Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Agave

My Sweet Thoughts: Part Two

The Good, The Bad, The Agave
My Sweet Thoughts:
Part Two

            Like so many people I jumped on the agave nectar bandwagon the moment I heard about it. So many of my natural, healthy, organic friends suggested it to me. I must say, I joined the bandwagon ignorantly which is, well...ignorant. It wasn’t until months later when I decided to embark on a research journey of my own. Though what I gather is only my amateur opinion, I  will say that I invested a significant amount of time in trying to get to the root of agave. 
             Agave is a natural growing plant most commonly found in mexico. Specifically, the Blue Agave plant is used most often to produce agave nectar, this is also the same plant that tequila is derived from. The plant resemble cactus but it is actually a succulent. The heart of the plant, the pina, is surrounded by spiny leaves and after they have been removed the sap can be extracted from the pina. 
                The sap is then heated and filtered. The amount of heating and filtration the sap goes through determines weather the finished product will be a dark or light in color. The final product is agave nectar or agave syrup. The darker colored agave nectar has a richer taste that is more similar to honey or maple syrup. The lighter colored syrup, to me, resembles a taste similar to corn syrup. 
         Regarding taste, agave nectar is an fine alternative to refined sugar. I have used agave nectar to sweeten homemade whip cream, coffee, and tea. I prefer the natural taste of honey, so I tend to also enjoy the taste of agave nectar. 
         Through this process I have learned that, similar to honey, not all agave nectar is created equal. There are a lot of different opinions about agave nectar and I have found an equal amount of information both supporting and opposing agave nectar. 
            The most important thing about agave nectar is choosing one that is raw. Technically, to be raw the agave sap must not be processed over 118 degrees fahrenheit.  The importance of raw agave nectar is all the enzymes and nutrients are left in tact so that we consume them our bodies can use them, making agave nectar a food that “gives back.” The problem I found with this is that there seems to be a lot of controversy about to what tempter they actually heat agave in production. 
         Some raw agave nectars claim to be processed under 118 degrees fahrenheit and whether or not they actually are remains a mystery as any company can label something as “raw.” Some claim that the agave nectar is heated to at least 140 degrees  fahrenheit, which would negate the raw. 
         When agave syrup ferments it will turn into alcohol. Remember, this same plant also produces tequila. So the enzymic activity must be stopped so that the syrup will not ferment sitting on the supermarket shelf or in your kitchen. So if you are consuming agave nectar under the assumption it is a raw food then you may want to think again, because it just may not be.
     Agave nectar is not necessarily a “healthier” alternative to sugar. Yes, agave is not refined as much as sugar and certainly isn’t bleached, the fact is that it might not actually be raw. If indeed, agave nectar is not raw then it isn’t giving anything back to our bodies and is no better for our bodies, nutritionally, than sugar. 
       Be careful when choosing agave nectar because some companies have been found to mix corn syrup in with agave nectar. So what you think you may be consuming is in fact very different. Agave nectar is not low in calories and in fact, contains about the same amount of calories as sugar. However, agave nectar is much sweeter than sugar so less is needed to achieve desired sweetness (similar to honey). Perhaps, you are using an amount that would lower your caloric intake but probably not by much.
              Agave nectar is 90% fructose and only 10% glucose. Glucose is processed through the pancreas which is why agave nectar is considered low on the glycemic index, and is considered (by some) to be a safe alternative for diabetics. However, fructose is processed though the liver and at 90% fructose the liver can’t break this down as sugar fast enough so it begins processing and storing it as fat. 

         There is also a small concern, it seems, among a small group of people concerned that the use of agave nectar could have negative effects on pregnant women. Agave nectar contains natural steroids that could lead to miscarriages. Some believe this issue to be so small that it isn’t a concern. Still, some believe that pregnant women should avoid agave nectar. 
        I think that agave nectar is probably a better alternative than refined sugar but I still believe organic raw honey is better than agave.  I was sad and disappointed to learn  all these negative facts about agave and have decided to cut back on my agave nectar use. My personal verdict on agave nectar now lies somewhere in the middle between the evil corn syrup and the nectar of the gods, honey.  It is certainly better than artificial sweeteners. 
     Just be careful and mindful of agave because it might not be as healthy as you think. Hopefully, in ten years we will have much more information available about agave and we consumers will be able to form more informed decision

