Sugar and Sweeteners, Iron Deficiency: Natural Qi Winter Newsletter

Natural Qi Newsletter
Welcoming a Sweet New Year!

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Hello Friends,

We’ve said goodbye to last year, and are welcoming in a wonderful new year! I hope your holiday season was joyous, and that this year brings you increased health, happiness and serenity.

This winter’s newsletter contains information about sugar versus alternative sweeteners, and information about iron supplements. Also, check out our simple sauteed kale recipe!

As always, please contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to speaking with you or seeing you at your next appointment!

–Melani

Sugar and Sweeteners: The Basics

We all know Americans need to cut down on sugar. Over-consumption of sugars, especially refined sugars, have led to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, systemic yeast issues, and other related diseases.

In an attempt to reduce dietary sugar, many people are turning to sugar substitutes in their coffee, tea or other beverages, or in their foods. But not all sugar substitutes are created equal. Depending on the state of your health and your nutritional goals, sugar substitutes may not be the healthiest choice.

There are two kinds of sugar substitutes: artificial and natural. Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet) and Sucralose (Splenda) are used in many low-calorie beverages. These sugar substitutes promise a sweet taste without the high calories of sugar-sweetened drinks.

But beware! Artificial sweeteners may not actually help people manage weight. In fact, some studies have shown that people who use artificial sweeteners actually tend to gain weight.

Why? Because the brain responds to sweet tastes, from both real and artificial sweeteners, by signaling the body to increase blood insulin–the hormone that allows humans to metabolize sugar. If insulin levels spike but blood sugar does not increase, (which occurs when ingesting artificial sweeteners), a person continues to feel hungry, and wants to eat more. Some studies show that people may eat up to three times the amount of calories after ingesting artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners can also be hard on the body, because the digestive system does not handle artificial substances well. In general, less-processed foods are better for digestion and the body as a whole. Also, some artificial sweeteners have been linked to illnesses. For instance, some studies have linked aspartame to brain tumors, and to some psychiatric and nervous disorders.

I encourage patients to completely avoid artificial sweeteners, make your nutritional goal to ingest “real” food, rather than tricking your body into digesting something it shouldn’t.

Here’s a list of popular natural sugar substitutes you may encounter, and a few facts about them.

Agave: has become more popular in the past few years as a natural sweetener option. This sweetener comes from the blossom of the agave plant. Agave is about three times as sweet as sugar and tastes a bit like honey. Agave has a low glycemic index, so it’s easier on the body than sugar, but it is high in carbs and calories.

There is some concern that Agave farming may pose an environmental threat, because the demand for agave has spiked so rapidly. Farmers are now responding to demand by resorting to using pesticides and less-ecologically friendly means of production than in past decades. If you choose to use agave, try to find out if it was raised in a ecologically responsible manner. Sweeten responsibly!

Xylitol (aka birch sugar) is virtually non-caloric. Xylitol can be used for beverages or in baking. Xylitol has a low glycemic index, and is often used by people battling high blood sugar, and intestinal yeast overgrowth. Xylitol also fights tooth decay and plaque build up. In larger amounts, xylitol has been known to cause gastrointestinal upset.

Stevia is also a non-caloric sweetener that is used for beverages or baking. Stevia comes from a South American plant, and is also known under these names: Truvia, Pure Via and Stevia in the Raw. Stevia has been used in South America for 400 years. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so if used, it should be used sparingly.

Though I don’t recommend heavy use of sweeteners, if you do need to use them, I recommend selecting one from the list below.

Evaporated Cane Juice

Brown Rice Syrup

Single Blossom Honey is also a great sugar substitute. Organic, raw honey is your healthiest honey option, because it offers more nutrients than processed honey. Like agave, single blossom honey also has a low glycemic index, but is high in calories. So, like sugar, try to consume it in moderation. I encourage honey users to look for local honey from farmers who work in an environmentally sustainable model.

Maple Syrup–An old favorite! If you use maple syrup as a sweetener, look for Grade B syrup as it still has minerals in it. Again, I encourage you to consume any sugars in moderation.

Luo Han Guo is a Chinese fruit extract that naturally sweetens with 2% of the calories of sugar. It has no known side effects, and is even used in Chinese medicine to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory conditions!

Again, I strongly encourage you to simply try to reduce a dependence on sweet foods. I know this can be difficult–a recent Huffington Post article reported that, in rats, sugar is more addictive than cocaine! But the health benefits to reducing dietary sugar are worth it. After all, dietary sugar depresses the immune system, making the body more-susceptible to illnesses ranging from depression to cancer.

