Category Archives: splenda dangers

Top 10 Foods You’ll Never Find in My Kitchen

One question I get asked fairly frequently is, “What do you eat?” That is a great question, so I thought I’d start by sharing what I don’t eat. I also want to share that our eating habits should never become set in stone or overly rigid, but will need to evolve and be “tweaked” as our health changes and as deficiencies or weaknesses are eliminated. I eat a much different Toxic Symbolsvariety of foods now than I did three years ago. I encourage everyone to listen to your body and to make adjustments to lifestyle habits when you begin noticing issues that indicate a change is needed. As always, work with and rely on your health practitioner to help you identify problem areas and to provide medical intervention when needed.

Before I share my list, let me share that I try to eat “whole” foods, meaning I strictly avoid processed foods. A “whole food” eating style includes foods that are fairly close to how they appear in nature. Does it require a lot of cooking from scratch? Yes. Is it more time consuming? Not when done simply. I didn’t list processed foods on my list of foods I avoid, but know that few foods enter my kitchen in a box. Here are the top 10 foods you’ll never find in my kitchen:

  • Margarine (all hydrogenated/trans fat oils): In my house, we use good ol’ butter … the real thing … and have no worries about high cholesterol. Hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats,” are known to contribute to heart disease, are known to be highly inflammatory, and are created in a chemical process that attaches a hydrogen molecule to natural oil molecules to make them solid at room temperature. They are patently unhealthy. The nice thing about eliminating trans fats and hydrogenated oils from my kitchen is that it automatically eliminates most baked goods, donuts, and other high-carbohydrate foods. An interesting note is that even though a food’s label states “0 Trans Fat,” the food can contain up to .5 grams of trans fat/hydrogenated oils and still be labeled “0.” Since many companies’ labels list the nutritional information for “serving sizes” which are incredibly small, this means that a “normal” serving size may deliver a high amount of trans fats but the label can still legally say, “Contains no trans fat.” It makes no sense. The bottom line is that absolutely no serving of trans fats is acceptable in terms of health, so the current FDA guidelines allowing 0.5 to be labeled “0” are in need of major overhaul. In our kitchen, we use extra virgin olive oil for cold products (salad dressings, etc.) and extra virgin coconut oil for any cooking that requires oil. The coconut oil does not deteriorate in heat and contains very healthy medium-chain fatty acids which are known to assist with balancing cholesterol levels. (The rumors that coconut oil is a saturated fat that is bad for coronary health are false and completely ignore coconut oil’s very special chemical structure.)
  • Soy: I know including this on my list is controversial, but I avoid soy at all costs. Over 90% of soy in this country is genetically modified, it is one of the most rapidly rising allergens in the US, it is known to harm thyroid function, and it is highly estrogenic and may interfere with normal reproductive cycles in children, men and pre-menopausal women. The only form of soy I can advocate is organic and fermented, and then no more than once or twice a week. On a side note, I was a vegan for over two years and ate no soy. It is very possible to be a vegetarian or vegan, not eat soy, and still get more than enough protein.
  • Artificial Sweeteners: I only use pure stevia, an herbal sweetener. I carry stevia with me at all times so I never need to use saccharin, sucralose, aspartame or any of the other potentially dangerous sweeteners. Please read Why You Should Never Eat Splenda (Sucralose) for more information. Let me also state that many products claiming to be stevia are actually highly processed chemical versions of stevia and are not much better than other artificial sweeteners. My favorite stevia is a pure extract that is well filtered. My brand of choice is Sweet Leaf. Click the link to view samples of their products.
