Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

The first ever reason why I became interested in natural living was because I needed to find a recipe to make non-toxic cleaner at home that is safe for my baby, as I explained in my post "Blogging with a Purpose." Since then, I have never purchased any conventional store-bought cleaners anymore. No more different bottles of toxic cleaners to clean counter-tops, toilets, mirrors, door knobs, baby cribs, baby toys, etc. They are all in one bottle. It's not only economical, it's safe to use, and we can teach our children to help us with house chores while feeling safe that they are not ingesting toxic chemicals. Here's the recipe for my homemade all-purpose cleaner.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Re-use an empty spray bottle and fill it with:

40% vinegar
60% water
A little bit of pure tea tree essential oil
A little bit of pure lemon essential oil (optional)

Vinegar is very affordable and readily available. It helps de-grease and prevent soap scum from building up. The smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly.

Tea tree essential oil is anti-fungal, antiseptic, anti-viral, and antibacterial.

Lemon essential oil is a good deodorizer and the acidity kills mold, bacteria and germs. It gives a refreshing scent.

Use it to clean hard surfaces in the house. Spray and wipe dry. 

The key is to clean and spray regularly. If you do it only once in a blue moon, there is no doubt that it will be tougher to clean with natural cleaners (because it lacks the toxic/strong chemicals to remove the dirt/grease/scum). When that happens, you can spray the areas with the all-purpose cleaner and make a baking soda paste (baking soda and water) as a mild abrasive, let it sit for a while before you scrub. 

Read here for guidelines on using essential oils.

If making your own all-purpose cleaner doesn't suit you, try this natural all purpose cleaner from Ecover, a company that makes eco-friendly household products. 

Have you made your own homemade cleaners before? Any favorite recipes to share?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Eggs are Nutrition Powerhouse

Do you know that eggs are considered brain food in China, where a pregnant or nursing woman will eat up to ten eggs per day if she can afford them, to ensure that her baby is smart? My father in law kept telling me to give Elin one egg a day when she started solid food. At the time I didn't realize how important and nutritious eggs (especially the yolks) are until I did my research. 

Eggs contain every nutrient the body needs except vitamin C. Egg whites provide the highest quality protein of any food, and the yolks supply choline and the long-chain fatty acid DHA, both important for nerve function. They also contain small but important amounts of arachidonic acid, a very long-chain polyunsaturated fat that supports brain function. Egg yolk contains lecithin, which assists in the proper assimilation and metabolization of cholesterol and other fat constituents and trace minerals. 

Types of Eggs

Commercial eggs (worst kind)
- The chicken are most likely are caged in crowded facilities with artificial lights and no fresh air.
- They are grain-fed: corn, soy, and cottonseed meal (including GMO crops and pesticide-sprayed).
- Very little nutritional value (Egg yolks from chickens kept under glass or in cages were so low in vitamin D that rats fed on them developed rickets). 
- They may be injected with hormones for faster development and increase production of eggs.
- Probably have had antibiotics to prevent diseases from occurring. 
- The egg yolks are light yellow in color.

Organic Eggs (better option)
- The chicken are kept cage-free with (usually) limited outdoor access.
- These chickens have not had antibiotics.
- Their diets are organic feeds (no animal by-products or GMO crops) - which is still highly artificial.
- The egg yolks are darker yellow/light orange in color.

Free-Range Eggs (best option as it is widely available)
- The chicken are cage-free and have access to outdoor, but doesn't necessarily mean the hens are pastured. It simply means that the hens had the option to go outside. 
- Their diets are probably a mix of grain and grass.
- The egg yolks are darker yellow/light orange in color.

Pasture-Raised Eggs (top choice but more expensive)
- The chicken are cage-free and have access to outdoor and bright sunlight.
- They eat greens, dirt, and insects, just as how they are created to eat.
- They are far more nutritious than eggs from confined hens in factory farms (their yolks provide generous amounts of vitamin D and vitamin A).
- The egg yolks are darker orange in color.

Where to Buy Pasture-Raised Eggs in Singapore?

Unfortunately I haven't found any pastured eggs in Singapore. The second best option is free-range eggs that are organic. The eggs from The Eco Eggs Company (sold in Cold Storage and Market Place) are free-range but are given a mix of organic grains. Though it's not the best, I like that the color of the yolk is orange. 

