Sour Spotlight: Carrageenan

What is it?

A common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed. It is used by the food industry to thicken, stabilize, and improve the texture of many dairy and dairy-related foods, such as ice cream, yogurt, and soy milk.

Sounds harmless right?

Why is it a “sour” food?

The ingredient causes inflammation in our gut. It is destructive to our digestive system. When you continually eat foods that contain this additive, chronic inflammation happens which leads to serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and more.

How to avoid it?

Read the labels.   Case in point – I have been buying Kirkland’s Organic Soy Milk for my family for the past 2 years. Look at the 2nd picture below. What is listed on the label???




Just because something says it is organic, does NOT mean it contains all healthy ingredients!

The National Organics Standard Board has approved the use of this ingredient in organic foods. In the last couple of years, this board has been addressed by doctors who have requested this harmful additive be removed from organic foods based upon research they have conducted that raise concerns about this ingredient.

Want more information?

Check out these places for more information:

The Cornucopia Institute’s report on carrageenan.

Food Babe’s Update on Whitewave Foods (products include Horizon and Silk) removing this ingredient.

Organic Shopping Guide – what products do and do not have carrageenan.

Sweet Spotlight: Fruits

Who doesn’t like fruit?  Well, my infant son is not a fan right now unless it is applesauce.  But for the rest of us who love nature’s sweet treats, listed are some delicious fruits that are good to eat and the reasons why.  Don’t forget that it is best to buy these fruits in season or even better and juicier at “peak ripeness”.  To find out when fruits and vegetables are in season and ripe, check out this website:  It is pretty intuitive, but click the FAQs link for explanation.

FOOD: Fruits Why is it good?
Acai Berries Good source of antioxidants (better source than common berries such as blueberries). Rich in anthocyanins which helps prevent premature cell aging.
Apples The fiber in apples helps decrease the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Aronia (chokeberry) Native to the US. High (one of the highest) in antioxidants. Helps stabilizes blood sugar. High in catechins which is good for cardiovascular health.
Avocados Often thought as a vegetable, but it has a seed (a vegetable). Filled with good fats and fatty acids. These fats help absorb nutrients necessary for good heart health.
Bananas Improves digestion, sleep, and heart health.
Blackberries High in fiber. Rich in polyphenols (antioxidants).
Blueberries Rich in inflammation-fighting antioxidants.
Cantaloupe Helps prevent premature aging and rids the body of damaging free radicals.
Cherries Contains the antioxidant (anthocyanin), reduces inflammation, and lowers triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Citrus (oranges, grapefruit, etc) Vitamin C builds collagen (keeps skin looking youthful). Contains powerful antioxidants and fights free-radical illnesses such as cancer and cataracts.   Improves blood flow to the heart.
Cranberries May prevents infections and cancer.   Studies have shown that these can even improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Dragon Fruit Rich in antioxidants and lycopene.
Grapes (red) A top source of resveratrol which is a plant chemical that may have protective properties that helps block Alzheimer plaques from the brain. Can also remove the stains and discolorations on teeth!
Kiwis Full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and folic acid. Ensures healthy bones, teeth, and blood vessels.
Papaya Helps improve digestion. Good source of vitamin C, A, and E and folate.
Pineapple Contains bromelain which helps reduce bloating.
Plums Contains the antioxidant, chlorogenic acid, which helps decrease anxiety.
Pomegranate In the juice form, it has the highest antioxidant level of any beverage.
Pumpkin Good source of beta carotene
Raspberries A fruit with a good amount of fiber and Vitamin C.
Strawberries Contains fisetin which halts the growth of cancer cells and reduces a tumors’ blood supply. Also contain a phytochemical called ellagic acid which reduces the rates of cancer. They are a great source of folic acid. They even can whiten teeth when crushed, mixed with baking soda, and the mixture is left on teeth for 5 minutes.
Watermelon Packed with lycopene. Contains Vitamin A and C.

Lemonade – nothing but a bunch of lemons!

Lemonade! A refreshing, often-summer-time treat. When we started our “no sugar summer”, my kids were worried about not having lemonade all summer. I was ok with no more lemonade because I knew that most lemonades have some yucky ingredients. Most lemonades are “fake” and filled with all kinds of artificial ingredients and flavorings. I did a little investigating at the store for you to see what is in common lemonades. Listed below are some labels from popular lemonades that sell at a local grocery store. There are some nasty things hiding in a kids’ drink!