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Honey

My Sweet Thoughts: Part One: Honey


         Sick and tired about listening to friends warn me of the safety and healthiness of honey, agave nectar, and stevia, I decided to educate myself. Not surprisingly it is difficult to find credible and non-biased opinions. After spending hours and days scouring the internet I finally came to these conclusions only for my own health. 
     As I choose to live a different food lifestyle ( I am a pesceterian ), I often find that people are judgmental about my decision. After seeing how rudely people responded to my personal food habits I decided I would never impose my decisions on them. For instance, I believe that not eating steroid injected, antibiotic infused, cooped up for it’s entire life in a tiny box beef, is not something I am comfortable with. However, I am in no position to tell someone else it is unhealthy and inhumane of them to continue consuming that meat. If people act interested I love to share my opinions on food and health. But that is all I have, opinions. 
      So I am targeting three sweeteners which I feel have a lot of incorrect information  floating around concerning them. The first of which is honey. The other day someone told me they avoided honey because of all the negative associations with it. Curious, as I had never learned of such, I went looking for myself. 
      As it turns out, honey has almost the same amount of calories as sugar. So, as it pertains to weight loss you might not see many results by switching from sugar to honey. While a teaspoon of honey actually contains more calories than a teaspoon of sugar, honey is much sweeter and therefore less is needed to achieve the desired sweetness. Because less honey is used, the same amount, or sometimes even a smaller amount, of calories are consumed. So, if it’s calories you are focused on then now you understand that honey is no worse than sugar calorically. 
      Not all honey is created equal, this is what I have come to realize. Most of the honey bought at the supermarket is multiple-pollen honey and some of it is even mixed with corn syrup. Bee’s generally stick to one type of pollen therefore the honey they produce will be from only a few types of pollen, and it will be limited to their local pollens. When buying cheaper and mass marketed honey, multiple types of honeys are mixed together. Buying local honey is one of the best ways to ensure you get honey made from local pollens ( I will explain the importance of this later.) Also, often super market honey is mixed with corn syrup, which is unacceptable, as the consumer is often not consuming what they think they are. 
     Also, it is important to find raw honey. Without raw honey there is really no point in consuming honey and there are little benefits over refined sugar. Raw honey is cloudy and milky and contains chunks of honeycomb and wax and occasionally bee fragments. I know, it sounds gross, but trust me the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Most honey we are used to seeing and buying has been heated through pasteurization and filtered, which produces that clear and golden color we associate with honey. The problem with pasteurization is that heating the honey kills some of the natural enzymes and nutrients. So basically, if you are eating non-raw honey you are mostly consuming the sugar and not reaping the benefits. Raw honey is also has antiseptic properties which make it great for a sore throat. 
      The most important thing to remember when choosing honey is raw, raw, raw! The best part about any raw living food is the enzymes which our bodies absorb and use. Once a food is heated, some or all of the enzymes are killed and our bodies don’t absorb them. 
      The second most important thing to remember when choosing honey is local. Don’t worry, if you can’t find local raw honey, non-local honey will do just fine. However, the benefits to local raw honey are great. Bee’s only have the ability to gather local pollen and by gathering local pollen the honey is made from those pollens that sometimes cause allergies. Consuming honey made with local pollens can actually lower allergic reactions to those pollens contained within the honey. It’s natures allergy remedy. 
      Not only can consuming local pollen help out with it allergy season rolls around but it also stimulates local economy, cuts down on wasteful transportation, and boycotts corporations. 
      Just to put everyone at ease, I also searched for drawbacks and negative reactions to honey. I was surprised to find limited information on this. It seems that negative reactions to honey are rare. Honey allergies do exist and honey should be avoided by anyone with a honey allergy. However, only 2%-3% of the united states population suffers from honey allergies. Surprised? I was.Chances are you are not one of the people who suffers from honey allergies and if you are then you probably already know of it, and should avoid honey. 
      The only other negative association I found with honey was infant botulism. Clostridium Botulism spores are present in both honey and corn syrup. Basically, infants bodies are unable to deal with botulism spores and they reproduce rapidly leading to severe symptoms and even fatal ones. That is why honey should never be given to a child under the age of one. In children over one and in adults the botulism spores very, very, rarely cause botulism because our bodies deal with them and the spores do not reproduce, as they do in infants. So again, this is another side effect you are very unlikely to experience. 
      With raw honey we are dealing with a natural and living substance which our bodies easily absorb. One of the reasons our bodies so easily deal with honey is because it has already been digested by the bees, making it much easier for us to digest. That may sound disgusting but it’s a far better process than what refined sugar goes through.
      While brown sugar retains some nutrients, refined white sugar has none and to top it all off it goes through chemical processes to refine it. Proteins, fats, enzymes, and vitamins that would be found in cane juice are all killed by the refining process. There is no way that refined white sugar can exist without being demineralized, because it won’t crystalize. To obtain sugar from cane juice, it goes through a process where it is either treated with sulphur or heated with bisulphide of lime. Chemicals! Give me a bee wing any day! By the way did I mention that refined white sugar is bleached? More chemicals! 
      Sugar has managed to get a bad wrap in our society, it is accused of causing obesity, diabetes, acne, arthritis, and much more. So we Americans, rush out to find things that are low in sugar or contains artificial sweeteners (which I will also address later.) However, it’s only the refined sugars that are truly awful for us. Honey, like everything else should be consumed in moderation. But the majority of our daily sugars should be consumed from fruits and vegetables. Those sugars are the simplest to digest and the ones that “give back” to our systems. 
      Something important to look for in all foods, not just honey, are foods that give back. Natural and raw with living enzymes and nutrients. There are negative and positive things to be said of every consumable product, specifically if you listen to the propaganda put forth by large corporations.
       I am so angered by the television commercials that say high fructose corn syrup is as good as honey. High fructose corn syrup is refined and processed even more than sugar, and denaturing foods makes them unstable to our bodies. Let us pass over the new studies that show many batches of high fructose corn syrup contain mercury and on to other issues. Fructose, in small amounts, actually helps our bodies digest glucose, the problem is we are consuming so much fructose that our bodies turn it directly into fat. Glucose (found in sugar) is processed through the pancreas but fructose is processed through the liver and when so much high fructose is consumed the liver can’t turn it into sugar fast enough so it begins turning it into fats (which are stored most commonly on our butts, thighs, and waistline.) 
       While fructose is found naturally in fruits (and in honey) it is found in small doses that our bodies break down quickly. Honey contains both fructose and glucose which, we know from earlier: the fructose helps our bodies process glucose. High fructose corn syrups and refined sugars are also addictive and we experience a wave of endorphins when we consume them. We also experience elevated energy levels, however when the wave crashes so do our moods and energy levels. Our brain tells us to consume more sugar to experience that rush of endorphins and energy surge again and the cycle continues. 
       I’m not saying people should eat a jar of honey a day. Honey should be consumed in moderation and should just be considered a safer alternative to processed high fructose corn syrups and refined sugars. However, the fact that raw honey contributes to our bodies makes it healthier. So unless you are one of the 2%-3% of all Americans who suffer from honey allergies there is no need to worry. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Unmovable, the Ignorant, and the Rude.