I'm not sure about the eggs from Kampong chickens in wet markets, just to be sure, ask the sellers if they are pasture or free-range eggs.

The yolk of pastured egg is orange, while the conventional one from the supermaket is light yellow.

Egg Quality

Freshness: Fresh eggs will sink to the bottom of a bowl with water. Older eggs will float because large air cell forms in the base. The white of a fresh egg is thick and doesn't spread much (not watery) and the yolk will sit high.
Storage: Best to store eggs in refrigerators. Refrigeration keeps the eggs fresher longer.
Nutritional Value: Although there is little change in the nutritional value between fresher and older eggs, it's best to use fresh eggs within the 'Best Before' date as stated on the carton. Fresh eggs are ideal for poaching and frying because they may not hold their shape. Older eggs can be used for hard-boiling, scrambling, and baking.

You may notice that the thick white surrounding the organic and pastured eggs and the yolk stands up, an indication that the eggs are fresh (compare to the watery white and flatter yolk of the Kampong egg).

Egg Whites Diet

Many people, including my family, are afraid of the cholesterol level in egg yolks. Many diet books also advise to eat egg whites only, but it is actually beneficial to eat the yolks as well as we need the vitamin A in the yolks to assimilate the protein in the whites. 

My family now enjoys pasture-raised eggs daily. Elin eats an egg a day. I eat one egg a day as well as I am still nursing. It's a nutrition powerhouse!

Do you know where else to buy pasture-raised eggs or Kampong eggs in Singapore?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe: Chicken Apple Patties

I was trying to make a variation of our normal "perkedel" (white potato and meat patties), while trying to avoid refined sugar. So I tried to these patties with ground chicken mixed with apples and it turned out juicy and delicious. The apples gave it a mild sweetness. I found that it's best to eat them right away and not keep it in the fridge until the next day. It gets dry if they are re-heated in the microwave or toaster over.


Ground pastured chicken (kampong chicken)
Apples, cut to small pieces
A bit of coriander powder
Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. Heat up coconut oil and pan fry both sides of the meat patty until brown.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Please Kiss Soft Drinks Goodbye

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Do you see how many sugar stacks are there in these sodas?

Many of us have been warned about the dangers of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, but soft drinks on the other hand, is viewed as thirst-quenching, refreshing, and rejuvenating drinks that everyone loves. Soft drinks consumption has increased so much due to intense marketing from soft drink companies through advertisements, sponsorship, charities, and kids clubs - targeting especially young children. Serving sizes are getting bigger and bigger and children as young as little babies are drinking soft drinks without realizing the harmful damage it's causing the body.

What Are Soft Drinks Made Of?

- Water
- Sodium. 55 mg of sodium per can is like drinking a pizza! Drinking this much sodium (and while losing free water) will only make you thirstier and you want to drink even more.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Caffeine. Yes, you can get addicted to soft drinks because of the caffeine content.
- Phosporic Acid, that leads to lower bone density and tooth rot as phosporic acid lowers the pH of the saliva to acidic levels.
- Citric Acid, often contains traces of MSG.
- Artificial Flavors, that may contain traces of MSG.

Health Risks of Soft Drinks Consumption:

- Obesity.
- Diabetes from too much sugar.
- Tooth decay, osteoporosis, and bone fractures from phosporic acid.
- Gastric inflammation and gastric lining erosion due to caffeine.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Soft drinks are empty calories!
- Imbalance of body's pH level.
- Neurological disorders from artificial sweeteners and caffeine.

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Having zero calories, zero fats and sugars, diet sodas seem harmless to many people; but they are not, by any means, any healthier than regular soft drinks. A diet coke contains highly processed sweeteners, chemicals, and additives. It causes:

- Skin problems like acne due to the acidity of diet sodas that lower the body's pH levels.
- Weight gain.
- Kidney problems.
- Neurological disorders and mood swings from artificial sweeteners.

Sodas are the world's other drinking problem. It is our responsibility to teach our children to be wise in choosing their foods and drinks.

