Agave Nectar Good or Bad?

Recently I posted this little tidbit of information on Facebook about the top 10 Worst Food Ingredients.  Agave Nectar was mentioned on the same list as MSG, Aspartame and High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Does this surprise you?  I was not surprised to see it on the list since, just about 5 weeks earlier I listened to an interview done with David Getoff; a Naturopath and board certified Nutritionist.  His interview revealed the truth about sweeteners such as Agave Nectar.  Since I had not taken notes during that interview, I decided to contact David by email to request some more information about Agave.  He very quickly replied and sent me a 1 hour audio file on sweeteners – which you can listen to in full on his website.

The Shocking Truth:

What we don’t know as consumers is how our food usually is manufactured. Whether that is a plant based or meat based product, we often have blinders on, or some of you may just choose to not know.  Well…not me.  I want to know about my food, and sometimes I think I wish that I didn’t, but I can’t help but be curious about everything I put in front of my family to eat.  When I first discovered Agave Nectar a few years ago, I thought it was too good to be true.  I was a parent who did not allow white sugar in the home, nor did I bake with it.  When I discovered I could bake with it instead of maple syrup I thought I was in Sugar Heaven!!

The truth is, agave nectar is highly processed and the industry has cheated in marketing it to the public.  First, it is not completely raw – meaning that it has been heated in order to get the sweetness out of it.  There may be some companies out there that claim to be raw, but if this important, then do your research and consider the alternatives.  Second, agave nectar has been promoted as a sweetener for diabetics since it is low glycemic.  I have discovered this is impossible to concur, since Agave Nectar is Fructose and not Glucose.  The test used to show an item on the glycemic index measures blood glucose, and the rate at which the food is turned into glucose in your blood.  Well….agave nectar is FRUCTOSE, which means it does NOT convert to glucose at all, therefore cannot accurately be measured by a blood glucose test.  You would need to do a blood Fructose test to measure this.  So, seems like it’s been a marketing scam to trick the public into thinking this is a healthy alternative.  In reality, consumption of Fructose leads to insulin resistance and fatty liver disease, which usually happens without the person knowing it.  Fructose is one of the major causes of Type 2 Diabetes.

As a consumer and parent, you need to be aware of these discrepancies.  Agave Nectar can sometimes even be higher in Fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup, especially when purchased in large quantities by bakers and large companies that make snacks using Agave Nectar.  The agave they purchase can be higher concentrated so they can use less, save money, but make their sweet treats even sweeter – and more unhealthy for the naive consumer.

So now What?

Mr. David Getoff sites some great resources in the audio file on his website.  He also recommends other sweeteners that are healthier.  I have personally replaced all my agave nectar (after using it up) with Yacon Syrup.  Since Yacon is plant based, but again is new and still requires further research to identify it’s health benefits, I am limiting the amount of sweet treats at home.  I think no matter what we do as parents and consumers, it’s important to remember that even ‘healthy’ alternatives need to be moderated and to not go overboard in thinking, “well it’s healthy for me so I can eat lots of it”.  The other sweeteners recommended by David Getoff are Stevia and LoHan (Luohan) – but I will save those for another post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Agave Nectar! Do you use it in your home? Will you continue to use it?

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Junk Food Laws Just Junk?

There is probably not one day out of the week I am not talking to my kids about nutrition.  I think there is so much in the world that gives children mixed messages, that it is my role and responsibility to prepare them for life and good health.  So, in our house we have standards – not laws – but standards or guidelines about junk food.  Although this is probably not as clear to my husband as it is to me, the kids have learned what is healthy and what is not.  But what about society?  What about rules or laws that the government can impose in schools?  Are they helpful?  What about advertisements and marketing ploys targeted at children? How do these effect health and nutrition?

It should be no surprise to all parents that children are the target of many marketing strategies.  However, did you know that children have been estimated to view 40,000 ads per year on television alone?  Of these, half are related to food! These ads are most likely for sugary cereals and high calorie snack food.  My 9 year old once asked me “Mom, how come there are never any advertisements for healthy food?”  My answer to that is “because it doesn’t make enough money for the large corporations”.  Healthy foods are advertised less than 3% of the time, as reported by Kukel & Gantz (1991). cold bananas

So would making junk food laws help kids to be healthier? Would it really encourage healthier decision-making as they get older?

