Thursday, March 26, 2009

Groovy Garlic Green Beans

These beans are a mainstay in our house.  And this summer we are likely to have them even more often.  Believe me, I am not complaining :-).   Nathan has poles and plans to make teepees which are connected together in a triangle.  Apparently the rattlesnake beans we purchased will grow all summer long and need to be picked 3 times a week.  He tells me the beans are supposed to grow across the top and they will hang down so we can pick them from on high!  :-)

Groovy Garlic Green Beans

16 oz. french cut green beans (or the equivalent amount of fresh)
1/3 cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pinch red pepper flakes (we have a spoon labeled 'pinch'; I think it's around 1/8 tsp.  Use more if you like it hot!)
salt to taste

Place beans in a large skillet.  Add all ingredients (sometimes I hold back half of the cloves until the last 10 minutes or so of cooking).  Cook on low until beans are cooked down and tender, stirring frequently.  It helps to cook the first 5 minutes or so with a lid on, to get it nice and hot (esp. if frozen).  Then, when it is sizzling nicely, cook it like a stir fry until all the flavors are blended, the water is steamed out (if frozen), and the beans are nice and tender.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Xylitol - Is it Really the Miracle Sweetener?

When I faltered in my attempt to avoid sugar in my diet, I considered using xylitol instead, whose myriad of health benefits range from fighting tooth decay and reducing ear infections to losing weight and overcoming depression.  As I searched for the least expensive xylitol on the market, I scanned multiple sites to learn that much xylitol is made from corn.  The last few years we have made efforts to avoid GMO produce, so I was curious:  Was xylitol produced from GMO corn?  If so, did it's GMO-ness come through in the xylitol?

As I continued to search, I came across a product that was not produced from corn.  Global Sweet Xylitol is made from birch trees.  I found that I could purchase a 55 lb. bag of Global Sweet Xylitol for $217.50.  But I had questions.  I asked the nice lady on the phone exactly how they produced their xylitol.  She directed me here.  Long story short, my questions remained unanswered.  I began to wonder, exactly how is the same product produced from birch trees and corn?  And that caused me to wonder, exactly how is xylitol made?  And why is it so expensive?  My research has by no means been exhaustive, but Rami Nagel seems to have found some answers, and shortened my search for cheap xylitol.  Go to the article yourself, or read it below:
(NaturalNews) Consuming 1.4 ounces of Xylitol per day will cause diarrhea in many subjects according to a study conducted in 1977. On the page sates, "In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay (less than 15 grams per day), xylitol is safe for everyone." 15 grams of xylitol is about 0.5 ounces. What about doses over 15 grams?

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. Xylitol is also found in things like hardwood. Keep in mind that the xylitol in chewing gum is not necessarily the same thing as xylitol in fruits or vegetables because it has to be treated and processed in order to extract the sugar crystals from the fruit or vegetable. This is akin to the differences between synthetic vitamins and naturally occurring vitamins in foods. They are not the same thing.

How is Xylitol Made?

A search of patents online explains one process for making xylitol, tell me if this sounds healthy? You begin with some source material containing xylan. One commonly used source is corn imported from China.

1. First the xylan needs to be broken down in a process called acid hydrolyzing. The results of this process leave us with xylose and acetic acid. The process of hydrogenation is carried out at higher pressures and temperatures ranging from 158 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Hydrogenation needs a catalyst, so a substance called Raney nickel can be used which is a powdered nickel-aluminium alloy.

2. The acetic acid needs to be removed as the material safety data sheet describes it as, "Very hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, permeator), of eye contact (corrosive)."

3. Then the hydrolyzing acid and organic residues must be removed, this is done by heating the mixture and evaporating it.

4. The resulting syrup, now free of acetic acid, hydrolyzing acid, nick-aluminum and other residues.

5. The syrup is crystallized by stirring ethanol into it.

6. The crystalline xylitol is now separated in a centrifuge from the ethanol and from the sorbitol remaining in solution.

7. Viola, you have xylitol.

Health Claims

It is obvious to me, as it might be to you, that xylitol, in addition to killing bacteria, will probably kill just about anything. This clearly explains why it is only recommended to be used in small doses. Yet if you go to a health food store, you will see larger sized bags of xylitol on the shelf, promoting its many health uses.