      I often hear from people that I come off cold or bitchy. I have to assume this is because I don’t put on an act for people. I won’t ask how you are if I don’t care because I don’t think about it because, well, I don’t care. Conversely, if I do ask you know that I really care. It’s funny how in our society I am considered a rude person for not wanting to have conversations with every single person I come in contact with all day every day but I seem to abide by more common curtesy rules than everyone else. To me it is the people that choose to ignore these unwritten common sense rules that are the callow. 
     For instance, there are the people who walk down the side walk two or three people wide and don’t move into single file when a person coming the opposite direction passes. Once a girl told me that while she was walking on campus and there was a group of immovables coming towards her she would lock her arms, stiffen her body, bury her head down looking at her cel-phone and just barge through them. I applaud her bold move to stand her ground. 
     While waiting on a table at work the other night, I had a tray full of drinks in my left hand. I was standing still and girl ran into me from behind knocking all my drinks over, spilling off my tray and onto one of the guests at my table. All of her friends laughed, as if something so rude could be funny and then she said “Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” No, I don’t believe that. I believe she didn’t want to see me. I was so angry I had a raging fire in my eyes and I turned and looked at her and said “Standing her?!?! You didn’t see me STANDING here?” She didn’t just bump me, she ran into me hard and hard enough to knock over a tray full of drinks. Costing me time, the bar money, and the guy in front of me comfort, for the moment.  
     Wake up people, this is life. This isn’t a game this is REAL life. Things happen. Things YOU do will cause a chain reaction and people don’t pay attention when they are doing something as simple as walking! Why can’t people simply think before they act and put slightly more effort into awareness. 
     What about the woman who blatantly cut in front of me at the movie theatre and acted as if she didn’t know? You don’t cut in a line without knowing. This isn’t second grade ma’am, your well over 40 so learn how to stand in line and wait like the rest of us. Or the woman that came into a movie 15 minutes late and then asked me to move so her group could sit together. Let’s see I got here 20 minutes early, picked out my seat and have my drink and popcorn situated and you want me to move. How rude, why can’t your group break up? If you wanted to sit together so badly, you would have made it on time. 
     There are people who talk down to me constantly because I am just a waitress. I don’t suppose they remember that to me they are just a customer. What gives you the right to be rude to me simply because I am a waitress?
     Think about these things the next time you judge someone to be rude because they are probably less rude than you are. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guess I'm Not an American

