Episode #117: Artificial Sweeteners & Weight Gain; Restless Leg Syndrome; Inspiring words for healing and eating healthier; Vegan Omelette and Epic Lasagna

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Hello, everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening in the 117th episode of Ask A Vegan. It’s the 2nd of December 2012. I’ve been enjoying counting these episodes. I can’t believe that so many have already happened. I’m not a point where I’ve started to transcribe these podcasts. And I think, ultimately, they are all going to fit very nicely in some neat little book, because there have been really, too many good bits of information that have been covered on the show. I think it’s time to concentrate them all into one place. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep doing these every week and talking to you, and to do that, I need to hear from you.

Today I am going to be talking about things that people have been writing and asking about. But first I want to go over the news; I like to do that, cover some highlights are going on in the news. So there’s a report that came out in Science Direct and just like a lot of studies, I always get a chuckle out of them because I don’t think a lot of news is really new, but for some reason we need to really prove over and over again some things are almost obvious and this is where universities and research labs are able to fund themselves because they can get funding for certain things – things related to child obesity for example or obesity in general and so they come up with these studies that I think are ridiculous.

Here is a review of a recent study, Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. That’s the title, it pretty much says everything right there. It’s a preliminary study that used rats and I have to make a disclaimer here because I don’t believe in animal testing or using animals in labs to learn anything. I don’t think animals should be exploited for our purpose. And I know that we learn a great deal from testing on animals. Some of it is and some of it really isn’t and that’s the unfortunate thing, because what happens in an animal when, a specific animal, humans are animals too of course let’s not forget that – but what happens is when you feed a specific animal certain things, they’ll react or not react in certain ways that does not mean there will be a direct translation to an humans animals and some unfortunately, this has negatively affected us from time to time when certain drugs had been approved that had drastic side effects, on humans. All that being said let’s review this little article about artificial sweeteners compared with sucrose and that’s good old regular sugar. And they found out that when they fed foods to the rats that had the artificial sweeteners, the rats wanted to eat more and here’s why I say that this is not news. I read a long time ago that aspartame, artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite, the people that use these products know this. We can not forget that the goal is to make money. This is the goal behind most people in this world, especially in the United States, in the business, you have a product, you want to sell it, you want to bring home a paycheck, and then enjoy what ever little tid bit of free time you have with your family whether or not your health is good or not seems to be trivial. Whether or not you’re creating a product that’s helpful or not seems to be unimportant. Sad, but true. So we have to understand this and when someone invented an artificial sweetener. Probably they had altruistic motives. Probably and I’m not sure, I haven’t looked into this, but probably I want to believe it was someone who saw the connection between sweeteners and diabetes and disease and obesity and thought, “maybe I can come up with something that would satisfy a sweet tooth, satisfy someone who is struggling eating sweet foods, and then they won’t have to deal with the problems of gaining weight and having disease and all of that.” I want to believe that, but things always seem to get out of hand. And when big business gets involved, when corporations get involved, it doesn’t matter the product is healthy, and doesn’t matter if it didn’t do well in the testing, you get some marketing people involved, and you make the product look good, and get some slick ads and you make people want to buy it. Whether it’s healthy or not. And we know that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite. This is not new news. So if you are concerned about your weight drinking artificial sweeteners or beverages with artificial sweeteners, putting artificial sugars in your baked goods, I shouldn’t say artificial sugars, I should say artificial sweeteners, in your food, this is not going to help you lose weight or maintain weight. It is going to make things more difficult and this new study, although it was with rats, confirms that increase weight gain was not related to differences in total caloric intake it was induced by saccharine and aspartame. And interesting so that was in ScienceDirect.com.

