STEVIA: a Great, Natural, Non-chemical Sugar Substitute

Let not thine eyes glaze over, for the food shall set thee free!

This subject might seem to be a deviation from my theme of empathy, but it is not. Mental and physical health is both a necessary ingredient to, and a result of universal empathy.

If we could vertically eliminate or greatly reduce the current epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease, why would we not do it and how could it be done? The answer is more interesting than one might think.

Here is how to do it:

Remove sugar and chemical sugar substitutes from our family diet. It is not too difficult, although it is difficult to eliminate sugar altogether because it is in virtually all processed products on the grocery shelves. Still, consumption can be reduced to a minimum, especially if you buy mostly unprocessed foods and buy, if you must, processed foods that contain the least amount of sugar.

To be more socially empathetic, we can join together at the local level, attend school board meetings and call for all soft drink dispensers and sugary desserts to be removed from schools. As long as it is available, your kids likely will consume them.

But, you and your family love your desserts? Schools resist? No problem. We can do an end-run around bland foods and the bureaucracy.

From The Candida Diet: The Stevia Plant

From The Candida Diet

              From The Candida Diet

The best substitute for sugar is, as I have found in my research, highly refined, pure stevia (Rebaudioside A, also called Reb-A and rebiana). Stevia is not an artificial, chemical compound, but a refined plant derivative that has been used by other nations around the world for hundreds of years with no known ill effects on health, and some studies have found possible benefits for diabetics.

And, no, I have no stock in the industry and have no connection at all other than buying the product for myself.—-

A field of sweetness

                A field of sweetness

Here are some facts about stevia:

One teaspoon of pure stevia (no fillers) is equal to one cup of sugar. So, while Stevia, by equal volume, is more expensive than sugar, one only uses a very small amount (about 1/48 as much as sugar) for one’s dessert, candy, or coffee. This drops the cost to very acceptable levels–possibly even less than the cost of sugar (although I haven’t done all the math–I really don’t care if it is a few pennies more).

Pure stevia–with no filler–can be purchased on the Internet, and one can purchase it in bulk or in packets. The packets (like the packets of artificial sweeteners at convenient store coffee counters) make it much easier to determine the correct amount you want, and get it right every time. Buying the bulk containers (no fillers) is less expensive, but, until you get used to measuring it out, it can be just a bit iffy.

Be very careful when purchasing on the Internet. Be sure to read the “Ingredients” on the label to determine if it contains fillers (anything other than Rebaudioside A, also called Reb-A and rebiana). If sugar alcohols are present, the product contains filler.

* * *

So, if Stevia is the best sugar substitute (0 on the glycemic index, 0 calories), why is it difficult or impossible to find in super markets?

Follow the money!

Here is a little history of the politics that led to greater wealth for some, and poor health (sometimes death) for the rest of us:

Enter Donald Rumsfeld, onetime CEO of G.D. Searle (the corporation that created Aspartame–a chemical sugar substitute having probable health risks–and is a component of many diet soft drinks). Rumsfeld, as most folks know, is a neoconservative of the first order with long-time White House connections!

Shortly after Reagan came into office, the FDA approved Aspartame as an artificial sweeter, even though there was little know of its possible health risks. (Anyone want to guess who was a close friend of Reagan?) In 1991, the FDA, still composed of mostly Reagan appointees, effectively banned Stevia from importation into the U.S. (anyone what to guess who would financially benefit from that ban?)

Over the decades, likely because of the Internet, Stevia has become more widely known. The food industry and the artificial sweetener industry could no longer hide the facts and block its sale. People were beginning to buy Stevia over the Internet, and it could be found in health food stores (although the labels were not allowed to call it a sugar substitute or a sweetener).