I know the ingredients are hard to read, so I typed them below each image. I highlighted the sugar and artificial flavorings and dyes, but know that this does not mean that other ingredients in these lemonades are necessarily safe and healthy.   The link at the bottom takes you to Sweeter Honey’s Lemonade without anything artificial or processed and no dyes!

CapriSun’s Lemonade:


Ingredients: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E Acetate.


Country Time Pink Lemonade:


Ingredients: Sugar, Fructose, Citric Acid (Provides Tartness), Contains Less Than 2% Of: Natural Flavor, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Maltodextrin (From Corn), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Citrate (Control Acidity), Magnesium Oxide (Prevents Caking), Calcium Fumarate, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Color, Red 40, Red 40 Lake, Tocopherol (Preserves Freshness).


Kool Aid Lemonade:

Ingredients: Citric Acid, Calcium Phosphate, Maltodextrin, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural Flavor, Artificial Color, Yellow 5, BHA (Preservative). You would add 1 cup of sugar and water to make the Kool Aid.


Minute Maid Lemonade (on the juice aisle):


Contains Pure Filtered Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Lemon Juice From Concentrate, Less than 2% of: Natural Flavors, Calcium Citrate (calcium source), Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid), Sugar.


Minute Maid Lemonade (on the soda aisle):


Contains Pure Filtered Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Lemon Juice From Concentrate, Less than 0.5% of: Natural Flavors, Citric Acid (Provides Tartness), Modified Cornstarch, Glycerol, Ester of Rosin, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect taste), Yellow #5.


Scary list of ingredients, right?  Think twice before indulging in one of these lemonades. For a much healthier alternative, click here for Sweeter Honey’s Lemonade recipe. I promised my kids that they could still have lemonade this summer…this recipe is the result. I think their mommy likes it better than they do!


Sweet Spotlight: Vegetables

I talk a lot about what not to eat. Let’s talk about what we should eat. This is the first post in a series titled Sweet Spotlight. I’ve included why each of these foods is good for you to help you make better and more informed food selections. Refer back to this list often as I will update it with new foods as I continue to learn about foods that are good to eat and benefits of foods that we normally eat.

FOOD: Vegetables Why is it good?
Arugula Contains calcium, folate, and fiber.     Good for bone and heart health.
Avocados Rich in folic acid with prevents birth defects, increases red blood cell production, prevents cancer and strengthens immune system.   Best plant-based source of omega-3s. High in the right kind of fat – monounsaturated fats. Aids in anti-aging and skin-moisturizing benefits.
Beets Source of B vitamin folate that helps with your mood and preserve memories in the brain.
Bell Peppers Contains vitamin C. Helps the immune system.
Bok Choy Contains calcium.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables Full of vitamin C and beta carotene.   Fights cancer, cataracts and heart disease. Improves the immune system. Helps the body eliminate toxins.
Collard Greens Packed with antioxidants that is especially helpful to your eyes.
Greens (mustard, turnip, collard, and kale) Full of calcium, iron, and vitamins C and E. Has detoxifying properties and heals the organs.
Kale Contains vitamins A, C, and K plus a number of minerals. The powerhouse of vitamins makes this an excellent anti-cancer food and a good one for eye-health. May also reduce the risk of heart disease.
Mushrooms (particularly Shiitake) Contains lentinan which may help slow the growth of tumors and cancer. Also good for immunity.
Nori Helps with blood sugar control.   Shred one sheet into soups or salads for 70% daily iodine dose.
Peppers (green, red, orange, and yellow) Rich in vitamin C. Great for the immune system.
Pomegranates (juice form works, too) Helps lower LDL cholesterol.
Potatoes High in potassium which helps nerves and muscles including the heart. The potato skin contains vitamin C and fiber.
Pumpkin ½ cup gives you over 100% of your Vitamin A daily dose requirement. Keeps your immune system working and protects you from disease and cancer.
Romaine Lettuce 2 cups contains half your daily need for Vitamin A and all of the vitamin K you need.
Spinach Contains beta carotene, folic acid, and iron. Good for bone health, cancer prevention, the immune system, and heart health.
Squash Contains vitamin A and helps alkalize the blood from the typical acid-producing diet of fats, sugar, and processed foods that we eat.
Sweet Potatoes High in Vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, and potassium. Plus when these potatoes are digested it turns into Vitamin A which fights premature wrinkles. Helps slow aging and strengthen the immune system.   Antioxidants keep the brain sharp.
Tomatoes Contains lycopene which helps repair cell damage from sun exposure and prevent sunburns.   Also helps keep you in a good mood.
Tomato Sauce Contains potassium. Good for your bones because the potassium buffers the acid that can pull calcium out of your bones.
Watercress Contains a strong dose of glucosinolates, a chemical in the plant that helps prevent breast, colon, and lung cancer.