Do you find it hard to stop your soda habit? Will you try for your health's sake? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Treating Diarrhea Naturally

Since I started Elin on a diet of oatmeal, coconut oil, and cod liver oil for breakfast, along with a combination of bone broth, pastured eggs and meat for lunch and dinner, her bowel movement has been regular. However, just a few days ago, I noticed Elin (16 months old) had diarrhea. She suddenly had loose stool and I don't know how it came about. Diarrhea can be caused by a viral infection, bacteria, or parasite. It is how our body tells us that it needs to get rid of something that is poisoning us. Seeing how Elin was still active, running around, and in her usual self, I decided to try a few natural remedies before bringing her to the doctor.

How Did I Treat Elin's Diarrhea?

- Activated Charcoal. I poured out a the powder of a Norit capsule, mixed it with water, and let Elin swallow it. She didn't like it but she swallowed it because she didn't see what I was giving her. I would try mixing it with mashed banana if she had refused.

- Whole Milk Yogurt. I had her consume whole milk yogurt because yogurts contain live active cultures of probiotics (healthy bacteria) which is beneficial for her digestive tract.

- Probiotics. Probiotics are cultures of healthy (good) bacteria that are similar to bacteria found in the human digestive tract. I used to keep probiotic drops for my daughter, but not I make my own probiotic drinks called water kefir and milk kefir. They are rich is living bacteria that are good for our digestive health.

It is said that consuming yogurt with probiotics for diarrhea will lessen the severity and shorten the duration of diarrhea. And true enough, she got progressively better over the next two days, and by the fourth day, her stool went back to normal.

Thank God for healing her quickly.

Are there any other ways that you've treated your children's diarrhea with?

Friday, April 26, 2013


A few years ago, I suffered a food poisoning from eating grilled squid. From then on I've never enjoyed squid. I have eaten fried calamari very rarely because I find it easier to swallow but otherwise I am not a big fan of shellfish in general. Though it is just a personal preference that I don't eat it as much, I find it interesting that shellfish was regarded as "unclean" in the Levitical food laws. 

"Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean. And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you." - Leviticus 11:9-12.

One of the reasons shellfish was prohibited in those days was because it was simply unhygienic to consume them. They did not have proper ways to kill germs and store them such as refrigerators (you can read here for a more in-depth explanation). Although I believe that this food law is not applicable to us anymore, as Jesus explained in Acts 10: 9-16, maybe there is a valid point why God declared shellfish to be off limits to the people. Shellfish are like water filter. They purify the water in the ocean by sucking in algae and plankton, possibly including toxins and contaminants in the water. These toxins accumulate in the shellfish. And when you eat a bad shellfish, the toxins go into your body. That is partly the reason why shellfish is a common allergen and now I understand why I got shellfish poisoning.

Chili Crab

There is nothing wrong about eating shellfish (as we are under the New Covenant). If cooked properly, they are delicious and are be a good source of protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. Shrimp and oysters are particularly rich in Vitamin D. Oysters are excellent source of zinc (essential for male reproductive health). I still eat prawns and lobsters when they are served in restaurants and bring our guests to try our local delicacy, the Singapore chili crabs, but I don't typically cook with them at home. It's just my personal preference.

Have you experienced food poisoning from eating shellfish?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Recipe: Salmon and Spinach Miso Soup

Salmon and Spinach Miso Soup

I ate this in a Japanese restaurant before and I liked it. I love the fact that it is healthy and easy to make.


Kombu Seaweed (source of iodine and natural MSG)
Miso Paste (fermented soy is fine, but avoid/limit unfermented forms of soy)
Salmon (choose wild, if possible)
Salt, to taste (unrefined sea salt is best)


1. Soak kombu in filtered water for 20 minutes, then bring it to a boil. Remove kombu.

2. Add salmon, spinach, ginger, miso paste, and salt to taste. Boil until everything is cooked.

Bon appétit!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Balancing Your Body's pH Level

Our modern diet consists mainly of acidic food (caffeine, fried foods, sugar) that makes our body work really hard because it has to draw our own body's precious minerals to balance the pH level. If our body uses its own minerals because we eat too much acidic food, and we don't enough food that supply minerals, which leads to mineral deficiencies - something that we do not want for our body. Take time to watch this video to learn about the harmful effects of imbalance pH level and what can we do to balance it.

Try to eat as much food in the alkaline family as you can. Diseases cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. Some foods are acidic in nature but have an alkaline effect on the body, such as lemons and apple cider vinegar. Be thoughtful as we plan our meals. Teach our children what healthy food is and what is not.