  • Non-organic meat and dairy: I refuse to purchase meat from animals which were given antibiotics and hormones during their life cycle. Ingesting meat containing those items is simply not healthy. My preference is to eat meat that was locally grown, pasture-raised/free range, and which was fed foods that it would choose to eat naturally. The reason for this is that the meat from organically, sustainably raised animals has a healthier fatty-acid content, lower acidity, and is healthier in general. I am willing to purchase meat that is raised this way but which is not organically certified. I ask a lot of questions of the farmer to ensure the very best methods for animal and environment were used while the animals were being raised.
  • Genetically modified foods: This is one I really can’t do justice to in a single paragraph, but I aim for a 100% organic diet so that I can avoid having genetically modified foods in my home. I will share that I don’t always eat at home. I am very aware that the foods I eat in restaurants may contain many of the items included on this list. I make good choices when eating out and trust that my exposure is far too limited to cause grave damage. The most prevalent genetically modified foods include: soy & all soy products, canola oil, cottonseed oil, beet sugar (most white sugar is beet sugar unless specifically identified as cane sugar), corn, papaya, zucchini and summer squashes, cassava, golden rice and flood-resistant rice. Organic produce cannot be genetically modified, but there is rising concern that organic crops have been contaminated by cross-pollination from genetically modified crops. A group of almost 300,000 farmers in the US are currently suing the Monsanto company for cross-contaminating their crops. My hope is that these farmers win their suit.
  • White sugar and flour: Processed sugars and flours obviously don’t fit the “whole food” lifestyle. They additionally have been stripped of almost all nutritional value. For this reason, they are banned from my kitchen, and I try very hard to ignore it when my son purchases white bread for his own consumption. (Teenagers … what’re you gonna’ do?)
  • High fructose corn syrup:  The commercials paid for by the Corn Refiners Association are lying to you. (It is interesting to note that the Center for Science in Public Interest has challenged these commercials and is lobbying to have them removed from the air.) High fructose corn syrup, now hidden and listed as “corn sugar” on food labels, is metabolized very differently from white sugar in the body. Multiple studies proved that rats fed high amounts of high fructose corn syrup developed pre-diabetic symptoms, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, gained weight around the abdominal area, and gained as much as 45% of their body weight in a short time. (Rats fed sugar-water instead of the high fructose corn syrup did not experience the same effects.) This same pattern is being repeated in the US population. One estimate I saw said the average person in the US eats 41.5 POUNDS of high fructose corn syrup each year. In addition to being excessively high in sugar and high glycemic impact carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup has a metabolic effect that “turns off” the hormone in your body that tells you when you’re full. Ever notice you just can’t get enough to eat when you’re eating a food that contains high fructose corn syrup? There’s a true, hormonal metabolic reason. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Start looking for it on labels. It’s in most condiments, many soft drinks, juices, many cereals and baked goods, many fruit-flavored yogurts, many breads, and many products you would never suspect to contain it. Eliminating this single ingredient has had an amazing effect on blood sugar and weight loss for some people. I encourage you to consider eliminating it.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Clinical Journal of Epigenics recently released a peer-reviewed study that  definitely connects rising rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders to high fructose corn syrup and other environmental toxins. I STRONGLY encourage all mothers of young children and all pregnant women to please completely eliminate this food ingredient from your diet.