If you’d like to reduce dietary sugar, these are some helpful tips.

  • Get emotional support when dealing with cravings. Sugar can be addictive–don’t be too hard on youself when cravings rear up. Have a small bowl of berries (lowest in sugar of fruits in general), or allow yourself a moment to suck on a small square of antioxidant-rich, fairly traded dark chocolate.
    Exercise can help reduce your sugar cravings.
  • Eat plenty of protein.
  • Try to keep sugary foods and drinks out of your house so you won’t be tempted.
  • Have plenty of healthy alternative snacks on hand both at home, and when you go out.
  • Watch sugar content in “health” and “lite” foods, as they can be surprisingly filled with unnecessary sugars; nonfat flavored yogurts and energy bars are a couple major culprits for this offense!

If you would like to speak with me more about nutritional concerns and your health, please schedule an appointment where we can discuss your nutritional goals and how Chinese Medicine can help you achieve a healthy balance in your body.

This article was researched on Wikipedia, womentowomen.com, and vitanetonline.com.

Cooper Tip: Pet Food Nutrition

Now that you’ve read up on sugars in the human diet, I’d like to discuss another important topic, your pet’s diet! As you know from my enthusiastic tail wagging, I like food. But not all pet food is created equal. Here are some basic nutritional guidelines for your pet.

  • Kibble is the least-healthy food option for your pet. Kibble contains a heavy amount of grains–a food group that is not natural to cats’ and dogs’ diets, and offers too many carbs to be healthy. High kibble diets often lead to urinary problems in male cats, and obesity in both cats and dogs. However, if your lifestyle demands that you feed us kibble, your best option is Flint River Ranch Kibble as it is not denatured and uses only human- grade ingredients: http://www.flintriver.com/ProductInfo.asp
  • Never buy us pet food that lists corn as one of the first 3 ingredients.
  • Avoid “meal” (chicken meal, fish meal) and “by-products”: this can include the grinds of anything from feathers and beaks to cancer containing limbs of animals that could not be marketed for human consumption. Ick!
  • Cats should get most of their moisture from their food. A good idea if you are feeding canned or raw is to add additional water.

The best kind of food for your pet is a homemade raw diet. What does that mean? Well, basically, raw meat. We mighty pets descend from mighty hunters, and our systems are designed to eat what a hunting animal might eat. And while humans need to cook meat, animals in good health have a natural immunity to bacteria like e-coli and salmonella.

I suggest a rotating diet of chicken (whole or parts), turkey, beef, oxtail, pork, rabbit, fish (canned sardines in water), quail, buffalo or kangaroo. (The more-obscure meats are found at pet stores.) Liver or kidney should make up 10% of this diet, and bonemeal or ground up eggshell can be added to maintain calcium and phosphorus levels.

In addition to meat, offer your pet vegetables, eggs, and yogurt. Pumpkin is a great addition to each meal because it helps animals keep regular. Be sure to steer clear of offering your furry friend grains.

Introduce raw diets slowly and gradually. Start with one protein at a time, so you can detect any possible food allergies. Often rabbit, duck or kangaroo are best for animals with sensitive digestion.

You can find raw foods packaged at many pet stores, or I recommend going to a local butcher and asking for a deal on their less-expensive scraps. You can freeze these and get creative when serving us our meals!

Woof!

Iron Clad Health!

Iron deficiency, or anemia, is a topic that comes up with many of my patients–especially with women of childbearing age. But how do we know if we are getting enough iron? If we’re not, what are the best options when it comes to getting more iron?

Iron is essential to healthy body functioning: it allows red blood cells to transport oxygen to the cells, giving cells energy and allowing tissue to grow. If iron supplies are too low, a person may experience iron deficiency symptoms like fatigue, inability to maintain body temperature, mental fuzziness, trouble sleeping, blurry vision or floaters, dry hair, skin and nails, and poor immunity.

If you think you may be suffering from low iron, always consult with your doctor; if you are pregnant, consult your OB/GYN. Your doctor can discuss dietary options and the possibility of taking supplements. Visiting your acupuncturist can also be very beneficial. Chinese medicine is especially adept at addressing the root causes of low iron symptoms. We design “blood nourishing” treatment plans using food-as-medicine suggestions, herbal remedies, and needling to increase energy, warm and strengthen the body, nourish and moisten the eyes, hair, skin and nails and calm the mind.