What we do know is that advertising healthy foods has been shown to increase better eating habits among children ages 3-6 years, as reported by Gorn & Goldberg (1982), but what I wonder is if junk food laws will actually encourage children to make healthier food choices?  My instinct tells me “No”.  It just means that while at school they eat what is there, but when they return home, or out with friends on the weekends they eat what is given to them by their parents.  Teens will make choices based on what happened in their childhood. 

A recent study published by Pediatrics studied the BMI (body mass index) of young people and how it relates to Government regulations in supplying nutrition information on food not provided by the school.  I would understand that to be, vending machines and food not ‘served’ by the cafeteria.  So, I’d love to know what my good ole friend Jamie Oliver must think! I would love to see these researchers conduct the same study to see if the children still ate the ‘state supplied food’ when given all the nutritional information.  Even though researchers are excited this is the first real evidence to give hope that laws will impact obesity, I think it’s pretty far from that.  As a parent I need to see more than a  5% improvement, as there are still the remaining 18% of eighth graders that are obese (see this article).

What about all the marketing that influences food choice?  What about demographics of families and how this impacts obesity, and even the children’s ability to read and understand nutritional information provided on the outside of a vending machine?  It’s almost another approach that will continue to keep the poorer children less healthy and more obese.

I understand that children spend a lot of time in school during their lifetime, but they also learn eating habits and choices from their parents.  Obesity is learned in a sense, since it is poor eating habits and poor exercise habits that also contribute.  So will a state law really matter if Johnny returns home to eat pogos and fries for supper and sits on the couch all night?  Children are the most impressionable during the first 6 years of their life, so why not start teaching and guiding them from birth?  Start with promoting breastfeeding (evidence suggests it decreases obesity as well) and then teach healthy eating in daycare centers, and early learning environments AND at home.  Teach parents to teach their children about mindful eating and healthy choices.  Then by elementary school your child won’t be part of the 20% obesity rate.

What do you think?  Do you think laws about food, nutrition or even marketing to children need to be enforced to improve the health of all children? 

 

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Cross Referenced from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/118/6/2563.full#ref-58

Kunkel D, Gantz W. Television Advertising to Children: Message Content in 1990—Report to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the National Advertising Division, Council of Better Business Bureaus. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University; 1991

Gorn GH, Goldberg ME. Behavioral evidence of the effects of televised food messages on children. J Consum Res.1982;9 :200– 205

Miracle Cure in 2065

Disclaimer: This post is a fictional news story about a miracle cure for common diseases.  It is by no means a statement on how to treat any health condition.  Please seek medical advice if searching for a cure for any of the ailments discussed in this fictional writing.

 

day 20

Today’s writing challenge is to write about a miracle cure.  Enjoy my FICTIONAL news article!

MAN HEALS MULTIPLE DISEASES WITH MIRACLE CURE – - April 2065

A 58 year old man from North Bay, Ontario, Canada has doctors confused as to where his symptoms have gone since he arrived in his doctor’s office 3 years ago.  George Strongbones, was first diagnosed with cancer 3 years ago.  As a young boy, George suffered from asthma, skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, allergies and for the past 15 years has also been on blood pressure medication for his elevated readings.  But, everything changed 9 months ago, when he scheduled a visit with his doctor for a check up.  The doctor could not believe the blood pressure reading had normalized, George’s skin and allergies had disappeared, and preliminary tests had shown  no cancer in his body, even though George declined traditional chemotherapy and radiation treatment 3 years ago.

According to George Strongbones his cure is something that everybody can do.  “I eat only living foods,” he says.  A living food is defined by anything that is not cooked or altered at all.  George has been travelling the world to discover natural treatments in  food for his ailments.  He says, “the first symptoms to disappear were my skin conditions, then slowly my asthma also disappeared. I have been recording my blood pressure for 1 year and slowly decreasing my medication as my body changed. I feel great!”  The biggest surprise to most people was that his cancer had simply disappeared.  Dr. Pharma of North Bay commented, “we have never seen somebody cure themselves just by changing what they eat.  It truly can be seen as a miracle cure”. 