  • Microwave meals: I never use a microwave. Period. I’d rather eat food cold than heat it in a microwave. There is a lot of controversy associated with microwave ovens, but the following facts remain: a) Microwaves convert the active, bioavailable from of B12 contained in food to an inactive form that is not easily absorbed (the same effect is noticed in other B vitamins); microwaving breast milk eliminates the protective antiviral and immune-boosting properties of the milk; microwaving garlic completely eliminates garlic’s antiviral and antibacterial properties; blood levels of hemoglobin were found to dramatically fall after a microwaved food was eaten but this drop did not occur when the same food was eaten after being cooked on the stove or in an oven. It is also very true that microwaving meats (blood-containing foods) changes the chemical structure of the meat. Among other things, the amount of carcinogens in the meat is increased. (A highly-publicized court case in the 90s occurred when a nurse gently microwaved blood before transfusing it into a patient. The chemical structure of the blood was modified in such a way that the patient’s body rejected it and the patient died.) It’s also interesting to note that chemists discovered long ago that chemical processes which should have taken days or weeks to complete were dramatically sped up if they were microwaved a short time. This correlates to other studies which showed that cell death (apoptosis) was hastened by microwaves. Those reasons are enough for me. I prefer to not change the molecular structure of my food before eating it. Period.
  • White processed salt: There is absolutely no truth to the myth that sodium is bad for heart health. What is bad for heart health is processed white salt, the same type that is most commonly used in processed foods and restaurants. (And let’s be honest … any food in a box is processed. Read the labels and familiarize yourself with what you’re eating.) Every cell in your body maintains a very delicate balance of sodium and potassium. Sodium is essential for human life, but not in the the form most commonly added to foods. True salt has some color to it and contains essential trace minerals. I actually find that many people’s high blood pressure falls when they start using a mineral-rich salt (in small amounts) such as Himalayan Sea Salt (which is pink) or Celtic Sea Salt (which is gray). The truth is that common, iodized white table salt has been so heavily processed that all other trace minerals have been removed. The end result is a non-organic chemical – sodium chloride – which your body does not recognize. The water retention and elevated blood pressure caused by common table salt occurs because your body exerts so much energy to eliminating the salt from your body. Your body will isolate the sodium and chloride and will pull water out of your cells and tissues to surround the sodium and chloride molecules with water in order to neutralize them. This causes water retention and elevated blood pressure. Many sea salts sold today as “natural” are also highly processed and bear little or no advantage over common table salt. Another issue with regular sea salt is that it contains pollutants common to sea water. My favorite salt is Himalayan Sea Salt. Its pink color is an obvious indicator that it contains higher amounts of minerals than white salt does. Himalayan sea salt was deposited in the Himalayas thousands of years ago, so contamination is not a concern. Using an unprocessed, natural salt is definitely healthier than using a salt that is the result of a chemical process. On a side note, my husband often comments that Himalayan Sea Salt just plain tastes better, so it’s a win-win.
  • Bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs and lunch meats with nitrates: In addition to being highly processed, loaded with unhealthy fat and high in white salt (see above), these meats – sometimes of questionable origin – also contain preservatives called sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite. These chemicals interfere with red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body and have been implicated in erectile dysfunction and blue baby syndrome. They break down into nitrosamines in the body, which are a chemical known to be highly carcinogenic. The good news is that it is possible to find nitrate-free bacon and lunchmeats in many grocery stores. Unprocessed bacon actually tastes better to me than the processed variety. I don’t eat bacon very often, but when I do it’s always nitrate-free.

There you have it. Can you think of any foods that need to be added to this list? Please share!

Photograph courtesy of Daniel Y. Go

Why You Should NEVER Use Splenda (Sucralose)

The Dangers of Splenda (Sucralose)

I’m often asked which artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes I prefer. The answer, quite simply, is few of them because splendamost create a wide variety of negative side effects. The newest, Splenda (Sucralose), has its own dangerous history and set of dangerous consequences. The dangers of Sucralose and the side effects of Sucralose cannot be denied. Sucralose is marketed as Splenda. I use both names in this post.

If you’re interested in reading about another common product which research has proved to be dangerous, please read my post: Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer: The Dangers of Triclosan.

Let’s look at some surprising facts about Sucralose:

Sucralose History & Testing

Sucralose was discovered by a grad student in London in 1976 while working on a study focused on creasing new INSECTICIDES. That’s right. Splenda was “accidentally” discovered as part of a research study focused on creating new insecticides. (On a side note, DDT, a poison now banned, has a very similar chemical structure to Sucralose. Doesn’t that sound delicious?) McNeil Nutritionals, the manufacturer of Splenda, claims that 100s of studies were done on Splenda. The truth is that most of those studies were designed and paid for by McNeil (which puts their validity in question) and that almost all the studies were performed on animals, were very short term, and did not test safety but instead tested secondary effects such as tooth decay. The truth is that only six human studies were conducted, the longest of which was three months. (Most people use Splenda far longer.) For more information on the ways research studies and their results are often faulty, please read my post Simple Ways to Evaluate the Validity of a Research Study.