       I was disgusted the other day when I tuned into a local Mississippi talk show and the two “conservative” talk show hosts were talking about the food eating contest they were holding at a fair. Shows like “Man vs. Food” and restaurants that offer challenges for largely portioned meals are simply glorifying the gluttony of today’s Americans . There is a certain pride that people take in their overindulgence and grossly obese bodies that astounds me. 
        The more I curb my own eating habits the more I am disgusted by the acceptance of overindulgence.  For instance, I stopped eating pork a year and a half ago and since then I have taken noticed just how much bacon is on or in food items like hamburgers, pizza, pasta, dips, salads, salad dressings, sandwiches, seafood, and the list goes on and on. Processed meats can increase the risk of heart disease by 42 percent and diabetes by 19 percent. Bacon has four times the amount of salt than unprocessed meat. You can add bacon to something at almost any restaurant. 
       As children, most are encouraged by parents to “clean their plate,” and even punished if they do not. Gone are the days when food was scarce and you ate when you could. America now over produces and as a result over consume because it is there. I am happy that my parents never forced us to clean our plates because as an adult I don’t have guilt when I don’t. Actually, I like enjoy the thought of having leftovers. 
       My personal belief is “everything in moderation.” Of course bacon is good for you but having bacon every Saturday morning with breakfast becomes a treat instead of a condiment. It would seem crazy to eat ice cream three meals a day but for some reason I can’t understand it’s okay to eat three fried meals a day or high calories fast food for every meal. Even more disgusting to me is watching parents pour sweet tea into their children's bottles or sip cups. All this is doing is perpetuating the obesity problem. 
      Shocking to me is that parents will feed their children crap. Parents only choice are not high fructose corn syrup sodas and poisonous saccharine loaded diet sodas. What happened to water? Why not a healthy vegetable wrap instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or macaroni and cheese? The excuse that their children won’t eat healthy food is simply the parents laziness. They don’t want to work with their children and teach them healthy eating habits. 
       People are concerned about what type of clothes they are seen in, the make of car they drive, shoes they wear, and skincare products. Why is it acceptable to be more concerned with the television sitting in a living room than the contents of the food we put into our bodies. Most people haven’t a clue about the ingredients of items they consume and that’s okay to them. I’m tired of the excuse that it’s expensive to eat healthy. Life is full of sacrifices and I think living a healthy life means making sacrifices. 
       American’s already spend such a low percentage of take home pay on food especially in comparison to other countries. Yes, it is sad that a frozen pizza is cheeper than organic vine ripened tomatoes but the i-phone in hand might have helped pay for a healthier lifestyle. For me, it’s time to take a stand and make a sacrifice for life. I think American’s are like sheep when it pertains to their food; go along blindly and silently.
        I wish I could grab people and shake them awake and open their eyes, but for some reason people are very defensive about their unhealthy eating habits. It’s easier to keep my mouth shut then try to sell them what they aren’t in the market for. Not only are they not open to changing their life but they are unsupportive of me changing mine. One time a customer asked me how a new item on our menu was and I replied, “I haven’t had it because I don’t eat meat.” His response was, “Well that’s just not American.”
       Someday, I believe, history books will reflect on a time when America sickened themselves with food. Just as we look back and think, “They used to allow smoking on airplanes?” Future generations will look back on these generation’s gluttony in disgust. Until then, it’s time to vote with my dollar for healthy, organic, and local foods. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Your World and I Just Live in It.