George Strongbones is not the only patient to have tried to cure different ailments with food.  In many places around the world you will find testimonials like this one, but it comes down to how much are you willing to change if it can change your life?  George says, “I didn’t want to die not trying everything.  If cancer was going to kill me, I wanted to know that it was going to have fight me in order to kill me.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but after a lot of research and exploring new recipes, within 3 years I have been able to completely change my life.  I am so happy I decided to make this change, and everyone can do it!  You don’t have to travel the world to do it, you can survive off the local food in your own country to treat disease.”

We asked Dr. Pharma what he thought about this and he declined to comment.

We asked George how easy it would be for anybody to make this change.  He replied, “the standard diet that people are eating in this year of 2065 is killing us.  Our expected lifespan of my grandchildren is only 60 years.  Something has to change.  Instead of putting money in the pockets of companies that are creating food that is dead, put your money into the pockets of local farmers, or grow your own fruits and vegetables.  It will save your life!  It saved mine.”

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What can you live without?

Day 13

Today’s prompt is to write about 10 things we can’t live without.  My initial reaction to this, is that its going to be difficult and I am not too sure that I want to write about “things” I can’t live without.  I find that the world is so material and that we stress so much importance on the material things that surround us.  But, honestly I think I would figure out how to live without material things if I had to.  Yes, it would be hard that is for sure, since I have come to rely on so many things (like electricity), but I am a determined person that if I had to figure something out to survive I would do it.

So here is my list of non-material things that I could NOT live without, for that is what truly makes me happy:

  1. Laying next to my youngest feeling his warm body heat against mine;
  2. Weekday picnics at the park with all my kids;
  3. Hugs;DSC_0846
  4. Family snuggle time in our big bed in front of the fireplace on a cold, snowy day;
  5. Story time; whether it be reading books or telling each other stories;
  6. A child’s perspective on life;
  7. Special alone time with each of my children and my husband;
  8. My voice and all my senses;
  9. A big sister;
  10. Loving parents

These are a few of my favourite things – and not to sound like the Sound of Music, but really, is material possessions what make us happy or is it non-material  experiences that give us the inner strength, esteem and guidance we need each day?  Maybe Julie Andrews was right after all…when I think of this list I don’t feel so bad.

This makes me want to simplify, and challenge myself and my family to live without.  So here is an extended list of 10 things I COULD live without.

  1. Cable television;
  2. sugar;
  3. clutter;
  4. daily newspaper;
  5. flyers;
  6. telephone;
  7. movies;
  8. Christmas decorations;
  9. kids toys (although my kids would disagree, but I would let them pick their favourites);
  10. cosmetics

What about your list? I would love to see it – post on your blog and send me a link or comment below.

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This post was part of the WEGO health writer`s challenge for April 2012. You can read all my posts for the challenge here.

“True Health Lies Within”

HAWMC_2012_badge_thumb As part of today’s Writer’s Challenge I would like to write about a quote from Dr. Christiane Northrup’s website.

 

“True Health Lies Within”, Dr. Christiane Northrup

 

I really enjoyed Dr. Northrups comments in the “Hungry for Change” video that was posted for free on the Food Matters website.  This is a fabulous video if you ever get a chance to watch it.  I had many favourite quotes in this video however the one that stands strong in my mind is one that Dr. Christiane Northrup said related to sugar.  She said that as parents we need to be as concerned with the amount of sugar we are giving or allowing our children to consume.  The health risks and effects white sugar has on the body are so awful that we may as well be giving children a needle so they can inject it into their bloodstream.

Now…this is a metaphor.  Dr. Northrup is simply stating that if children are consuming so much sugar, they may as well be injecting it like a drug, because that is the effect it has on the body.  We don’t hesitate to slap warning labels on cigarette packs, or have laws against other habits that affect the long term health of an individual, and sugar is right up there with contributing to obesity and diabetes which are both risk factors for heart disease.  Dr. Northrup has been counselling women on the underlying effects of sugar for over 20 years and has determined that Americans consume approximately 46 teaspoons of sugar daily.  You can also review my post about a Food Revolution Starts at Home in my blog post about Jamie Oliver’s Ted talk.

