I started to get excited yesterday. As I was getting Matthew ready for school, Good Morning America had a brief segment on Stevia. I thought maybe it would start getting some mainstream *good* press for a change. It kind of did. Of course there was a person saying "not everything natural is safe...." Here we go again, dun dun dun......this natural sweetener that has been used for centuries could cause cancer (as all the natural supplements get accused of in some way shape or form)......of course their studies were worried about the product in processed foods. Really?!?! Do people really even believe this stuff? OK so lets take a look at the chemical sweeteners like nutrasweet, splenda, equal, etc. I can grow Stevia in my garden (and have). Personally I think something I can grow in nature is a heck of a lot healthier for me than a chemical any day. So you want to look at cancer risk? Lets pull out that data on sweet n low. It galls me to see stuff like this. So lets just say we use the same logic to discuss zucchini. Most people would say zucchini is a healthy food. Now lets bread it and fry it in canola oil and then say "well, you know this zucchini, if eaten enough, can cause cancer". Sure, now lets just stop eating all zucchini. Lets not discuss that the frying and the breading and the hydrogenated oil is what is making it bad. It is the same thing with Stevia. So the studies on its safety in processed foods are still inconclusive, here's an idea, lets not eat so many processed foods!
I felt the same way watching the Biggest Loser last week. They did a Thanksgiving episode, talking about ways to do a healthier Thanksgiving dinner. I thought this could be a good segment. And then the celebrity Chef Rocco Something-or-other began taking a beautiful turkey breast, adding seasoning and herbs and rolled it in plastic wrap and proceeded to boil it! My mouth gaped open. Seriously????? You think boiling turkey in plastic wrap is better than maybe roasting it? I would take the extra fat and calories over the chemicals boiling out of the plastic wrap and into my food. And then he talked about the pies and sugar. He advocated using some of the chemical sweeteners (splenda, sweet n low, etc). ARRGH!! By this point I was so disappointed with the whole episode that I was grumbling out loud. Luckily my husband is used to my anger at these BS theories about "health". It was clear that the issue on this show was calorie count, not actual health. That galls me. Its like the people who live off cigarettes and diet coke and are rail thin and thereby perceived as more "healthy". Yet I completed a sprint triathlon in April and still carry around some of my baggage from two pregnancies even after all the training. Aarrgh!!! I am not saying it is OK to be overweight but I think there is a huge difference between healthy and skinny, and I want everyone to know I am using these terms as metaphores, I am not just focusing on actual weight here.
We are focused in general I think on the slick glamour of things, not the actual content whether that be nutrition, health or depth. It drives me nuts. If we looked at other countries we would see use of Stevia as an alternative and we wouldn't be so scared by natural alternatives. We would appreciate the real qualities of life and not just the face value of things. But unfortunately the natural health community does not have big lobbyists behind it. And so they get crucified by the big companies wanting market share and so the public gets fooled into thinking calorie content is king and the chemicals really don't matter. I would say that especially in the Autism community, chemicals DO matter. We do need to be very aware of all the chemicals that our kiddos are exposed to and cannot rid themselves of easily. And in return, your whole family gets healthier. I will say it again, butter is better than margerine. What animal does margerine come from? Its nearest relative is Tupperware as far as I am concerned. Do we need to be prudent with the amount of butter (or Ghee if you are GFCF) we use? Yes, absolutely. But the real deal is better than the "franken-food" that have "zero fat and calories!" that many things seem to promote. Skip the "low sugar" or "sugar free" varieties as they are sure to contain artificial sweeteners. Reach for agave nectar, honey, fruit or stevia as alternatives. But don't buy into "no calories are better" theory because we need calories, just the right ones.....And learn to read labels. If you can't pronounce it or don't know what it does, maybe you should leave it on the shelf. Does that limit your choices? Absolutely. We have very few boxed or prepackaged foods in our cupboards. It takes way more time to plan, shop and cook but I still say it is well worth it, for all of us, not just Matthew. Now I am "one of those" people that is in the aisle reading labels (the kind of person I used to smirk at years ago, writing off as a nerd). I guess I am a food nerd, I should have my glasses and pocket protector with my neatly written list. But instead I usually have at least one child hanging out of the basket, singing or whining (or both), my list usually getting misplaced at least once during the trip and not neatly written at all, most items added on the fly or in the car. But that's OK, I am still paying attention to those labels and at heart am still a food nerd. And I am OK with that.