Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweeteners and Vitamin D

Today, I decided I needed to create a post about nutritional matters that I've been thinking a lot about.

Which sweeteners are considered "healthy"? 

You read so many different things from so many different articles and then you hear so many other things from other people.  I don't know who I'm supposed to believe.  I do know, however, that plain white sugar is BAD.  Ok, good, we've gotten that far.  I've heard from different sources that agave nectar, "raw" sugar (turbinado), brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and stevia are the healthier sweetener choices to make.

Recently, however, I've read that agave nectar is not so good, due to its high fructose content.  But that's good for diabetics, right?  I'm not diabetic, but I've read that it has a very low glycemic index.  So what's better: low glycemic and high fructose? Or low/no fructose?  Is fructose bad, just because HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) is bad?

And how can I tell what and how a sweetener has been processed?  It doesn't tell me on the package.  I've read that some makers of agave nectar have actually replaced the content with HFCS!! And that some agave is actually raw....or is it??

I did switch over to agave nectar and now I'm not sure that's such a great idea.  I do also have some turbinado sugar in my kitchen, which I don't use very often, as well as some maple syrup, which is used only occasionally.  I do try to use dates when I make desserts in my food processor.  Are dates the healthiest choice because they're in their most natural state??

I'm so confused! And stevia is so it really the best and healthiest option? I don't think it has any calories either, which makes it an even better looking choice for a lot of us.  So what if it's from an herb....all the other sugars are from plants as well....agave plant, sugar cane, beets, dates.....all plants.  So I guess it's all about HOW it's processed before it gets to my kitchen, right?  I don't think I can grow sugar cane on my patio (although they do grow a ton of sugar cane down here) and there are no maple trees to tap.  Should I just grow my own stevia plants?  Then do I crumble up the leaves?  Can I buy unprocessed stevia sweetener?  Or are ALL sweeteners processed in some way or another?

I'd really love to hear your comments and suggestions because I'm kind of at a  loss right now.  I don't consume a ton of sweetener, but I'd really like to know what the healthiest options are.  Or is there no correct answer? Please share this post with your friends, because I want to hear from as many people as possible.

I'm also putting a poll about sweeteners on the righthand side of this page....please fill it out if you have the time (it's very quick).

Vitamin D: How do you get yours?

We've recently been tested for Vitamin D and my husband was very low.  I haven't gotten my results yet, but I'm assuming mine will be as well.  Of course, our doctor recommended a Vitamin D supplement via prescription.  It's 50,000 Units per week for a month, then 50,000 units per month.  That sounds awfully high to me.  What are your thoughts on amounts?  I think there will be a new RDA coming this year, so I'll be interested to see what that is.

We walk several times a day.....we thought we were getting enough sun that way (especially living in the south).  That doesn't seem to be the case.  I've also read that most people (not taking supplements) are deficient in Vitamin D, although vegans and vegetarians are even more deficient than non-vegetarians.  I guess that's why doctors are now screening for it.

There aren't really any food sources of Vitamin D for vegans, are there?  I recently found a company online: Monterey Mushrooms.  They've grown mushrooms with extra light, to add Vitamin D!  That's pretty clever, no?  However, I've never seen those mushrooms and I don't know if they're available anywhere around here. I'd rather not take supplements if I don't have to.

So where do YOU get your Vitamin D?  Again, I'd love to read your comments about this and there will be a quick poll for you to answer on the right side of this page.

UPDATE: Here's another interesting article on Vitamin D2 vs D3.

Thanks for listening! And pass this along to your friends!

Eat smart,


  1. Vitamin D is being shown to be a factor in some cancers. My mom has had breast cancer and so now we both need to take supplements. My multi-vitamin has 800IU and the supplement that I take in addition has 500IU of Vitamin D (plus 500mg of Calcium and 40 mcg of Vit K)It is not presciption.