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." - Proverbs 22:6

(Notice the verse says to "train a child in the what he should go, not the way he should stay." One day our children will grow up and have their own family. Teaching them the right habits (not just about healthy living) will serve them well in the long run.)

This is a good resource of food classification that is acidic, alkaline, and acidic food that has alkalizing effects in the body (tomatoes, lemons, limes, grapefruits). 

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Baby Steps: What food or beverage would you like to kick out of your habit as a start?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baby Elin's First Year in Scrapbook

Elin's Blessed One Year

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." - Psalm 139:13-16 

The Birth of Elin.
Elin visited Daddy's office when she turned
one month old.

Elin's One Month Celebration.
Elin's Second Month. Her first trip to Jakarta to celebrate
Chinese New Year.
Elin's Third Month. Her second trip to Jakarta to celebrate
her beloved Grandpa's 75th birthday.
Wearing Mommy's handmade dresses.
Elin's Fourth Month. Wearing the same costume that her
great-grandma made for Mommy. We had a photo
 session to keep the tradition.
Elin's Sixth Month. Her first trip to Bali.
Elin's Seventh Month. We visited the newly opened
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.
Elin's Eight Month.

Elin's Ninth Month.
Elin's Tenth Month.
Her first trip to Korea.
Elin's Eleventh Month. She's our +1!
"Shall I be a drummer, a pianist, or a singer, Mama?"
Elin's Baptism and her second trip to Bali.
Elin's First Birthday Party.
She is blessed!

This is our hope and prayer:

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." - 3 John 1:4

Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't Forget to Drink Your Water

We all know that water is essential for life. About sixty percent of our body weight is made up of water. Every system in our body depends on water. It transports nutrients to body cells, flushes toxins out of organs, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Water is the largest single component of the human body, including the brain. Lack of water will lead to dehydration, inhibiting the body to carry out its normal functions. It drains our energy and makes us tired. Humans cannot live without water and because the body cannot store water, we need to replace the fluids we lose everyday. 

How Much Water Do We Need Daily? 

We've heard the "8 glasses (1.9 L) a day" rule and it is a good rule to remember by. Depending on where you live (high versus low altitudes, the kind of profession you do (runners versus office workers), whether you are pregnant or lactating, your health status, each person needs different levels of fluids. Here is a guideline from the Institute of Medicine:

Adult men - 3.7 L
Adult women 2.7 L
Toddlers up to age 3 - 1.3 L
Children between age 4 and 8 - 1.7 L
Boys between age 9 and 18 - 2.4-3.3 L
Girls between age 9 and 18 - 2.1-2.3 L
Pregnant women - 3 L
Nursing women - 3.8 L

When and How to Drink Water?

Drink Filtered Water. Although tap water in Singapore is considered safe to drink, I don't drink directly from the tap as it contains many chemicals such as chloride, fluoride, sulphate, etc. (Chlorine in tap water has been linked to killing the good bacteria in our digestive tract that keeps allergies away). I buy Brita water filters to remove water impurities. Although it may not remove all impurities, I feel some filtration is better than no filtration. Boiling water kills bacteria but doesn't remove chemicals. If you want to be safe, you can boil filtered water, especially for little babies.

Drink water in between meals. Most of the time I drink water with my meals just because the water is right in front of me and it's convenient. But the truth is drinking too much water during meals dilutes our digestive juices, thus slowing down digestion and making the absorption of nutrients less effective. It is suggested that we drink water about 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after meals. This is something new for me, so I will have to work on this. But of course if you are thirsty during mealtimes, it is important to hydrate yourself. 

Drink water at room temperature. It is a good idea to consider drinking our water at room temperature as it is widely believed that cold water puts more strain in the body, especially the liver. I still drink cold water sometimes but I will try to limit it going forward. 

Store your water wisely. Glass or steel cups or bottles are best. If you buy water in plastic cups/bottles, consider not re-using it or leave them in a hot car/place as toxins may leach into the water.

I put a glass and a water jar in my room so I have easy access when I need to drink. It motivates me to drink more when I can easily reach for it and not wait until I'm thirsty because I'm lazy to walk out to the kitchen to get water. If you're already thirsty, it means your body is already dehydrated. So make water easily accessible especially with young children. Keep their water bottles close to them so we can offer them to drink as often as possible.

What are your thoughts on drinking cold or ice water? How do you make sure you're hydrated?

