

The good news doesn’t end there. The fructose group saw a worsening of blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. They also saw an increase in small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL, both factors that associate strongly with the risk of heart attack and may in fact contribute to it. Liver synthesis of fat after meals increased by 75%. If you look at table 4, it’s clear that the fructose group experienced a major metabolic shift, and the glucose group didn’t. Practically every parameter they measured in the fructose group changed significantly over the course of the 9 weeks. It’s incredible.

Back to our original question — Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

The conclusion is clear. Agave nectar is bad for you. It’s not traditional, not natural, highly refined, and contains more concentrated fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

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