Sour Spotlight: Sodium Benzoate

I learned months ago of a health warning about sodium benzoate in hummus. I immediately went to my fridge and found that ingredient in the hummus that I ate every day. Yikes! So, I began searching for hummus without this ingredient and put this on my “don’t buy if it has it” list.

Sodium Benzoate is a preservative; therefore, red flags should go up. Sodium benzoate helps extend the shelf life of products, but it is still not something you want to consume. When you consume this additive, it begins to deprive your cells of oxygen. When the cells don’t get the oxygen they need to fight off infection, the immune system is compromised and eventually, cancer can be a concern.

How is sodium benzoate created? Benzoic acid naturally occurs in fruit and not a concern. When this acid reacts with sodium hydroxide, it creates sodium benzoate. This is the sodium salt from benzoic acid and this is what is added to your food.

More harmful reactions: When the sodium benzoate reacts with Vitamins C or E, it forms benzene which is a known carcinogen. What is a carcinogen? Think cancer…it is known to cause cancer.

Why is it in our food? It is one of the least expensive mold inhibitors available. It is often used in acidic foods. Which is why I found it in this lemon juice product (see below):  LemonJuiceFront LemonJuiceLabelWithLabel3

A better alternative: I found this lemon juice at Costco.  This is a Sweeter Honey approved lemon juice.  Only 1 ingredient!


As far as hummus is concerned, you can find hummus without sodium benzoate, but you have to read every label and search a little harder. Most hummus has this preservative, so read those labels!!!  Or make your own!

Bottom Line: Avoid sodium benzoate. Eating occasionally won’t kill you, but if you eat it regularly, it could. While it lengthens the shelf life of food, it can shorten yours!


“Sugar, ah, honey, honey, you are my candy…you got me wanting you”

When I started writing this post, the oldie song “Sugar, Sugar” came to mind.  The lyrics are true.  Most of us love sugar-sweetened foods and we want more and more!   There are many sweets to choose from:  chocolate, candy, cookies, brownies, cake, icing, ice cream, juice, lemonade, soda, and on and on.  This made me think…why do we constantly crave foods with sugar? 

Let’s get scientific for a minute:

  • Dopamine – a brain chemical that is strongly associated with the reward system of the brain.  It produces excitement and high-energy feelings. 
  • Serotonin – a “calming” brain chemical.  Often the target of antidepressant medications because it increases feelings of hope and optimism.

When you eat high sugar foods, you will get a surge of good feelings because these chemicals increase but it is short-lived.  A sugar addiction can start when our brains get a boost over and over from a sugar-filled food.  Interestingly, this is what also happens with addictive substances such as alcohol and cocaine.

Now, what does sugar do to the body?

Sugar is not just empty calories.  It is becoming increasingly clear that sugar is a toxic chemical.  When sugar is eaten, it is metabolized primarily by the liver.  The liver can be overworked from consistently eating too much sugar resulting in fatty liver disease which can ultimately lead to insulin resistance (the cause of obesity and diabetes).

How do you fight sugar cravings to avoid sugar addiction, disease, obesity, and diabetes?

Familiarize yourself with the different names of processed sugar: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, cane syrup, cane juice and evaporated cane juice, turbinado sugar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, corn sweetener, dextrin, fructo-oligosaccharides, fruit juice concentrate, invert sugar, and the words ending in “-ose” – dextrose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, and fructose, polydextrose, etc.   Do not purchase a product that has a sugar name in the top h3 ingredients. 