Remember the show “Whinnie The Pooh”? How could you forget right? Now, consider who your favorite character was. Pooh? Piglet? Tigger? Perhaps even Roo or Owl. I admit as I child I loved Tigger and Piglet. But as an adult I find myself drawn to and identifying with Rabbit. 
      Rabbit, the ornery and cranky, anal retentive kill joy. He was the fun-suck of the show, remember? I’m pretty certain that now I am Rabbit in a Hundred Acre Woods of a world. Rabbit just wanted to farm, grow his carrots, and be left to his work. However, he was constantly bombarded with his neighbors shenanigans. But Rabbit is the douche at fault, or at least that is what children are left to glean from the show. 
     There he is hard at work farming and trying to make a solid life for himself. Rabbit never fell back on the government assistance. He did not visit the WIC office or have an EBT card. He just wanted to work, that’s all And work he did until those adorable bumbling idiots came around to botch all his efforts. 
     But why is it we are supposed to love and adore the half wit lazy cuddly little chubby all stuffed with fluffy? What about Rabbit? Everyone around him is running around acting like a jerk and mucking up his achievements. Just leave him alone and give him credit for all his hard work. 
     “Sheep Brains” as a co-worker of mine describes it. People have sheep brains and boy is he correct. Worship and love the silly, funny, and adorable teddy bear but not the stick in the mud, hardworking farmer, eh?
     I work hard, every night as a cocktail waitress. It may be a “white trash job” but I do it well dammit and I do it with integrity. So why am I rewarded with one dollar tips and  a-holes puking on the floor or blowing their ass out in our bathroom all over the wall. This is real life people. Stop waking up to smell the roses. Wake up and live.
     I tell you people,” Hi I’m Rabbit and I live in the Hundred Acre Woods. Nice to meet you fools.”

It's Time to Dress Like an Adult

    Trend I am ready to die out: Nike tempo shorts & UGG boots. True, Nike Tempo shorts are perfect for exercising and UGG boots are warm and comfortable. But not together. I’m talking to you Alpha Phi Beta Kappa Zapppa, whatever you are. UGG boots, Nike tempo shorts, T-shirt, I’m going to prom makeup, and bump it- it’s like schizophrenic fashion. 

     Make no mistake. I love makeup. I love everything about it, putting it on, looking at it, taking it off, but you’ll never see me pairing a smokey eye with a sports bra and sweatpants. Makeup is an accessory and this crazy overdone face just doesn’t go well alongside dress down attire. So take it down two notches. Most of those same girls have gorgeous skin any ways and really don’t need the makeup.

     Next, lets get to the Bump It. I get it. Not everyone can have my thick luscious flowing hair, but enough about me. Bump Its have their time and place and do a great service for everyone who needs a poof quick, fast, in a hurry, that will last all night. That time and place is not when you’re having lunch in an Applebee’s wearing running clothes. 

     I really do not understand the obsession girls have with these Tempo shorts. Because of the over use and abuse of these amazing shorts I have decided to boycott them as I don’t want to be associated with the idiots who wear them 24/7. I instead opted for some Underarmor shorts that are exactly the same, were 1/2 the price, and I wear them responsibly; when I’m exercising. Let’s not forget the fact that these girls wear these all day every day and they have built in underwear and that just seems unsanitary. 

     More disturbing is the fact that they are paired with UGG boots. If you’re going for the sporty look please leave the UGG boots out. Instead, try your UGG boots with a comfortable sweater and some skinny jeans. UGG boots and tempo shorts look as stupid together as flip flops and corduroy pants with a winter jacket; ridiculous. 

     Last December a girl asked me to turn the air down. I assessed her outfit, a t-shirt, tempo shorts, and UGG boots and promptly told her “no”. It’s December put on a coat and some pants for God sakes. If you’re dumb enough to wear that outfit you deserve to freeze and I hope you die of hypothermia so we can burn your hideous outfit. 

     This is by far the fashion trend that makes me angry in a place deep inside that makes me want to run these girls over with my car. The only thing that makes this fashion trend worse is the fact that sometimes it is accessorized with tights. Tights! How absurd do you look wearing tights with those?
Who started this trend and when will it end? Take that costume out of your repertoire and replace it with something more sophisticated, you are in college after all.