Are stevia and agave syrup healthier sweeteners than sugar?
Many health-conscious people are steering away from refined white sugar, and opting for agave syrup (agave nectar) or stevia to sweeten their foods. These alternative sweeteners are often perceived as more natural, or less highly processed, than table sugar and artificial sweeteners. Yet, both are derived from multistep processing methods.
Agave syrup comes from the same plant that produces tequila, the blue agave plant that grows primarily in Mexico. The core of the plant contains aguamiel, the sweet substance used to produce agave syrup. While processing methods can vary, most involve enzymes, chemicals and heat to convert aguamiel into agave syrup. Organic manufacturers use low heat and no chemicals.
Agave syrup has either a dark or light amber colour and it’s slightly thinner in consistency than honey. It contains 60 calories per tablespoon, versus 48 for table sugar but because it is about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it.
Nutritionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup. Depending on processing, it can contain anywhere from 55 to 97 per cent fructose. (High-fructose corn syrup, by comparison, consists of 55 per cent fructose; the rest is glucose.) Its fructose content results in a sweetener with a glycemic index (10-20) much lower than plain sugar (65). The fact that agave syrup doesn’t spike your blood sugar and insulin has led many manufacturers to market it as “diabetic friendly.”
Yet, according to many experts, agave’s high fructose concentration makes it an unhealthy sweetener. That’s because research has linked high- fructose sweeteners to obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides (blood fats), metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.
Stevia is a no-calorie sweetener that’s made from the leaves of a plant, Stevia rebaudiana, native to South America. Stevia leaves get their sweet taste, about 10 to 15 times sweeter than sugar, from natural compounds called steviol glycosides.
Stevia leaves and stevia extracts are sold as tabletop sweeteners in natural food stores. They have not, however, been approved for use as food additives in Canada and the United States because animal studies have suggested stevia could cause genetic mutations and male infertility. Health Canada considers the available safety data on these products insufficient.
A highly purified stevia extract , sold under the brand names Truvia and PureVia, has been deemed safe and given the green light to sweeten foods in Canada and the U.S., including breakfast cereals, salad dressings, chewing gum and beverages. This purified stevia extract is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar so it takes only a minuscule amount to sweeten foods.
Vitamin supplements helpful for children with ADHD
Lacking in energy in general affects mental energy. Providing the brain with the right fuel will go a long way in optimizing your child’s learning ability.
Look at them as a whole and consider all factors that can take away from their well-being such as digestive discomfort, allergy symptoms, recurring infections, headaches, vision problems, hearing difficulties, poor sleep, too much sugar, not enough protein and nutrient deficiencies.
B vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and B12. Deficiencies in B3, B5, B6, folic acid and B12 are especially common. Adequate B3, B6 and B12 are particularly important in producing brain chemicals. Vitamin B6 assists in the production of dopamine and adrenaline from tyrosine and serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan.
Starting with a multivitamin mineral formula that has at least 10 mg of B6 which is a general indicator that the other nutrient doses are also good. Higher doses of Bs can be used therapeutically under supervision.
Magnesium deficiency can manifest as poor sleep, hyperactivity, anxiety, restless legs, muscle cramps and constipation along with many other signs and symptoms.
Magnesium in an amino acid chelate form in powder or capsule is the preferred form due to absorb ability and magnesium citrate would be a second choice. Vitamin D is very important for overall health and growth so I do recommend 1000 iu per day for children-under-12.
Low hemoglobin, that which carries oxygen in the blood, delivering it to your tissue, also affects mental energy, sleep, immunity and growth. This makes sense because the whole body needs oxygen to produce energy and support all functions in your body. It is best to have hemoglobin and ferritin (iron stores) checked before supplementing as some can have a genetic tendency to excessively store iron and therefore it would be dangerous to supplement iron. Telltale signs are very pale individuals without pink in their cheeks, complaints of being tired and cold and dull eyes with darkness underneath. But a child can also be purple under the eyes, which is allergies, although this is not to say they couldn’t have both problems.
If you determine your child is one of the estimated 40 per cent of children who are iron deficient then taking an iron amino acid chelate and nothing else as iron’s absorption is inhibited by many dietary factors and this form ensures maximum absorption.