It is best to get your necessary iron through food, whenever possible. Iron in food is more easily absorbed, and won’t trigger the side effects that are often caused by supplements. These side effects include stomach problems, nausea, and constipation, which, if you are pregnant, can exacerbate these issues if you are already experiencing symptoms.

There are two types of iron found in food, heme and non-heme. Heme is found in animal-based foods like poultry, meat and fish. Non-heme iron comes from plant-based foods like lentils and beans. The iron content of animal foods is higher than plant foods, and this type of iron is also more-easily and plentifully absorbed by the human body.

Below is a chart published by the US government’s National Institute of Health to help you keep track of the iron content in some common foods. As always, consider environmentally-responsible, organic, sustainably farmed foods and meat from happy, free-ranging animals.

Table 1: Selected Food Sources of Heme Iron

Food

Milligrams
per serving

% DV*

Chicken liver, cooked, 3½ ounces

12.8

70

Oysters, breaded and fried, 6 pieces

4.5

25

Beef, chuck, lean only, braised, 3 ounces

3.2

20

Clams, breaded, fried, ¾ cup

3.0

15

Beef, tenderloin, roasted, 3 ounces

3.0

15

Turkey, dark meat, roasted, 3½ ounces

2.3

10

Beef, eye of round, roasted, 3 ounces

2.2

10

Turkey, light meat, roasted, 3½ ounces

1.6

8

Chicken, leg, meat only, roasted, 3½ ounces

1.3

6

Tuna, fresh bluefin, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces

1.1

6

Chicken, breast, roasted, 3 ounces

1.1

6

Halibut, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces

0.9

6

Crab, blue crab, cooked, moist heat, 3 ounces

0.8

4

Pork, loin, broiled, 3 ounces

0.8

4

Tuna, white, canned in water, 3 ounces

0.8

4

Shrimp, mixed species, cooked, moist heat, 4 large

0.7

4

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Nonheme Iron

Food

Milligrams
per serving

% DV*

Ready-to-eat cereal, 100% iron fortified, ¾ cup

18.0

100

Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared with water, 1 cup

10.0

60

Soybeans, mature, boiled, 1 cup

8.8

50

Lentils, boiled, 1 cup

6.6

35

Beans, kidney, mature, boiled, 1 cup

5.2

25

Beans, lima, large, mature, boiled, 1 cup

4.5

25

Beans, navy, mature, boiled, 1 cup

4.5

25

Ready-to-eat cereal, 25% iron fortified, ¾ cup

4.5

25

Beans, black, mature, boiled, 1 cup

3.6

20

Beans, pinto, mature, boiled, 1 cup

3.6

20

Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tablespoon

3.5

20

Tofu, raw, firm, ½ cup

3.4

20

Spinach, boiled, drained, ½ cup

3.2

20

Spinach, canned, drained solids ½ cup

2.5

10

Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup

1.8

10

Spinach, frozen, chopped, boiled ½ cup

1.9

10

Grits, white, enriched, quick, prepared with water, 1 cup

1.5

8

Raisins, seedless, packed, ½ cup

1.5

8

Whole wheat bread, 1 slice

0.9

6

White bread, enriched, 1 slice

0.9

6

*DV = Daily Value.

If you simply can’t get enough iron in your diet, supplements may be necessary. Doctor supervision of supplemental iron intake is extremely important because too much iron is not healthy for the body. Our bodies are not designed to eliminate iron easily if we ingest too much, and an iron overdose can be toxic. It’s particularly important to keep iron supplements out of reach of children.

Talk to your doctor about which supplement is right for you. There are two kinds of iron supplements available, heme and non-heme. While heme is the most-easily absorbed, it also is the most-likely to cause stomach upset.

If you have more questions regarding iron levels or any other aspect of your nutritional health, please call me to make an appointment. I am happy to review your health concerns and make any recommendations for supplements or treatments that may support you on your road to better health!

Sauteed Kale

Kale is an incredible blood-nourisher and a great source of calcium, fiber and antioxidants. A diet rich in foods like kale can help prevent diseases like cancer, osteoporosis and dementia. Plus, when sauteed like this, it’s incredibly tasty! So whip out your garlic, and fire up the burner. We just may have found you your new favorite side dish!

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1/2 cup vegetable stock or water

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, but not colored. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add vinegar.

This recipe was found on the Food Network’s website.

If you have questions, or would like to discuss anything you read here, please feel free to contact me. Take Care and Be Well!

Melani Bolyai
Natural Qi Acupuncture and Herbs

web: http://www.naturalqi.com
email: melani@naturalqi.com
phone: 917-533-2097

Winter 2011