The product has become more popular, even against political resistance and corporate-paid “research.” One can still find misinformation all over the Internet. Products are, however, now on supermarket shelves, using the usual deceptive Wall Street advertising and packaging for big profits. The products on your grocery store shelves that now contain Stevia, and claim to be Stevia, are deceptive. The individual packages and bulk containers are mostly cheep fillers, contrary to their names (“Truvia,” “Stevia in the Raw,” ” PureVia”). Sound so honest and pure, doesn’t they? Yes, Stevie is in the product, but with a much greater amount of filler. The chemical filler, itself, may not be so healthy. Last I read, the pure form of Stevia is still not in supermarkets.

Stevia products are marketed under the brand names Truvia and PureVia, but the packets are not just rebiana. Both Truvia and PureVia contain erythritol, a low-calorie sugar alcohol sweetener. One packet of Truvia (3.5 grams) contains 3 grams of erythritol, and “natural flavors” of undisclosed chemical composition.

Lastly, one caution to using stevia; you must use the proper amount. Too much will not taste good (too much sugar doesn’t either), but the right amount will have the great side effects of not leaving one’s lips sticky, will not add to your calorie intake, and will not rot the teeth. Also, it is heat resistant–you can bake with it.

I drink 4 cups of coffee every morning sweetened with stevia (from bulk containers of 0.7 oz) and periodically make delicious fudge and brownies (yes, I can cook).

Love the stuff. I am borderline diabetic (type 2) and have been for years. Why do I not have full blown diabetes? Stevia, diet, and exercise–and no soft drinks! Virtually all diet soft drinks are sweetened with chemicals, and are still harmful to diabetics.


 

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

A free chapter from The Empathy Imperative will be on this site soon.

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The illusion of separateness

This is a re-blog from

LIFE IS NOT AN ERROR

Life Is Not An Error

My horizons know no bounds, dimensionless I pass through with no sound; through dimensions, vacuous, folded and entangled so I am the golden thread oscillating a heavenly glow, binding strings in a perpetual state of flow. As thick as a Planck are those who insist they are alone and separate from all around them; for once we were all in union and hence forever in communion and unison despite an illusionary range. Believe me not? Then just ask the cat locked inside the box and ignore that sly fox, whom asks that you merely shake the box to hear it meow! Understand the entanglement, the oscillations and vibrations that echo silently and abundantly through all. This Earth and you are but one expression of me but one I love dearly so, so I bring you this message on the illusion of your separateness and the rarity of your sentient glow…

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When Civil Rights and Libertarianism Collide

Image   What does it take to create a harmonious civil society? Individual rights are extremely important, but so are civil rights. Should individual rights trump civil rights? For me, a recent exchange of opinions with a self described libertarian on the social blog, SodaHead, highlighted this conflict.

First, I understand the position of the libertarian and I do sympathize. Libertarians believe that the individual is the sole arbiter of his associations, and not the government. I agree to an extent, but I argue that for the purpose of building and maintaining a civil society, there must be at least two exceptions, e.g., commerce and religion.

This clash of rights came to light lately when a baker refused his service to a gay wedding. The baker was not required to attend the wedding, but simply to bake and decorate the cake. He based his refusal on his religious beliefs. At first blush, one would tend to agree with the baker. After all, we do have the right to practice our religions. Yet, this practice sometimes runs afoul of law, which is the manifestation of the government’s obligation to guarantee all citizens equal access to commerce.

The government (We the People), have a compelling interest in the promotion of a civil society. While the baker, in his private life, has a sovereign right to association, in his business practices, he does not have the right to select which customers he will not serve. The gay couple’s right to equal access to commerce outweighs whatever right he may think he has for refusing his service.

He who has a business open to the public, must serve the public. Besides, the baker is not being forced to associate on a social bases with them, he is merely obligated to operate his business as usual, even if his cake does have two male or female figurines on top. This case illustrates my argument that religion is often divisive–a major hindrance to peace and harmony. Were the baker to follow the path of benevolent reciprocity–do unto others as you would have them do unto you–empathy would have dictated his actions. We should not be in the business of building walls, but dismantling those we’ve built.