Omega 3 from fish oil contains EPA and DHA. A randomized, double blind, study in Sweden of 82 children with ADHD ages seven to 12 years showed significant teacher evaluated improvement in ADHD symptoms, with the use of Minami Plus EPA 500 mg 1 capsule per day. Serum and red blood cell levels of EPA were measured and improvement was seen in those who were deficient in EPA. This type of EPA is processed without damage from oxygen and 400 per cent less heat both of which can damage fish oil. Fish oil companies who do not use this process cannot apply the results of this study to the use of any source of EPA.
All of the previously mentioned supplements are available in powders or liquids for children who cannot swallow capsules or caplets.
7 supplements women over 40 should take
It’s common for some women over 40 to experience a sputtering sex drive, sluggish metabolism, lethargic energy levels, fluctuating moods and other cruel machinations of the aging process.
But life after 40 doesn’t have to be left to Mother Nature. Consider getting plenty of exercise, modifying your diet and taking these seven best supplements for women over 40:
- STRONTIUM: Women over 40 with a family history that includes osteoporosis, or risk factors associated with bone loss should take 340 mg a day of this mineral. Strontium has been shown to be almost twice as effective as osteoporosis medications in improving bone density, without the side-effects. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that postmenopausal women who supplemented with strontium increased bone mineral density of the lumbar spine by nearly 15 per cent over a three-year period.
- RIBOSE: Another “under-the-radar” nutrient, largely ignored in the supplement market, ribose can help increase energy by an average of approximately 60 per cent after three weeks. Two-thirds of the subjects who supplemented with ribose experienced more restful sleep and energy, mental clarity and less pain. Another small study on ribose concluded that this simple sugar helps diastolic blood pressure in congestive heart failure patients.
- VITAMIN D3: The benefits of vitamin D3 are numerous, and so many people are deficient, even in areas with ample sunshine. Research has shown that adequate levels of vitamin D3 can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of osteoporosis and even ward off depression. Deficiency in vitamin D can also lead to pain in various areas of your body. Supplementing with vitamin D3, in addition to receiving adequate amounts of sunlight, also may help elevate mood, according to several studies (such as this review of different studies on the link between low serum levels of vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder, also called SAD).
- FOLATE: One of the B vitamins, folate may also help prevent or improve episodes of depression. Birth defects, more prevalent for post-40 expectant mothers, may be prevented with adequate folate levels. And folate, also is vital to long-term brain health, along with fish oils. Sufficient levels of both fish oils and folate have been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline associated with aging, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- CALCIUM: When taken in conjunction with adequate levels of vitamin D, calcium absorption is maximized. Just be careful not to take your calcium supplements with iron or caffeine. Both bind calcium in your gut and impede absorption.
- HYDROCHLORIC ACID: Hydrochloric acid (a.k.a. HCL or betaine hydrochloride) is the main digestive juice in your stomach, along with pepsin. Levels of HCL taper off after age 40, so women who experience bloating or indigestion may want to supplement with HCL. Can maintaining adequate levels of HCL also help with healthy-looking skin? A medical study published in 1945, in the Southern Medical Journal, suggested that lack of HCL can lead to poor absorption of B vitamins, and consequently, acne and eczema and other skin disorders can develop. In skin diseases associated with B complex deficiency, there is also a deficiency of hydrochloric acid.
Five Ways to Get Protein Without Eating Meat
There are many ways to get protein without turning to meat! Many people think that just because you are a vegetarian that you are not getting enough protein. In fact, you are actually getting better quality protein than you did eating animal-based foods.
Plant protein is often deemed inferior to animal protein because it is labelled as an incomplete protein. Combining even a few plant proteins creates a complete protein that the body easily digests. Plant based proteins unlike animal proteins do not place a burden on your kidneys or liver. They are easy to assimilate and help to build muscles and tissues readily and efficiently.
There is an assortment of high protein plant sources available including: hemp, sprouts, protein powder, tempeh, and quinoa. Similar to animals, humans may also get adequate protein from plant sources. The good news is that these proteins are easy to digest and the body uptakes them very well making them an efficient and effective source of protein.
Here are my top five types of protein sources:
Quinoa – Quinoa is not only a high source of protein, but it is also considered a complete protein as it contains all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa is an amazing option for breakfast porridge, lunch salads or dinner pilafs. Try this refreshing Quinoa Tabbouleh salad.