Avoid hidden sources of sugar.  We all know that sweets and treats have sugar.  But, what else in our pantry or fridge has sugar?

  • Breads and crackers – sugar helps balance the flavor.  Sugar is often added to breads to help the bread rise properly.
  • Cereal and granola – Sugar enhances taste, texture, and lowers the water content.  Sugar increases shelf life.   Check labels – you don’t want to eat cereal that has more than 6 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Tomato-based products – This one is definitely a place where sugar is added because I’ve struggled to find canned tomatoes without sugar.  Sugar is added to give the best sugar-acid balance and improve flavor if the tomatoes are picked before they ripen.  Tomatoes naturally have 5 grams of sugar, but anything over 5 grams is added sugar.  Read the labels and make sure high fructose corn syrup and sugar is not added.  Check the store brand – many of these do not have added sugar.
  • Peanut Butter – “Dextrose” (a sugar) is often added for taste and to stabilize emulsion.  The best bet for this product is to buy natural (only ingredients are roasted peanuts and salt).
  • Dairy – Sugar is added to improve taste.  Flavored milk (vanilla, chocolate, etc) always has quite a bit of added sugar.  This is true whether you buy cow’s milk, soymilk, almond milk, etc.  Plain yogurt has 12 grams of natural sugar, but flavored yogurt has 20-35 grams of added sugar!  Buy plain yogurt and flavor with fruit and honey or maple syrup.
  • Packaged meals (boxed meals, canned soup and frozen dinners).  Almost all packaged foods add sugar to improve taste.

Don’t get hungry!  Often times, we crave unhealthy choices because we have an empty stomach.  This is the reason that I eat regular meals and snacks.  Sweet Tip: plan ahead!  If you are going to be out, pack healthy snacks.  For example: I always take an apple and almonds with me in the afternoons.

Don’t eat food with sugar regularly.  Save it for a special treat.  The more you eat sugar, the more your brain will remember and want to more and more.   When you eat something sweet, limit to 3 bites.  After 3 bites, the pleasure of the food diminishes.

Use “natural” sugars to sweeten foods.  I read a quote from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF): “Nature made sugar hard to get, man made it easy”.   When you need to sweeten something, don’t use processed sugar.  Use honey or pure maple sugar (in moderation, of course).   Example: I use a little bit of honey to sweeten hot tea.

If you want something sweet, make it yourself.  Trust me – if you have to go through the trouble of cooking and baking every time you want a sweet treat, you will eat it less.  It is about convenience.  Don’t make it easy to grab and eat a sugar-filled product.

Artificial Dyes – I got caught!

I found artificial dyes in 2 unexpected places in my home this week, so I had to do another post on artificial dyes!  I want you to be aware of all of the places they can be.

Vitamins.  I’m not one to take a multi-vitamin every day because I eat a balanced diet and believe I eat most of my nutrients needed.  But, when you are pregnant, you need a little extra.  I was trying to determine if my prenatal had Omega 3’s (I just purchased the least expensive prenatal vitamin).  As I was reading the label, I noticed that there are a number of dyes in my vitamins!  Yellow No. 6, Red No. 40, and Blue No 1 (see picture below).  Ugh!  I should have known better.   I know the little vitamin is not pink naturally.  That should have been my first clue.  Now, I’ll be shopping for a prenatal vitamin without dyes.

Do you see the dyes listed in the ingredient list?

Toothpaste.   Have you looked at your toothpaste tube?   I accidently put my son’s toothpaste on my toothbrush the other night and paid attention to the colors in the toothpaste.  I thought to myself – I bet there are dyes in here!  Sure enough!  There is Blue #1 and Red #30 (see picture below).  Needless to say, I will be shopping for a better toothpaste for him.

Do you see the dyes in the toothpaste tube?

It is frustrating when you are careful NOT to feed your family chemicals, but they still show up in unexpected places.  I was reminded of this principle this week.  Remember – If it goes in your mouth, READ THE LABEL!

Artificial Dyes – they are everywhere!

