The Many Names For Sugar

One of the things I try hardest to avoid is sugar (in all is varied forms). Because after a long time I came to realize what it does to me both in the short term and in the long term. But food makers are a tricky bunch. They wan to sell you great tasting food but they typically only label to the extent required by law. So when reading the list of ingredients, you may see that something has 10 grams of carbs per serving but you can’t quite tell what it comes from.

That’s because there are dozens of different way to say “sugar” in modern food science without actually saying sugar and conjuring up images of white crystals. And we need to be on the look out for all of them. Here’s a sampling:

  • agave syrup
  • barley malt
  • beet sugar
  • brown sugar
  • rice syrup
  • can juice
  • can sugar
  • caramel coconut syrup
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • date sugar
  • dextran
  • dextrose
  • maltol
  • fructose
  • fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate
  • galactose
  • glucose solids
  • grape sugar
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltodextrin malt syrup
  • refiner’s syrup
  • sorbitol
  • sucrose

And the list could go on.

The trouble is that from our metabolic point of view, which is what ultimately matters, all forms of “sugar” have pretty much the same effects: disrupting brain chemistry, fueling addiction, spiking insulin levels (wearing on our pancreas and promoting fat storage), leptin resistance, and predisposing us to a wide variety of chronic and degenerative conditions.

See Also: Time to Tax Sugar? Yes. and Regulating Our Sugar Habit from today’s New York Times.

Perspective on Eating Butter and Fats

There’s a lot of excellent information on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site. We’ve used it on several occasions when trying to provide a bit of balance to modern (often extreme) ideas about how traditional eating are harmful to human health.

During a recent set of family visits, Kathleen found three that are particularly useful when trying to combat the anti-fat dogma that still has a hold on so much of the population (despite there being actual science to support reasonable consumption):

  • Why Butter is Better does a good job of explaining why butter should have never been displaced by margarine or any other man-made substitutes. Unlike some advocacy sites, the article also contains references to other sources so that you can chase down more if you’re interested.
  • The Skinny on Fats is a longer piece that gets into a lot of detail about the various types of fats (how and why they’re classified), how they interact with our bodies, and how man-made fats (such as trans-fats) cause problems for us.
  • Taking the Fear Out of Eating Fats is a shorter high-level summary of the same ideas, but presented in a way that focuses on the recommendations more than the background and science. There’s even a bit in there about gallbladder health, which is of particular interest to me–I had my gallbladder removed about 8 years ago, before I understood much of what I do now.

People often find it surprising how fats are involved in the processes that our bodies use to absorb many vitamins and nutrients, not to mention rebuilding our cells. (Guess what cell walls are made of!)

Have you seen other articles that we should showcase here? Drop a comment below.

Simple Strawberry Banana Smoothie Recipe Base

I’ve had a few people ask me for the recipe I use when making my breakfast smoothies. But the reality is that there’s no recipe–it’s more of an approach than a specific mix of ingredients. I tend to vary the ingredients a lot based on what’s available (obviously preferring fresh ingredients) and daily taste preferences. All you need is a blender and a willingness to experiment a bit.

I virtually always start with the same base of ingredients, which includes:

  • frozen strawberries (when available, we buy fresh from the farmer’s market and then clean, cut, and freeze them the night before)
  • banana
  • whole raw milk (get the best you can, of course)
  • plain (unflavored) kefir or good quality greek yogurt
  • vitamin C powder (acerola is excellent)

I put all the ingredients in the blender and blend them to my desired consistency and taste. But, like I said, this is really only a base. I’ve been known to add one or more of a bunch of different ingredients, which can include:

  • frozen or fresh berries (black, blue, etc.) — check the freezer section at Trader Joe’s or you local grocery store to see what’s available if you cannot get fresh.  You can often replace the strawberries in the base with a berry mix.
  • mango or peach
  • a scoop or two of nut butter (walnut, cashew, almond)
  • flax seed meal
  • whey protein powder
  • caco powder (a little bit goes a long way!)
  • fresh spinach (1-2 fists full)
  • coconut milk (Thai Kitchen is our favorite brand)

Again, quantities vary based on how many people you’re serving, desired consistency (thickness), and the selection of ingredients. I’ve probably made 4 dozen different varieties using different mixes or ratios and it’s extremely rare to end up with something that I don’t actually want to drink.