Hemp – Hemp seeds are also considered a complete source of protein, which is easily digested and absorbed by your body. Hemp’s nutritional profile is remarkable containing 36 per cent protein. In addition to its great source of protein, hemp also contains the exact ratio of healthy fats that the body needs for optimal health. Try this hemp seed salad for an extra boost!
Protein Powder – A plant-based protein powder is an easy and delicious way to get a healthy intake of protein. Chose a sprouted brown rice powder for maximum grams of absorbent and digestible protein. You can include protein powder in a morning smoothie, berry bowl, or even a power shake post workout.
Tempeh – Tempeh, increasing in popularity, is a fermented version of tofu. It has a unique nutty flavour, and is much denser than tofu resulting in a more satisfying meal choice. Tempeh adapts the flavours of other foods and marinades making it easy to incorporate into many dishes. Check out how you can grill tempeh just in time for summer BBQs here!
Sprouts – Sprouts are full of essential nutrients that support optimal health. When something is sprouted its nutritional value doubles. The process of sprouting seeds increases the quality of nutrients such as protein. Sprouts are an amazing item to incorporate into your diet. Not to mention they are low in calories and fat, and they are rich sources of vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and protein.
Five Reasons You Can’t Lose Those Last 10 Pounds
If the scale hasn’t budged in several weeks you may want to reassess your diet and exercise regimen, more specifically, some of the beliefs you hold that may be stopping you from shedding the last 10 pounds.
You’re eating until you’re full: Hunger is something that we’re taught to avoid. A bit of hunger in between meals may, however, just get you to your goal faster. Aim to eat every 3-4 hours (no more, no less) and allow yourself to get a little hungry from time to time before giving in.
Be careful, boredom is often mistaken for hunger. Secondly, you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. The people of Okinawa, Japan practice something called “hara hachi bu”, which translates to “eat until you are 80 percent full.” Instead, slow things down at the dinner table. A good exercise in mindful eating is to take 10 almonds and time yourself so you eat one almond a minute (without any other distractions such as TVs or laptops). This will help your mind and body adjust to slower eating habits.
You’re not drinking enough liquid before/during a meal. While some people believe that too much water with a meal can dilute your digestion, a glass of H2O can go a long way towards blunting your appetite and helping your weight loss goals. One clinical trial confirmed that just two glasses of water before a meal can help you consume between 75 and 90 fewer calories during that meal. Over the course of 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals, three times per day, lost about five pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake. We could all benefit from more water, this is a great motivation to ensure you’re getting your daily requirement.
You aren’t eating enough fibre. A fibre supplement is probably the quickest way to a flatter stomach. On average North Americans only take in 16 grams of fibre a day, while Europeans consume around 22. In a 2011 study researcher from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center examined the link between dietary fibre and visceral fat (the fat that sits deeper in the abdomen, protecting the organs). Too much visceral fat can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and liver disease so it was good news when the study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fibre added to the patients’ diets, there was a 3.7 percent reduction in visceral fat over five years.
While beans, veggies and fruits are great sources of soluble fibre, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends 21 to 38 grams a day for a health adult, and most aren’t getting that. Sprinkling ground flaxseed or chia seeds onto your salad or yogurt are a great place to start to boost your fibre intake as they have four grams of fibre for every tablespoon (45 mL). Ensure that you drink enough water when consuming a fibre supplement since fibre expands in the stomach. Start slowly in order to avoid bloating and gas (as your body adapts to the increase in fibre) and increase as needed.
You think cardio burns more calories than weight training. Although you may be more inclined to hit a spin class over the weight room to shed pounds, sweat isn’t always an indication of calories (or the amount of fat) being burned. A study published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation compared the effects of a 4-month strength training program versus aerobic endurance training on muscle control, muscle strength and cardiovascular health in subjects with type 2 diabetes.
The results of this experiment may give all you cardio burners out there a big surprise: the participants in the weight room lost more than 9 per cent of their body fat, while their counterparts on the treadmill lost an average of just 3 per cent. The metabolic equation is very simple: the more muscle tissue you have, the better your insulin sensitivity (which aids in the reduced risk of diseases from type 2 diabetes to heart disease), and the more calories you will burn, even while at rest. If you love cardio why not split your time between that and weight training the next time you’re at the gym?