 

True health really does lie within each of us, and especially our children.  They know what their bodies require, but they are also heavily influenced by peers, television commercials, advertisements and bright colourful packaging at their eye level in the supermarket check-out.  We are our children’s guide in helping them find their true health within them.  In order to do that, as parents, we also need to be aware of our own true health within ourselves.  It is the self-talk in our minds that may be on a repeat cycle, but it does lie within us to know where to go in being healthy.

So please share what your thoughts on this quote. What does it mean to you?

 

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Sunday Surf~Let’s Talk About….Spanking

This week on my Facebook page I posted an article that outlines how spanking is a contributing factor to the social issues.  It generated a LOT of discussion from my Facebook friends.  I thought I should share the links that I found this week while I generate my blog post on it.  I am against spanking and am a strong advocate for children on this matter.  I do believe that all parents have their own rights, but when it comes to this issue, I advocate the rights of children that spanking is harmful.  Here are some great links and websites.

Sunday Surf with Authentic Parenting and Hobo MamaI’m joining Authentic Parenting and Hobo Mama for Sunday Surf. Share your best reading of the week, and link up your post at either blog! For more great reading, visit Hobo Mama or Authentic Parenting for the latest Sunday Surf and linky.

Articles and Videos:

1.  Alice Miller’s Gift to Humanity~ A great overview of the work of Alice Miller, how she changed humanity.  I have not read her books yet, but they will be on my bookshelf soon! Here is another link that summarizes her work.

2. no spank image My favourite document that every parent should read about the dangers of spanking.

3.  Dr. Laura Markham writes about the damage of spanking

Here is a video that includes Dr. Laura Markham, a parent who spanks and a parent who does not spank.  It gives everyone a chance to say their position

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/2624343 w=400&h=300]

Is it ok to spank your child? from Dr. Laura Markham on Vimeo.

4.  Ability to Love Takes Root in Early Infancy

Websites:

Project No Spank

Never Hit a Child

End Corporal Punishment of Children

 

Happy Sunday Surf!!

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The Dangers of Online Parenting

We live in a time where our lives are being painted across the Internet.  I take that risk every time I post on this blog, or write a Facebook comment.  Do you think before you hit “send”, all the time?  Or before you post a comment on Facebook?  I know this is a challenge for most adults, but what about teenagers?

Facebook was created to be a social media tool, created out of a University dorm room.  For all of us that have seen the movie The Social Network, we know that the creator of Facebook initially ticked off many female students by creating a comparison system based on their photo.  We know that not everybody wants their life splattered across the Internet.

But this blog post goes beyond dormitories, and hits home for many of us parents who may be watching what our teenage (or pre-teens in some cases) are posting on their Facebook walls.  Recently, a YouTube video of a father responding to his 15 year old daughters Facebook post has elicited a reaction all over the Internet.  I admit,  at first I wanted to ignore the hype and not even watch it~ for it may not even be true, right? I debated linking you to the video from this blog post, for having it on my blog goes against everything I stand for as a parent consultant, but I have decided to link it here so its easier for you to view and then see my comment underneath. (try to stick through the long 8 minutes of it)

UPDATE:  I will not be linking it as I don`t want to endorse more hits to the video and since I believe he has monetized the video now.

WOW! My initial reaction after seeing this (I only watched it 1 time) is that I am very sad for this family; for the young girl, her father, siblings, and this man’s spouse/wife.  My own sadness comes from a place where I have sat where he is, in parenting a teenage girl.  Parenting is NOT easy and parenting a teenager can be very hard, especially if it awakens any guilt, fear or shame from our own past or how we handled situations with our children from when they were younger.  We learn so much about ourselves by being a parent, for parenting is an opportunity to grow and reflect…that is of course if we take that opportunity.  I am sad for this father because he is not seizing that opportunity for growth; growth of his own inner self or the developing relationship between him and his daughter.