If you do it right, you’ll be amazed how good these can taste. In fact, while visiting my parents in Ohio last week (you may have noticed our posting slowed down some), I made these for my parents. Mom proclaimed that they were “like having desert for breakfast.”

Lastly, if we happen to have some freshly whipped raw cream on hand, I’ve been known to put a scoop on top of each smoothie when I serve it.

A Request to You

Dear friends,

I have had more terrible news this past week.  My dear cousin, Shelly, has been diagnosed with a very serious cancer Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma.

We have tremendous affection for each other – as long as I can remember.  Being the same age, we were playmates, confidants, and sisters of the heart through out our lives.  Our relationship has been timeless- immutable with the years.

Shelly is the sweetest person I know.  She is always looking for the positive no matter how unfair life can be.  She loves her family and this love is returned through the smiles and hugs from her children.  She believes in God and is learning about the power of proper nutrition.

Pam Oler has been a tremendous help suggesting Burzynski and/or Thomas Cowan as complementary treatments.  I contacted Dr. Thomas Cowan today.

Please send out good thoughts (prayers) to Shelly.

Also, please share information regarding fighting this type of cancer or supporting the fight against cancer with nutrition.  You can contact me at:

Thank you!



Making Ginger Beer

For more than a year, Jeremy and I have been thinking about how to adapt our diet to best support our health.  In doing so, we often stop buying foods that we used to enjoy.  One of these items is soda.  I’ve missed soda.  In particular, I like the bubbly quality of sodas.

Over the last Christmas holiday break, I started experimenting with various fermentation based recipes.  Working from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, I attempted making a healthier form (fewer additives and less sugar) of ginger ale.  8 weeks after making it, I tried it today.  I declare the experiment a success.  It is bubbly and it tastes like ginger ale.

To make your own, you start by making the ginger bug.  You add 2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger (including skins), 2 teaspoons of sugar and one cup of water into a glass container.  Stir well.  Cover the top with a cheese cloth to keep the kitties out and allow the air to circulate. Keep in a warm spot to help the fermentation process along. The mixture will start bubbling in a day or two (See my tip below).  Remember, bugs are like pets – you need to feed them each day.  So, add the same amount of ginger and sugar and mix every day or two.

Once the bug is active (bubbling), you can make the ginger beer.  Boil 2 quarts of filtered water.  Add anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of fresh grated ginger and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Boil mixture for 15 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and let it cool.

Next strain the ginger out of the boiled mixture.  Add the juice of two lemons.  Add additional filtered water to the mixture so that you have a final 4 liter mixture.

Add to sealable bottles.  You can use recycled plastic soda bottles.  Instead, we used 500ml (16 oz) amber flip-cap bottles. Set out for 2 weeks or more in a warm place to ferment.  Our 10 bottles sat on our counter top for 6 weeks.  Refrigerate before opening.

Some tips:

  • Fermentation is very temperature sensitive.  You’ll get a sense for how long bugs take to become active based on some experience.
  • Use filtered water. I ran into one failed experiment so far because I used unfiltered, chlorinated water.
  • Intensity of flavor of the beer depends on the amount of ginger root used.

Related Posts:

The Shortness of Life

Recently I was informed that my best friend, Karen Greig – died of a heart attack at the age of 37.  I could never have imagined such a thing could happen.  We grew apart as our lives changed and now I will always regret that this happened.

Karen and I met as undergraduates navigating M.I.T..  We were two women – both technically inclined and adventurous in spirit.  I remember chatting with her several times in the hallways of the Infinite Corridor and on the sidewalks along Memorial Drive.  I told her that we should be friends because we had so much in common.  Unfortunately, M.I.T. kept us both very busy and there wasn’t much time to socialize.

When I headed out to Stanford University for graduate school, I remembered she had gone out to the same area to work for Applied Materials.  The first thing I did when getting to campus was to look her up.

We immediately became close friends.  Almost every weekend, we would go to dinner and a movie and then to the Printers Inc. to talk about life and navigating our 20s.  I was impressed by her intelligence.  She had an in depth knowledge of a large number of areas.  As she spoke, her thoughtfulness came through.  She often considered various points of view when discussing topics.  I found her openness to ideas to be a rare quality.