Empathy: Bringing down the walls, one brick at a time

By M. Jefferson Hale*

What would happen if the entire world followed the greatest moral advice of the sages?  What would such a world look like? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not a concept owned by any religion. One finds it even in the words of secular humanists. It is almost universal:

It is Baha’i: “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. . . .Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u’llah;

It is Buddhism“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta Nikaya v. 353;

It is Christianity: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version;

It is Secular HumanismDo unto others as you would have them do unto you; 

It is Brahmanism“This is the sum of Dharma (duty): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”  Mahabharata, 5:1517;

It is Islam“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths;

It is Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a;

It is Confucianism“When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius, Doctrine of the Mean.

Indeed, reciprocity** is a moral concept advocated by these and many more religions, as well as atheists and agnostics the world over. It is possibly the highest moral value ever espoused, and yet most who claim to adhere to this philosophy often ignore it, especially in politics. If this were not so, then there would exist little or no poverty, little or no indifference, and there would be universal, nonprofit healthcare. Why would this not be something to which everyone could agree?

I confess to my own guilt here. I, like everyone, am a product of my environment and my genetic heritage. I am a work in progress. I have profound regrets for inappropriate statements and actions that brought stress to others, and still often have difficulty in controlling my desire for fractious confrontation against those with whom I have grievances in both social situations and politics. Civil debate is always better even if civility isn’t a trait of one’s opponent, and I am a firm believer in debate. Thus, I have to keep reminding myself that anger wins no converts, always troubles the soul, and makes the way difficult. Since I cannot change the past or my genetics, therefore, the best I can do is try my best to recognize my inclinations to self-centeredness, condescension, aggression, and resist.

On this site, I will call on readers to join me in traveling the difficult path of the sages. We are all subject to the same natural impulses and will often fall short, but if everyone were to try, it would be a far better world.

How hard can it be? Consider Matthew 25:32-46. Matthew, or whoever wrote Matthew, in his quest to bring about a more just society, did not suffer from any illusion that empathy is our primary motivating force. Self-interest is far stronger. He knew that without threat of punishment, relatively few would follow his words. Moreover, he knew that mere punishment, such as execution, prison, or flogging would not be enough. He knew the punishment must be far greater than anything dealt by society. It had to be the threat of divine punishment: unrelenting torture, without end, forever.

Yet, even that threat has never been enough. Why has it not? Because we human beings are only slightly less subject to our genetic heritage than other species. By nature, we are aggressive, self-interested, territorial beings. These traits are characteristics honed long ago by the drive for survival—a drive we’ve inherited from a distant past far more dangerous than the present when to lose one’s territory and possessions was to lose one’s life, or at the very least, create hardships.

Still, human territorialism is no longer the instinct it was long ago. An instinct is a drive that impels an individual, without recourse, to certain actions, not the least of which is to protect himself, his family, and his territory in an aggressive manner and to procreate.

We now have the power to override those passions, reducing what used to be instinct to mere impulses. We have become, collectively, more tolerant and less territorial. Even though we, for the most part, have intellectualized our territorialism in the form of property possession and sovereignty by force of law, our ethical concepts are evolving. We, therefore, now have the capacity to follow the path of the sages, difficult as that may be.

I can envision a future—not in my lifetime but long thereafter—humankind will live together as brothers and sisters. I can see a time when our primary motivation will not be self-interest, but universal empathy. The founders of that future are those who listen to the sages and have the courage to venture beyond the walls of their theological and self-centered ideologies, taking with them only the greatest words of wisdom; the words of benevolent reciprocity. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.

* M. Jefferson Hale is the lead character in the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr

** What was implied by the sages was benevolent reciprocity. Simple reciprocity might allow for returning violence for violence, but benevolent reciprocity is returning kindness for violence. It is, indeed, a most difficult thing to do. Shouldn’t there be a Church of Benevolent Reciprocity?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature Divine Justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Based on biblical literalism, the story opens at the beginning of the Tribulation, but a professor of philosophy and evolutionary biology becomes the focal point for a change that alters Yahweh’s Divine Plan. Jeff knew the answer to a question unspoken.

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