I could understand this father’s frustration, embarrassment and even hurt by having his teenage daughter post such a letter, but I also heard a very hurt teenager who is struggling with some strong emotions in an isolated environment where she felt she had to post it to Facebook.  Teenagers are going to post things to Facebook. Let’s face it, before Facebook they would talk to their friends about it anyway, whether at school or over the telephone.  As a teenager myself (before Facebook) I would talk to friend for hours on the telephone and many conversations were complaining about my parents!

Whether this young girl eels she has too many responsibilities or feels disconnected from her parents or peers, it is human nature to want to talk about these situations with the people whom we are close to.  As grown women we do it!  We call our mothers, sisters or friends to vent our frustrations with being a wife, mother, leader, volunteer, parent; the list goes on.  This young girl did what every other woman on this planet does to gain the reassurance, confidence and support that we all need.  She posted it to Facebook, because that is what people do nowadays.  The difference compared to when I was a teenager, is that now when teenagers express themselves there is a larger audience.  This can create some embarrassment and even shame for the people it affects, and this is what this father is reacting to.

This father is responding more to his own feelings, than to his daughters needs and feelings.  He chooses to address the broader picture of posting to Facebook, rather than reading between the lines of how this young girl is feeling.  Instead of speaking with her privately, he publicly humiliates her (for that is how he feels), in order to ‘teach her a lesson’.  This is his way of ‘punishing’ her, for it is obvious he believes that this type of public humiliation, retaliation, anger and violence will prevent her from ever posting something on Facebook again.  This blog post isn’t about punishment though.  It is about treating our children and teenagers like human beings; with needs, feelings, emotions and love.

Does this husband do the same thing to his wife when she posts something he doesn’t agree with?  What if your friend came to you saying her husband treated her this way?  As a friend to that woman, would you  say to her that maybe she should consider leaving an abusive relationship that seeks to control her?  This young girl will be a wife and mother someday, and has had this man as a role model to how a man should treat a woman.  That does not paint quite a pretty picture in my mind.

I know there are parents out there that believe this father is right to have done this to teach her a lesson.  I am not surprised by this.

As parents, we are often left with a question in our mind, as WHAT to do when our children are disrespectful, disobedient or just naughty.  So, what else is there to do?

We often react with how we were treated as a child, or just react without really thinking about it, for parents are expected to think quickly on their feet in some very heated moments.  In the book Everyday Blessings by Myla & Jon Kabat-Zinn, they discuss how parents are often on autopilot.  We respond to our children in autopilot mode, just doing and reacting the same way every time we are faced with an issue.  Whether it is a toddler not staying in their bed or a teenager coming home beyond curfew, these are all opportunities as parents to become conscious parents.  When we react in autopilot mode, this is an unconscious level of parenting that restricts our growth and inner development as a parent.  We are stifling our parenting abilities when we respond on autopilot.  Jon Kabat-Zinn states this unconscious parenting commonly results in  “sadness, missed opportunities, hurt, resentment, blame, restricted and diminished views of self and the world, and ultimately, isolation and alienation on all sides,” (p.18).  Instead, seizing moments like this one (for this father had a lot of time to think about how he was going to respond to a Facebook post), parents can break down any barriers in their own minds about a situation, look more deeply into themselves in order to be present for their children.

We all know that what worked with one child, may not work with another, and what worked yesterday to get your toddler to eat their peas, no longer works today.  Our children are constantly growing and changing, so as their parents we need to adapt and change too.  We have to stay present and in the moment with them.  This situation would have a totally different outcome had this father remained present with his daughter in talking about the issue.

It is sad to think that this video will make its way around Facebook and the Internet, and we may never hear anything again.  However, this young girl will continue to feel the hurt, loss, and frustration.  We will probably never know what happens.  But one day we will read in the paper about a young woman who commits suicide, or a woman jailed for murdering her husband or a court hearing for a mother who has harmed her own children and lost them to Children’s Services.  We may wonder what type of upbringing this woman has had, and this is one video that will always tell the story there is a grown woman and mother hurting somewhere in ten years from now.

What are your thoughts?

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Is your parenting journey bringing you to Budapest?

 

Sunday Surf with Authentic Parenting and Hobo MamaI’m joining Authentic Parenting and Hobo Mama for Sunday Surf. Share your best reading of the week, and link up your post at either blog!

For more great reading, visit Hobo Mama or Authentic Parenting for the latest Sunday Surf and linky.