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

High Fructose Corn Syrup

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Let's talk about High Corn Fructose Syrup (HCFS). HCFS was first introduced in Japan in the 1970's. From then it was quickly introduced into our food supply as they were very affordable. So cheap that it has made its way into almost all processed and packaged food we see. HCFS contains glucose and fructose components similar to sugar but through enzyme processing, the glucose is converted into fructose. A closer look at the labels in packaged food will reveal that they contain almost no fiber, the important factor needed to counteract the negative consequences of consuming fructose. Without many of us realizing, we eat way too much of HCFS as they are found in almost everything we see including soft drinks, breakfast cereals, bread, yogurt, salad dressings, pizza sauce, bbq sauce, ketchups, fruit drinks, canned fruits and even cough syrup. We used to eat much less fructose from whole fruits and vegetables before HCFS existed and today an average adolescent consumes a lot more sugar than before, making one in four person obese.

Why is HCFS so bad?

- It is man-made.
- It does not have any nutritional value.
- It is corn-based and most corn is genetically modified.
- It is sugar (fructose) and too much consumption leads to many diseases including obesity, diabetes, and liver problems.
- It puts you at a risk for mercury exposure.

How to avoid HCFS?

- Avoid processed foods.
- Stop drinking soda.

As for me, I grew up loving ketchups. I dip my fries in it, eat burgers, pizza and pasta with it, and I cook stir-frys with it. Ah, ketchups. I guess I will have to limit my ketchup consumption, or find an organic version that doesn't contain funny stuff. I will also take a closer look into ingredient labels when I buy food. Maybe I may not be able to fully eliminate it, just because HCFS is everywhere, including bread and even burger buns (yes, you read it right!). But at least I will try my best to avoid it as best as I can.

What processed foods or drinks that are hard for you to let go?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Meeting You Is A Miracle

Napa Valley, California

Nine years ago today, my now-husband, Evan, asked me to pursue a relationship with him. He was someone I met in the most traditional way. Yes, we were introduced by our parents. Having a rather wide age gap at the time (he was 23 and I was 16), we had nothing in common and nothing to talk about. But we are a happily married couple now, entering five years of wedded bliss in two months! Thinking back, many incidences that occurred prior to our first meeting were so random, that only God could orchestrate. To be able to finally meet each other for the first time was none other than God's miraculous plan. It was not a coincidence. It was a divine appointment and blessing.

His Story

Evan just resigned from banking and has been accepted to a university in the Bay Area to do his master's. He went back to Jakarta in the summer of 2003 to apply for a student visa for Fall 2003 enrollment. But his visa didn't come in time and he had to postpone enrollment until Winter of 2004. Having lived outside of Jakarta all his life, he had few friends and spent most of his time accompanying his Dad to and from work everyday for several months.

Her Story

I just finished high school in 2002 and was waiting for my sister to finish hers in 2003 before going to a university in the US, while in the meantime I started community college in Singapore. We were interested in a few places in the US but were nervous because we knew no one. One day, a friend who was studying at a community college in the Bay Area came to visit and told me good things about the place and was willing to help us out with school application. After talking to my parents and doing some research, it turned out that it is a nice area and we found out we knew some people there, and to top it off, my cousin would join us if we decide to go there. Long story short, it was a quick decision, we were accepted to the community college in the Bay Area for Winter 2004 enrollment. I didn't know Evan at the time.

How We Met

Evan's Dad and my Mom worked in the same company. When my Mom went to Evan's Dad's office one dat, she saw his family picture. She asked if Evan (the only unmarried one) had a girlfriend and he said no. When I went back to Jakarta for summer holiday, they arranged for us to meet (just the four of us!) in a buffet restaurant in a mall by their office. As awkward as it was, there were many funny (and memorable) things that happened that day and the few days after (but I'll spare you the details). It was then when we found out that we were both going to study in the Bay Area starting Winter 2004.

Over the next several months, we kept in touch through emails. Having not much to do while waiting for his visa, Evan would respond fast to my emails and helped me edit my essays. I started talking about random things in life like what I do everyday and I suppose he found it amusing because he never got bored of my randomness in my emails (haha). Fast forward a few months later, we were both in the US, got to know each other better and we started our courtship on April 19, 2004. The rest is history-in-the-making.