We spent a lot of time laughing.  She had a way of timing and phrasing things that made the unfunny things quite amusing.  Her charm shinned through and captured the interest of others.  A good example of this was during a camping trip to Yosemite National Park in the Spring.  We started the trip with just the two of us.  We ended it by hiking and then having dinner with two handsome English tourists.  (I did mention that Karen was a Jane Austin fan;-))

We spurred each other on to do things that would scare most people.  This included: skydiving, rafting the American River, SCUBA diving, and walking on flowing lava in Hawaii.  We encouraged each other to get our pilot’s license.  This is still only a fraction of our adventures.

Karen was a driven individual.  She was accepted to the Air Force Academy but she was disqualified for a history of eczema.  We started M.I.T. together and then majored in the same engineering field.  After having a successful job at Applied Materials, she went to Northwestern University where she earned a Masters in Engineering and an MBA. Afterwards, she became a Program Manager at General Electric.  She earned her private pilot certificate in airplanes and then earned her instrument rating.  She was also working on a rating in gliders.  She was a world traveller.  She was devoted to her church and her family.

Her flame burned strong for 37 years.  I know she had a close relationship with God and did not fear death.  Very sadly, a bright light in the world has dimmed.

Jeremy and I are working to start a soaring scholarship in her name.  It seems right that we help fuel another woman to soar to honor Karen.

We love and miss you, Karen.

Green Chili and Black Bean Chicken Soup Recipe

Many of my favorite colder weather recipes are soups or stews. This one comes from a cookbook called Red or Green: New Mexico Cuisine.I’ve refined and tweaked it a bit over many dinners, but I’ve tried to retain much of the same spirit.

The mix of cumin, chicken, homemade broth, and green chilies really hits the spot on a cold day.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 cups of chicken broth (ideally homemade chicken broth)
  • 2 cans (14-15 ounces each) of black beans
  • 6 small (4 ounce) cans of New Mexico green chiles
  • fresh or dried oregano
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 cups diced grilled chicken
  • Monterey Jack cheese


  1. In a cast iron pot, heat the olive oil and then add chopped onions and garlic. Cook until soft.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, except for chicken and cheese. Bring pot to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chicken and cook covered, roughly 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve with shredded cheese on top.

You can adjust the thickness of this recipe by changing the ratio of the chicken stock to the chicken and onion. We often make it a bit thick and refer to it as a stew, but the original recipe really is a bit more soup-like.

Kathleen picked up the Red or Green cookbook on a trip to New Mexico a few years ago and we’ve enjoyed a number of recipes from it already. Of course, there are dozens more that we’ve marked and hope to make soon.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

To support my cousin Shelly’s effort to feed her three kids sugar-free snacks, I have been on the hunt for a good chocolate chip recipe.  Below is a recipe that I found in BakerGal that makes a tasty paleo friendly cookie.

Ingredients include:

  • 1 1/4 cups of finely ground almond flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of raw honey
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 1/8 cup of coconut oil (We modified the ingredients of the original recipe slightly.  We substituted coconut oil for macadamia nut oil.)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips (We used Dagoba brand with 73% cacao content.)

We mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl (flour, salt and baking soda) and the wet ingredients in another bowl (honey, water, vanilla extract and oil).  We then combined the two and mixed.  Once the mixture is even – we folded in the chocolate chips.  At this point, I preheated the oven to 325F and also greased a baking sheet with coconut oil.  Once the sheet was prepared, I added a large spoon full of cookie batter to the greased sheet.  I then flattened the cookie with my palm and fingers.  (The baking process will not  flatten the cookie so it’s best to do this before baking.)  I was able to make 12 cookies on one sheet with this recipe.

Put in the oven at 325F.  Baker Gal says cooking time can vary anywhere from 4 minutes to 8 minutes.  We are at 3000 ft. so I ended up cooking this for longer, and towards the end, increased the temperature to 350F.  Keep an eye on the baking.  Once the edges of the cookies start to brown it is time to remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.

We enjoyed these.  They have the sweetness and texture of a cookie.  Next time, we may add some crushed nuts (walnuts or macadamia nuts) to the cookie batter.