You aren’t supplementing with omega-3s. When we eat fatty acids, like those in fish or fish oils, our cell membranes become more receptive to insulin. The more insulin receptors we have on the surface of our cells, the lower our insulin levels. The lower our insulin levels, the less belly fat you have. In general, one three-ounce serving of fatty fish provides one gram of omega-3s, which is roughly the amount in one fish oil capsule. Preliminary research also shows that taking six grams daily of a specific fish oil supplement significantly decreases body fat when combined with exercise.
Considering that to achieve the therapeutic benefits you want to consume 2-3 capsules twice daily, you can imagine how much fish that would amount to. If it didn’t increase your risk of heavy metal exposure it would certainly turn you off from fish for a while. So try combining a regular fish intake with supplements to help your decrease stomach fat and increase health.
The ABCs of vitamin D-3
This vitamin is important to protect you from heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, immune problems and high blood pressure.
Ten minutes in the sun, without sunscreen, will help ensure you get enough vitamin D-3. But be sure to put your sunscreen on after those 10 minutes are up.
Vitamin D-3 is part vitamin, part hormone and completely essential to protect you from heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, immune problems and high blood pressure. Your body need sunshine to kick-start its production, or you can get a leg up from supplements. Getting enough cuts a woman’s risk of developing fibroids by 32 per cent, protects against pneumonia, helps preemies build bones and post-menopausal women avoid osteoporosis.
Around 60 per cent to 80 per cent of North Americans have low levels of vitamin D-3 and half of those are so low they’re at immediate risk for heart problems. So what should YOU do to get enough vitamin D-3?
- Bask in 10 minutes of sunshine (no sunscreen) daily. Added bonus: Sunlight releases nitric acid into your bloodstream, keeping arteries supple. Then apply SPF 30 sunscreen.
- Enjoy salmon, mushrooms and D-3-fortified tofu or non-fat dairy.
- Take a vitamin D-3 supplement (1,000 IU) daily. Tip: Have your vitamin D blood level checked every year. A study of more than 1 million people found that the optimal blood level for heart health is 20 to 36 ng/mL. For cancer prevention, the level is 50 to 80ng/mL.
While we all know that supplementing vitamin D in the winter can decrease your chances of catching a cold or flu, many may not realize that the first rays of spring sunshine should not come as a cue to put your vitamin D away with your winter jacket. Although more sunlight means you’ll make more vitamin D, I still recommend taking at least 2,000 IU daily. And here’s why:
- It improves muscle function if you have chronic pain you may want to reassess your vitamin D levels.
New research shows, for the first time, a link between vitamin D and muscle function, including recovery from exercise and daily activities. It also explains why lower levels can lead to physical fatigue. Similar research done with adolescent girls found that vitamin D is positively related to muscle power, force, velocity and jump height.
And while you may not be too worried about your jump height, this research is relevant if you find it hard to even get to the gym.
- It blunts your appetite. Beyond the clear impact on our mood, gloomy pre-spring weather can indeed make you fat. You produce vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in bright sunlight. Beyond the established immune-enhancing benefits, rising vitamin D levels are also known to activate the production of leptin, which helps us slim down by signalling our brain and our stomach.
A study found that adequate levels of sunlight can significantly reduce obesity. After monitoring more than 3,100 post-menopausal women living in northeast Scotland over a two-year period they discovered that women who had the highest BMI also had the lowest amounts of vitamin D in their blood.
- It can protect lung function. The sunshine vitamin will not only help you feel better, you’ll breathe easier too. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with worse lung function and more rapid decline in lung function over time in smokers. Research suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the effects of smoking on lung function. The number one protector? Not smoking!
- Vitamin D has been proven to lower insulin, improve serotonin levels, enhance your immune system, control appetite and even improve fat-loss efforts.
A study showed women who were given a daily dose of 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 showed improvements in their insulin resistance after six months of supplementation.
If that’s not enough, research also found that higher vitamin D levels in your body at the start of a low-calorie diet improved weight-loss success. Scientists determined that as vitamin D increased in your blood, subjects ended up losing almost a half-pound more on their calorie-restricted diet.
- Vitamin D supplementation can help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Similarly,additional research found that vitamin D deficiency in premenopausal women may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure even 15 years later.