For a holiday celebration this summer, I was making hamburgers (using grass-fed beef) for the family.  The recipe requires a little bit of dill pickle relish in the meat before cooking.  My husband was very kind and ran to the store to get some because we didn’t have any in the fridge.  I added it to the burgers and put it on top of my burger in place of pickles.  The next day I decided to look at the ingredient list.  I was shocked to see that one of my forbidden ingredients was on it!  Check out the picture below and look at the last ingredient.  

YELLOW 5 !!!!  

The second and third last ingredients aren’t great either, but why in the world do they need to add a food coloring to pickle relish!   My own rule (rule #3) was broken!  A reminder to all…READ ALL LABELS!!!

These dyes are not good.  In David Zinczenko’s book, Eat This Not That!, he talks about Red 40 and Blue 1.  Here is the scoop:

  • Red 40 “is extracted from the dried eggs and bodies of the female Dactylopius cocus, a beetlelike insect that preys on cactus plants.”  Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?
  • Blue #1 and #2 is a chemical made from the same dye that turns your jeans blue.  These dyes have a possible link to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), asthma, and cancer.

Conclusion: Read labels and avoid any foods with these ingredients in them!  Here’s the list of what to avoid:

  • Blue 1
  • Blue 2
  • Green 3
  • Red 3
  • Red 40
  • Yellow 5
  • Yellow 6
  • “Artificial Color”

These ingredients are in many, many of the processed foods including “healthy” items like Crystal Light, yogurt, and flavored oatmeal.  It’s even found in children’s medicine like Motrin and Tylenol (buy dye-free!).

For more information about dyes, check out my previous post titled Bye M&Ms.

Eat Meat Again?

I saw some information about the Paleo Diet today on a certain tv show….can you guess which one?  Yes, you are right…Dr. Oz!

The Paleo Diet suggests that our ancestors ate 50% meat and we should be eating high quality meat, fish, and/or eggs at every meal.  However, this diet says “no” to: legumes, grains, and potatoes (things that I have been eating plenty of the past 6 months).  It also avoids dairy and refined sugars and flours, but that is nothing new to Sweeter Honey.  I was intrigued enough by the science behind this diet to purchase Dr. Loren Cordain’s book and see what I think.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself (before a follow-up post from me), click here to learn about the Paleo Diet. 

Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman

Once again, I was watching the Dr. Oz show and Dr. Mark Hyman was a guest talking about his Blood Sugar Solution (link to Amazon for his book).  He was on the show to talk about DIABESITY.  Diabesity affects 1 out of 2 Americans.   The cause of diabesity: Too Much Sugar.

Take this quick test to see if you have diabesity (if you answer yes to any of these questions):

  1. Do you have extra belly fat?  He suggests the mirror test: Stand in front of a mirror, jump up and down, does your tummy jiggle?
  2. Do you crave sugars and refined carbohydrates?
  3. Are you inactive?  Inactive is defined as less than 30 minutes of physical exercise per day.
  4. Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure or high triglycerides?

His solution to turn it around (this is the cliff notes version – I’m sure that this is explained more in his book):

1.  Eliminate the foods that spike our blood sugar:

  1. White sugar and flours
  2. MSG – drives you to binge and overeat.  MSG is everywhere.  Check crackers, chips, cereals, and all things packaged.  If you see these ingredients listed, it has MSG.   Some examples: gelatin, yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, glutamate, etc.  For a more complete list: click here.
  3. Frankenfoods – anything with an ingredient that you do not recognize or cannot pronounce.  No more than 5 ingredients.  I concur – see my Tenet #2.
  4. Dairy – nature’s perfect food if you are a calf.  60 naturally occurring hormones to grow a calf into a cow (this is not just about avoiding dairy with genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH)).  These hormones raise insulin in our bodies – something we want to avoid!

2.  ½ of your plate should be non-starchy veggies.  ¼ protein.  ¼ carbs.

3.  Become a Qualitarian.  240 calories in soda (filled with sugar and other processed ingredients) is different from 240 calories of broccoli (appx 7 cups that is loaded with fiber and little sugar).  They are different because one raises insulin and the other does not.

4.  Eat Detoxifiers, such as cruciferous veggies, broccoli, artichokes, watercress, etc.

5.  Get an oil change – choose good fats (like coconut butter, grapeseed oil) over bad fats (like butter, vegetable oil).

Add this to your arsenal of things to consider when you make your food choices.