Other great Paleo Dessert recipes that we have tried and enjoyed include:

We also have a good list of Paleo “Snacks To Go”  and a Paleo Pizza Crust Recipe that are kid and adult friendly!

Gives these a try, too.

Weekly Links: Fats & Oils, Brownies, Stuffed Eggs, and Sauerkraut

Just like last week, here are some more links for your reading pleasure:

As always, let us know if you come across anything else we should share here.

Time to Tax Sugar? Yes.

Over at Mother Jones, in Is Sugar as Addictive as Alcohol, we learn some interesting news. A recently published UCSF commentary in the journal Nature titled Public Health: The Toxic Truth About Sugar comes to some conclusions that back up a lot of what I’ve been reading in the last year. Sadly the full article is behind a paywall (scientific publishing hasn’t quite embraced the Internet yet), but the Mother Jones article does a good job of highlighting the major findings.

If UCSF researcher Robert H. Lustig and his team had their way, sugar would be regulated similarly to alcohol and tobacco, and would be knocked off of a USDA list of foods “Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS),” which allows food manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food. Using four criteria established in 2003 to justify regulating alcohol, these scientists make a case for why sugar is a public health concern and should be regulated.

And what exactly are their reasons? Here’s a quick list:

  • Sugar is unavoidable and ubiquitous. The average American eats 5x what the FDA suggests (and we we know they were probably lobbied by sugar producers). In other words, consumption is way, way too high.
  • It’s toxic. The damage caused by sugar goes way behind added weight. Gary Taubes wrote about this for New York Times Magazine in Is Sugar Toxic? (Hint: it is.)
  • It’s addictive. Seriously.
  • It is a net negative for society, especially when you total up all the heath problems it contributes to: metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, liver problems, and so on.

So what do the original authors suggest? Taxation, for one.

How can we reduce sugar consumption? After all, sugar is natural. Sugar is a nutrient. Sugar is pleasure. So too is alcohol, but in both cases, too much of a good thing is toxic. It may be helpful to look to the many generations of international experience with alcohol and tobacco to find models that work. So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interven- tions that teach children about diet and exercise, demonstrate little efficacy. Conversely, for both alcohol and tobacco, there is robust evidence that gentle ‘supply side’ control strategies which stop far short of all-out prohibition — taxation, distribution controls, age limits — lower both consumption of the product and the accompanying health harms. Successful interventions share a common end-point: curbing availability.

While the Mother Jones article concludes on a positive note, I’m a bit skeptical. The food industry will fight tooth and nail to keep their cheap sweets in their products and in our “food”, so it’s ultimately going to be up to us. Like with many aspects of our health, we can’t expect the government to protect us until the evidence is so dramatic that arguing against it is a futile effort.

Lustig and crew liken sugar to other major social changes that have taken place to improve public health and wellness over the years. They close with:

Regulating sugar will not be easy — particularly in the ‘emerging markets’ of developing countries where soft drinks are often cheaper than potable water or milk. We recognize that societal intervention to reduce the supply and demand for sugar faces an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby, and will require active engagement from all stakeholders. Still, the food industry knows that it has a problem — even vigorous lobbying by fast-food companies couldn’t defeat the toy ban in San Francisco. With enough clamour for change, tectonic shifts in policy become possible. Take, for instance, bans on smoking in public places and the use of designated driv ers, not to mention airbags in cars and con- dom dispensers in public bathrooms. These simple measures — which have all been on the battleground of American politics — are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being. It’s time to turn our attention to sugar.

In case you’re wondering who this anti-sugar crew is, Robert H. Lustig is in the Department of Pediatrics (lots of other relevant stories on their web site) and the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment at the University of California, San Francisco. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to sugar’s detrimental effects. Laura A. Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis are at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco.

I, for one, applaud their willingness to come out strongly in favor of arguing for what’s right for our health. And I hope that this, along with the work of dozens and dozens of other respected health professions, helps to keep pushing the country (and the world) in a more sane direction.

In the meantime, do the right thing for yourself. Back off the sugary snacks and drinks. And then kick the habit all together. After you’ve been off sugar for a while, you’ll find that even mildly sweetened recipes start to taste far sweeter to you.

Oh, and you’ll have more energy, less fat, and a happier life. As me how I know!

Finally, check out the image below for some scary stats…