Despite all the health benefits, heading to the supplement store and picking out a vitamin D supplement blindly isn’t enough. You have to choose wisely.
vitamin D3 supplements could provide more benefit than their close relative vitamin D2. The researchers analysed the results of 10 separate studies, involving more than 1,000 people, comparing the health benefits of vitamin D2 and D3, and found a clear favouring of vitamin D3 supplements in raising vitamin D serum levels.
If you flip the label around, you can look for it to say D3 versus D2. If you prefer liquid, place the drops directly under your tongue for best absorption.
Five Ways to Boost Your Metabolism and Burn More Calories
Get your energy back up with these five tips for boosting your body’s thermogenic rate:
- Choose thermogenic foods: Thermic or “thermogenic” foods literally heat you up and speed up your metabolism in what is called thermogenesis. The thermic effect happens as your body burns calories simply by digesting and absorbing the food you’ve just eaten. The very act of eating stimulates your metabolism and this is especially true when you eat protein, which has the highest thermic effect of any food group.
The typical thermic effect of protein is 20 to 35 per cent of energy consumed whereas for carbs, this number usually falls between five and 15 percent! If you’re looking for ways to boost your level of thermogenesis, opt for cruciferous veggies like broccoli and other greens that burn calories during the digestion process. Spices and condiments like cayenne, mustard and even hot salsa will also keep your metabolism revving. A recent study also found that ginger enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of fullness in overweight men. Similarly, eating whole foods encourages a 50 per cent higher thermic effect than processed foods, meaning you’ll boost your metabolism by opting for these healthier options.
- Keep to a regular schedule: Eating at the same time every day, and in regular intervals, will keep your metabolism running like a well-oiled machine.
The great news is that shedding a few pounds will help increase the thermic effect of food (basically how many calories you burn) in processing each meal. Irregular meal frequency has been shown to increase insulin resistance and produce higher fasting lipid (aka cholesterol) profiles. I recommend eating every three to four hours with three meals and two snacks daily.
- Learn to increase your thermic effect in the gym: Another metabolic benefit of protein is that eating it helps to metabolically support active muscle growth, especially if you’re strength training. Essentially this means strength training can increase thermic effect.
The thermic effect of the same meal was 73 per cent greater after even a single bout of resistance training. This certainly helps to illustrate why strength training is so important for optimal calorie burning. Those who do regular cardio, and in turn have a high aerobic capacity (known as VO2 max), burn more calories after eating, particularly after a large meal, than individuals with a low VO2 max. Keep this in mind – if you have more muscle your resting metabolic rate is higher, which means you burn more calories at rest. So get in your protein and your workouts.
- Boost your internal thermostat: The thyroid controls your metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and also maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, all your bodily functions slow down. You feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold and are prone to depression. Nutritional deficiencies may prevent the proper function of thyroid hormone in your body. Iodine and tyrosine are necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone, while selenium is necessary for the normal function of it. Many individuals with decreased thyroid hormone levels also have a zinc deficiency. Both low iron and vitamin D will contribute to reduced thyroid levels as well.
Ensure you’re taking a comprehensive multivitamin daily to avoid any deficiencies. Of course, following the above points to eat balanced, high protein meals in regular intervals will also keep things running smoothly.
- Keep your liver happy: While muscle is your primary fat-burning tissue, your liver is the master fat-burning organ. Compromised liver function not only interferes with your body’s ability to burn fat, but it also hinders the elimination of toxins. To keep your liver healthy be sure to get in eight glasses of water a day (preferably from an alkaline filter) adding freshly squeezed lemon for a cleansing effect and a dash of cayenne pepper for an enhanced thermic effect.
You can also add a liver support product from your health food store that includes any combination of these nutrients: artichoke extract, milk thistle, cysteine, methionine, curcumin and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC). Since both alcohol and many medications, such as Tylenol, are processed through the liver, keep these to a minimum when possible.
As always in science, more research is necessary and always changing with improvements to keep you and help you to become the best you can be.
Check out: MY BOOK to find your guideline for protein intake and many other stats, tips and tricks to help you to become the best you can be.
This information is not meant to treat or diagnose. It is meant to educate readers and be used as a resource when talking to your healthcare provider
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