Our first picture together

You see, it was almost impossible for us to meet if it wasn't God's plan. Evan never lived in the places I lived in, he was considerably older and had different circle of friends who enjoyed to talk about politics, history, and philosophy. He was smart, tall, dark, and handsome (ok maybe I'm biased, but it's true!) who had traveled the world, graduated from a top university, and had worked for two years. I, on the other hand, was only sixteen, having just finished high school, never been outside of Asia and Australia, and loved to talk about... well, randomness of life. I was just starting out. Our circle of friends were so different and we liked to do different things. At a glance, we had nothing in common. There were also many incidences in 2003 that could have happened that would not allow us to meet. Evan's visa could have been out on time and he would have gone to the US earlier. I could have gone to a different university if it wasn't for my friend who came to visit. We would not have met if my Mom did not notice his family picture in his Dad's office. And so on.

But nothing is impossible in God, and more importantly, our "nothing in common" was a non-issue because we both believe in God. God unites us. And throughout our relationship, we talked about how to deepen our faith and encouraged one another to live according to God's ways, all of which are far more important than knowing (or not knowing) about politics, economics, or geography. Our faith in God was the building blocks of our relationship and the foundation of our marriage. 
Having God as the center of our marriage strengthens our relationship. We love each other because we love God. We don't want to hurt each other because we fear God. And we don't want to sin against one another because we are accountable to God. 

Happy nine years, E! I love you more each day and I'd say yes all over again!

To Him be the glory!

Sugar Explained

Sugar has been known to be the cause of many serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Let's learn more about sugar and how it works our body.

I came across an excellent presentation titled "Sugar: Bitter Truth" by Dr Lustig of the University of California. It's long but I urge you to watch the full presentation here if you have the time, if not, do watch this 11-minute summary here:

Basic Composition of Sugar

The common table sugar is sucrose. It consists of half glucose and half fructose.

Glucose is the energy of life. It is the main source of energy for your red blood cells, nervous system, and brain. Our body can use glucose immediately as an energy source or store it in your liver and muscles for later use. We need to manage our glucose levels properly. Too little of it will lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Too much of it will cause an elevated insulin that makes the glucose to be absorbed rapidly, leaving us with blood sugar levels too low. 

"Fructose is poison," cited Dr Lustig cited. Unlike glucose, fructose doesn't get used up as energy in the body, rather it goes straight to the liver. Fructose is released so quickly into the body, causes a spike in insulin (insulin stores nutrients including fat), so fast that your brain can't see the production of leptin (a protein that regulates fat storage), which means your brain thinks you are still hungry. This is why you crave and eat even more sugar - and a vicious cycle begins. You may say that fructose is fruit sugar. Yes you are right. Taken as a whole, the fiber in fruits slows down the absorption of fructose, thus giving the liver more time to deal with fructose appropriately as it produces a gradual release of sugar into the blood. That is why fruit juice can be a problem. When you drink a fruit juice that you run through a juicer, you are getting fructose without fiber. 

I have always assumed that fat is the cause of weight gain. But I am now convinced that sugar is the enemy. A dessert lover myself, it will be hard eliminating sugar altogether but here are some steps I am going to take:

1. Eat dessert for special treats and replace daily "desserts" with fruits.
1. Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juice.
2. Avoid as much processed and packaged food as possible, therefore avoiding high fructose corn syrup.
3. Use healthier sugar alternatives.
4. Eat my main meal first (not dessert first!)

Will you join me in this journey to cut down our sugar consumption?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sugar Alternatives

Sugar is our friend. Or is it not? Without it, we can't enjoy birthday cakes, ice cream, chocolate mousse, or something as simple as sweet tea. God did create a fifth of our taste buds to enjoy sweetness, right? But is all sugar "sweet?"

Glycemic Index (GI) indicates how quickly and how much food raises the blood sugar relative to pure glucose consumption. The GI of pure glucose is 100. A high-GI food causes a spike in blood glucose levels and it is linked to diseases like type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer. Most fruits and vegetables have low-GI, while white rice, white bread, and potatoes have high-GI.