NO studies on Sucralose safety have been conducted on children or pregnant women, in spite of the fact that studies performed on rats showed the offspring of pregnant females fed Splenda had decreased intelligence, smaller sexual organs, failed to thrive and had a variety of behavioral problems. Independent human studies showed Splenda impaired liver function, caused enlarged kidneys and liver, decreased the number of red blood cells in the blood (caused anemia), impaired absorption of essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium, and caused significant shrinkage of the Thymus gland, one of the most important glands involved in immunity. Splenda side effects have also been strongly linked to psychological problems including dementia, severe depression and sleep disorders. Splenda has also been linked to increased rates of autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Diabetes and others. The most common side effect of Splenda is digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Increased cataract rates were also noted. The biggest insult is that use of Splenda has been linked to … you guessed it … weight gain. An independent study performed at Duke University and published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health confirmed that use of Splenda causes side effects such as weight gain and multiple digestive disorders, some with symptoms as severe as Crohn’s Disease. If you haven’t thrown away your box of Splenda yet, please read on.

Chemical Structure of Sucralose

Proponents of Sucralose claim that it is “natural” because it’s made from sugar. The truth is that chemists took the natural sugar molecule and combined it with chlorine. Chlorine is a known poison which is very commonly used in insecticides and in current and past biological warfare agents. (Remember the Chlorine Gas used in WWII? More recent biological warfare agents still use chlorine but are even more deadly.) McNeil claims chlorine occurs in nature and in our foods, another untruth. The truth is that chlorine only occurs in chemistry labs. Chloride occurs in nature, but only when combined with other chemicals that make it a non-poison. One of the reasons Splenda has no immediate effect on blood sugar is because your body does not recognize it and it cannot be absorbed by the digestive tract. The problem, which McNeil admits, is that your body does absorb 15-18% of the Splenda consumed, but your body has no means to eliminate it because it’s a chemical structure your body was not designed to eliminate. (GMOs loosely fall into this same category, but that’s another topic for another time.) So … your body is absorbing chlorine from Splenda, but the chlorine – a known poison – has an almost indefinite afterlife in your tissues. Tissues and cells which have absorbed a toxic substance do not function correctly. Period.

If those terms were overly simplified, here’s the chemical explanation: To create Splenda, the organic sugar molecule is treated with acetic anhydride, trityl chloride, hydrogen chloride, thionyl chloride and methanol. This all occurs in combination with toluene, dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide. The end result is not a sugar molecule, but is a chlorinated hydrocarbon molecule. The most common uses of chlorinated hydrocarbons include insecticides, chemical solvents and degreasers, and the production of plastics. Many chlorinated hydrocarbons are being banned from industrial use because of their environmental toxicity and because their use accelerates the destruction of the ozone layer. Does that sound like something you want to consume on a daily basis?

Needless to say, Splenda (and Nutrasweet) are banned substances in my home. The side effects and dangers of Splenda are too dangerous to allow. A fairly complete list of commercial products containing Sucralose can be found at: Sucralose US Product List. The list is shockingly huge and contains products aimed at children. This concerns me greatly.

Sugar Substitute Alternatives

My choice of a non-caloric sweetener and sugar substitute that has no glycemic effect is Stevia. Stevia is an herb which is 300 times sweeter than sugar but which has NO side effects. It is the only sweetener (other than coconut sugar and agave nectar) we use in our house. My favorite Stevia is made by SweetLeaf. I carry it with me everywhere. You can purchase it in most groceries or on Amazon at: SweetLeaf Packets or SweetLeaf Liquid.

If you want additional information on the dangers of artificial sweeteners, I highly recommend Dr. Mercola’s book, Sweet Deception. Click the link to learn more about the book.

Just out of curiosity, what sweetener do you use? Have you had negative effects from an artificial sweetener? If so, please share! Help others avoid the danger!