Health Concerns

In lab tests, xylitol will kill a rat 50% of the time in a dosage of 16.5 grams of xylitol for every 1000 grams of rat. Medium rats weigh 100-120 grams, or say .25 pounds. That means, to kill a 100 gram rat, you need only to get the rat to consume, 1.65 grams of xylitol.

A typical xylitol piece of gum contains .7 – 1 gram of xylitol. About half the amount needed to kill a rat. I read of a study stating that humans consumed up to 400 grams of xylitol per day without any ill health effects. I find that hard to believe that such a study is accurate in comparison to the lab tests done as indicated on the material safety data sheets. If 1.65 grams can kill a rat, consuming 400 grams would be highly toxic to humans.

A more detailed look gives cause for even more concern, there seems to be no long term safety data about the long term health effects of regularly consuming xylitol. The data sheets state:

"Epidemiology: No information found

Teratogenicity: No information found

Reproductive Effects: No information found

Mutagenicity: No information found

Neurotoxicity: No information found"

Critics will claim that lethal doses on material data sheets are not conclusive proof. But I must ask this question, has xylitol been proven conclusively to be safe or effective?

What About Cavity Fighting Power?

Let's assume you don't mind your liver being poisoned or the diarrhea side effects that are possible from xylitol gum or mints, because you want to fight the cavities. While one would assume that there is a huge body of evidence showing that xylitol prevents cavities, an article published in 2006 in the Journal of the American Dental Association volume 137, states, "Some studies claimed that xylitol-sweetened gum had an anticariogenic effect, though these claims need further study." This basically says that any evidence that xylitol sweetened gums stops cavities is not conclusive and requires further study.

Conclusions About Xylitol

Xylitol is a processed sugar. After being hydrogenated and having toxic chemicals added to xylan from corn or other plant material, and then removed, you get xylitol. For anyone who wants to be healthy, the first thing that is pretty much unanimous about any diet or protocol to restore your health, is that you need to avoid processed sugars. While there is a variety of opinions on what foods to eat in replacement of processed sugar, it is blatantly clear that processed sugars, like xylitol, are extremely harmful to humans. Perhaps, xylitol has special uses in special cases; as a regular part of your diet, it is clearly a poor idea.

Xylitol might inhibit bacteria growth, but so does white sugar. Xylitol's dirty little secret is that even in moderate doses of larger than 15 grams, which is approximately 3 teaspoons, xylitol's own promotional material says it is not safe for everyone to use. Children being smaller and less developed than adults, will obviously be much more sensitive to xylitol's effects.

The way to prevent and control cavities is not with a processed sugar chewing gum or mint, but rather with a good diet. A good diet that is capable of preventing cavities is generally low in sugar, and high in absorbable vitamins and minerals, particularly fat-soluble vitamins in foods like avocado, coconut, the germ of wheat, raw/unpasteurized milk, pastured organ meats, and sea foods.

If you want healthy teeth and gums, you need to avoid processed sugar's like xylitol. Avoiding other processed foods like processed sugar, white flour and other foods not made from freshly ground grains, cheap low quality vegetable oils, soft drinks and artificial flavors and preservatives, soy milk, pasteurized milk, and other non-organic, non-wholesome foods will help increase your immunity to cavities.

I have found that there is no short cut to good wholesome whole foods for health.

Is xylitol safe or effective? The answer is clear.

Cheeseslave posts some interesting information about Agave sweetener also.  Apparently it is processed and high in fructose.  Sigh.  I'm agreeing with Rami here.  There is no substitute for natural foods.  I'm going to renew my efforts to eat less sugar, and forget all about my "turkish delight". :-).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Avacado Dip/Dressing - Finally One That is Good for Me!

I experimented with various avacado dressing recipes online, and came up with this one, which is truly delightful!

2 avocados
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped, fresh dill (or 1 1/3 tbsp. dried - but I haven't tried this)
1 packet of Stevia sweetener (I used Stevia in the Raw)
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt to taste

Cut avacados in half around the pit.  Discard pit.  Carve out avacado meat with a thin spoon.  Mash with potato masher until creamed well.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir well, and enjoy!  Nathan says that it tastes like a party dip.  We tried it with chips and it was marvelous!  Perhaps I will add more water to make it more pourable for a dressing.