  2. Kim and I take 2000 IU per day. 50,000 units per month would fit into that category. Maybe the 50,000 per week is just to get back to normal levels. I know that YOU know this, but you should mention to your readers that multivitamins have not been proven to work and in some cases can be harmful. The only vitamin supplement that we take is the D, in addition to Juice Plus of course. You need to get your vitamins from FOOD sources. We also use agave nectar to mix Juice Plus for Julia, and Kim uses Stevia for her tea. I am going to look into the claims on the agave nectar that you have stated; that would suck!

  3. Okay, I now am dizzy from all of the "sugar" claims! Just a side, and I am no expert--but how about Sucanat? I will cry if agave has "issues"--I use it now like I used to use honey! See, that is why I stay away from health information sites/magazines and why I married a biochemist--I just rely on him for the skinny on chemicals and things going here or there or affecting me this or that way--it can drive you nuts! I cram vitamins in every day--a women's multi for me plus other vitamins to assist in the uptake of those vegans typically run short of: iron, B 12, and calcium/mag/zinc, folic and flax taken with a D vitamin also. It has to be the D3 kind--something about absorption. I also listen to Dr. Zorba on NPR a lot on the matter--he seems to know a thing or two. Not a vegan, but still, a dose of talk radio from a doc helps!

  4. Thanks for the input guys! Kelly: I thought Sucanat was raw cane sugar (like turbinado, etc.). Am I wrong? What's the difference? I will also cry if agave ends up being bad! Another are taking D3....which is not vegetarian. I heard that the difference was that D3 stayed in your body longer than D2. That only means that you would have to take D2 more often. I'll have to check out Dr. Zorba. Courtney, I hope your mom is doing ok :) Scott: thanks....I'm trying to get as much as I can from food sources, although i can't for Vitamin D. (B12 is tough too, but we'll see what my numbers are!)

  5. On the sweeteners - I am able to stay away from the agave debate because neither my husband nor I likes the taste! To be honest, I would use organic brown sugar (not a big white sugar fan) before agave for both taste and I don't really think agave is a "health" food. We aren't strictly vegan, so I stock honey, maple syrup, organic brown sugar (just a wee bit addicted), and sometimes some evaporated cane juice or the likes. I do use literally a tap of stevia in my morning smoothie if the fruit isn't quite ripe enough (maybe a few times a month), but anymore and the taste is just too much. Plus, I am leary of stevia too.

    I am pretty sure turbinado and sucanat (evaporated cane juice) are different, but I could be wrong!

    My doctor has us on 50,000 IU a week of the vitamin D, to taper back in a while. No adverse affects, and I am pretty petite. I read a new book called Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin, and it sounds like these levels are tested to be pretty safe. toxicity seemed to only be reported at doses higher than this which were taken daily. You can take Vit D once a week like this because it is fat soluble and thus stored to use over time (vs Vitamin C which we quickly excrete and need everyday).

    Wow, that ended up being a long comment!

  6. Thank you, Alisa. And you guys are right...turbinado and sucanat are different. Sucanat apparently retains all of its molasses, and turbinado only a trace. Sucanat is non-refined dried cane juice. So I guess that's better than turbinado. Ok, this is good...we've got stepping stones from awful to better :) We're getting there! Will have to look up that Vitamin D book too...

  7. thanks for your comment on my post. it is confusing. ideally i guess moderation with any sweetener is key, even if it is only moderately processed. i like dates because they are a whole food, but they are one of the the highest glycemic of all the fruits. however i don't think one or two a day is a problem for me. but for people with candida it is. i think there are some companies that claim some sweeteners are HEALTH food when really they are just perhaps not as unhealthy. or neutral. the false marketing is the stuff that bugs me the most.

    as for vitamin D, i just got a book on it and i hope to read it and review soon. in the meantime, as for the sun remarks, i have heard that it take a lot of sun and at the right degree for it to matter. also to not wash your skin for awhile to really sink in. which isn't so good if you get stinky. i take a vegan d3 supplement from megafoods that i really like. i don't mind supplementation because i know that a lot of things aren't "natural" in this day and age and i'd rather not be tired from deficiency.

  8. Grow your own stevia. My aunt does it, then hangs it out to dry. Once it's dry, you can just crumble up the leaves in your hand into a powder and sprinkle over whatever you need sweetened (i.e. tea).



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