Happy Surfing!

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This past Christmas I successfully avoided large chain stores to purchase items for my children. I shopped our local toy store and online stores.  I was reminded of a wonderful online etsy shop that is really local (only about 20 minutes down the highway) Beneath the Rowan Tree and specializes in handmade items that are Waldorf inspired and natural.

Lori, at Beneath the Rowan Tree is also a mother who works hard to run her business and be the best mom she can be, just like you.  I came across her blog post on her parenting journey in discovering the unexpected with her child.  You can read about her journey here.

I have one other website to share with you today as well.  This week, the Canadian Paediatric Society released its fourth edition of its status report on public policy that affects children and youth, entitled Are We Doing Enough? A status report on Canadian public policy and child and youth health

The purpose of the document is to get the public involved by advocating for change that will promote the health and safety of Canadian children and youth.  You can read the short report by clicking here, as well as read some ways you can get involved to affect societal change. Leave a comment in this post to share your ideas on what needs to change.

Happy Sunday!!

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Imagine a world where 2-year-olds go to School?

In Canada, women can take a 1 year Maternity Leave from paid employment if they choose. I am quite proud that we have such a luxury in Canada. However, our education system does not necessarily reflect the value of keeping children with their families/mothers longer than this.  I understand some families need to have dual incomes to survive a standard of living they wish to uphold, but a recent study proves to me that the government isn’t considering the best interests of children.

The research highlighted in this article failed to mention the risks of sending a 2-year-old to ‘early learning’ programs, and how this early separation can negatively affect the parent/child bond, and the sense of belonging that a child feels when they are with their family.  In addition, I wonder if researchers and policy makers have considered the ill effects such a strategy could have on society as a whole?

All this article summarizes is the benefits for teachers, mothers and institutions where these children would be ‘educated’.  In addition, it was noted that since teachers and childhood workers are underpaid and have a difficult time ‘making a living at it’, then once the system has more funding and well planned programs, workers will be needed and paid to do their job. The last time I checked, mothers don’t get paid either.  Imagine, instead of plugging money into a system where in order to keep people employed you have to send 2 year olds to kindergarten programs, you recognized the importance of keeping children and their parents together?  Imagine a scenario where mothers were paid to do what they love to do…parent their own children?  Imagine how this might look in society….less violence, bullying, happier kids, confident kids, happier families…heck maybe even a lower divorce rate!!

Instead of focussing on taking children away from their families – the place where they feel secure, loved, and safe – we as a society need to focus on keeping children with their parents/mothers longer! Not preparing them for standardized tests at a  younger and younger age.

Imagine, acknowledging women for the work they do at home, then women would NOT need to work outside the home. They could stay in the home and raise children who can be successful, contributing members of society.  This article highlighted that women need child-care in order to work outside the home, and their solution is to increase funding, create early programs and LOWER the age to which children begin school!  I wonder if researchers and policy makers have considered paying mothers to stay home with their children longer?

I am in shock that an educated researcher would make such a comment, “an earlier school age for Canadian kids would go a long way to helping the 70 per cent of Canadian mothers who work outside the home”.  Those 70% of women could stay home longer WITH their children if it was recognized by the government as a JOB!!!  Parenting does not come with the long list of pre-requisites that a teacher or child and youth care worker does, but children do NEED their parents, and separating them at an earlier age to enter into institutions is only going to lend itself to new or worse social conditions.

My Solution:

Money could be better spent on teaching PARENTS! Yes, teaching parents and giving them the support needed to stay home with their children.  Funding could be spent on creating parent networks, playgroups run by parents, learning to communicate with your children, all sorts of things! The possibilities are endless.  When you invest in children, you invest in the future…but when you invest in their parents you invest in society.

We can learn from many different models and schools of thought on how to address problems that policy makers may see.  There are countries like Sweden where it is not compulsory to send your child to school until they are 7 years old.  There are leaders like Richard Louv, who advocate strongly on outdoor education for ALL children, and young children can benefit from programs like CedarSong Nature School that have Forest Kindergarten Programs.

It is just not necessary to find solutions that pull children away from what they know – the love and security of their families.