So here is a list of sugar alternatives with its GI values:

Refined or semi-refined sugars:
- White Sugar (GI 80)
- Brown Sugar (GI 80)
- Powdered Sugar (GI 80)
- Corn Syrup (GI 75)
- Sucanat (GI 65)
- Raw Sugar (GI 65)
- Agave Syrup (GI 55)

Natural alternatives:
- Date Sugar (GI 70)
- Blackstrap Molasses (GI 55)
- Maple Syrup (GI 54)
- Honey (GI 50)
- Coconut Palm Sugar (GI 35)
- Stevia (GI 0)

Artificial Sweeteners:
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharine (Sweet 'N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)

Which sugar to avoid and which are better alternatives?

Artificial sweeteners are to be avoided at all cost. Aspartame, used in so many "diet" foods is a harmful neurotoxin and disrupts endocrine. Like MSG, it is toxic to the nervous system and can cause weight gain. Other artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and saccharine have been proved to cause digestive problems and immune system dysfunction in laboratory animals.

Refined or semi-refined sugars are also best avoided because they are highly processed at high temperatures using chemicals, leaving no nutritional value for the body. Choose natural sweeteners instead. They generally have lower GI, less processed, and contain trace minerals and vitamins (especially in raw and unpasteurized ones). But remember that although natural sweeteners are better choice, they are still sugar and we cannot indulge in them.

"If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit." - Proverbs 25:16

Sugar is present in almost everything we eat - bread, condiments, cooking sauces, flavored drinks, and desserts. Even in my home cooking I used to put white sugar in every dish just because I thought I had to do so as to enhance the flavor. As I began the study about sugar, I realize it is not necessary to always add sugar to all my cooking and I have been cutting down our sugar consumptiona number of ways:

- I try to avoid packaged or processed food.
- No sugar in my soups. I use dried dates, apples, pears, corns, and carrots instead.
- I don't eat as much bread, processed jams or Nutella (this is hard!)
- I use real maple syrup for my french toast and add raisins to my oatmeal.
- I sparingly use blackstrap molasses for home cooking.
- I don't bake as much now (just because I haven't had a chance to look up healthy baking recipes yet), but will bake or make dessert at home for special occasions. I still need my favorite tiramisu-fix from time to time.

I realize I can't completely eliminate sugar from my diet, but I will try to reserve my sweet cravings for special occasions or for when I go on a date with Evan.

Have you ever been on a low-sugar diet? How did you do it and how did it affect your overall health?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Read Ingredient Labels: Food Toxins to Avoid

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It is not until I have baby Elin that I started paying attention to what I eat. And when baby Elin started solid food, all I wanted was to give her the finest, the freshest, and the best food possible. And I started to read ingredient labels more closely. What do I find there most of the time? 

- Artifical colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners
- Preservatives and Additives
- High corn fructose syrup (HCFS)
- Shortening, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

HCFS in breakfast cereal? Artificial colorings in boxed mac and cheese? Preservatives and MSG is most processed sauces? Hmm.. Was I surprised? Actually not. I knew about this. I learned this in nutrition class in school. But I buy them and eat them regularly. Why? I was ignorant. I wasn't overweight or had a serious illness so I didn't find it "wrong" to consume them - they are convenient and taste so good! But very soon after I began studying nutrition, I was convicted that everything in this world belongs to God, including my body.

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals?

- Stop eating processed and packaged foods. 
- Read ingredient labels (Do you know that blueberry muffins may not have real blueberries in them?). Don't eat it if you can't read it.
- Eat out less and choose food wisely when you do eat out.
- Eat whole, unprocessed, natural food.

I know it is easier said than done especially living in a society that value highly processed foods. I used to eat SPAM quite often - to make our favorite SPAM musubi, pasta, baked macaroni, etc. But I'm making a conscious effort to not buy it anymore (unless someone makes it, I might be tempted to eat one. Sigh, my flesh is weak). Cooking sauces are the hardest for me to let go. Sweet/salty soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup, chili sauce, Japanese sauces (mirin, ponzu), BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, pasta sauce - these are staples in my kitchen and I don't know how to cook without them. My husband was so sad to find out that his favorite shabu-shabu peanut sauce contains MSG. I often rationalize that it is easier for Westerners to eat whole food because their cooking don't generally use processed sauces, but olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and herbs (which I have to learn to enjoy, I'm used to eating food with lots of sauces). But there is no point to compare because I still need to take care of my body anyway. My family is not perfect but we are taking baby steps to cut down processed foods. May God gives us the grace and wisdom to enjoy food in its most natural form as He created them. 

Why do you think our society has a hard time cutting down on processed food?