I really enjoy, I really enjoy talking about health and healthy food. I have to make a disclaimer from time to time. I am not a medical doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am someone who is passionate about nutrition and just like Abraham Lincoln, I have read a lot of books. And I keep learning, and there are people that I really trust, that I really believe in and, there are some people that I like some of the things they say and am suspect of others. One of the things that’s really important when you hear something, when you read something, when you’re looking for information, you need to check the source. So there are some websites, there are some people that will say – like gospel – that something is true. How do they know that? You need to have references. And some of those references, if you actually do go to the end of an article and see the references, or you’re reading a book and you go to the back and you see the references; if you go to those references, some of them are reliable, some of them lead you to other sources, they’re not firsthand. You can go down a really difficult scavenger hunt, finding the actual source of a bit of information, just to find out if it’s true. And if it’s true, in the context that you’re concerned about, because a lot of things are said out of context. It’s complicated, it’s difficult. If you have questions about something specifically you can send e-mail, I will try to do the research for you. I find it fun, I find interesting and I always learn something. I want to say you can trust me but you know, I learned in college not to trust anyone, you have it do the work yourself and convince yourself. That can be very time consuming and I know a lot of people struggle with time, with their families, with jobs, with all the things that they want to do. And that’s what we’re going to talk little bit more about today, really figuring out what it is that you want to do, prioritize and organize, and get it done. And this is true of anything that you want to do but I like to apply it to eating and being healthy.

I was out and about yesterday and I was in my bank and I was talking to two of the women that work there; and it’s funny how conversations get started, but it seems many of my conversations always go down the path of talking about food. I can’t say I know how happens but I always find myself going that way. And sure enough I was talking with these women and one was talking about how her hair is really thinning out and the other one was going through menopause and talking about hot flashes, talking about weight. These are not unusual conversations. I can’t say that I have solutions for every physical problem. The one thing I certainly don’t have a solution for is death! Everyone is going to die, there is no cure for it, it’s part life and we have to accept that notion. And this concept of accepting is really critical. We are all on different paths, we are all on different journeys, none of us are the same. It’s really unfair to compare ourselves, at any time, with everyone else. Oh that person is better at this and that, and looks better at this and that, it’s really meaningless. You are on your own path, you were born, and some people like to say we’re all created equal. It’s just not true. You were given certain skills and talents and privileges and benefits and challenges. It’s up to you to accept those parameters. It’s like a game. Play the game – you accept what you’ve been given and you figure out how to get where you want to go, within those parameters.

So people are depressed and some people are depressed because, there are many reasons, and again, I said, I am not a doctor, or a dietician or a nutritionist, so I’m not going to get into the whole theory behind depression, but some people simply are frustrated because they don’t have what other people have and they feel that it’s impossible to move further, to move to a better place, because they don’t have what have other people have. And it’s hard, it’s really hard sometimes when you’re in this dark place and you cannot move forward. But if you want to, that’s a good sign, you just have to take little steps in the beginning. And whether it’s depression, whether it’s some other physical problem, I personally believe, this is my opinion, this is what I believe – diet is a critical par. It may not be the solution but it will help you get to a place where you can address other issues. And those other issues are emotional. It’s so important to get the diet in place.

Now someone wrote me about restless leg syndrome. I’m not really familiar with it. I’ve seen commercials on television about it because there certainly today is a drug for everything. And I remember when I was reading the fine print at the bottom of the screen like we do with so many drugs there were so many horrific side effects that came with these drugs and I thought why would any one want to take medication. But I guess if you’re so uncomfortable and you’re so desperate you will do just about anything. What I believe is the most physical problems today, they have different names, but they’re all related to the same problem. It’s the disease, the body just reacts in different ways. It’s a disease of poor nutrition. And this applies to whether you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian or vegan or a raw foodist. There are ways to do each of these diets that is healthy or unhealthy – all of them. Now I am not a promoter of an animal-based diet, but I believe you can be very, very healthy eating small amounts of animal foods and lots of very healthful fruits and vegetables. I’ve mentioned this before but there are no scientific experiments to date that have shown the ideal human diet. We have some ideas and the ideas are that we really need to consume a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. The question of whether we need animal products or not has not been confirmed, although very conservative organizations like the American Dietetic Association have said that you can lead a healthful life on a vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s already assumed that you can lead a healthful light on animal-based diet. But the important thing is there are so many critical nutrients many of them we have not even discovered, but many of them we have, that you need to be getting. And so whether you’re suffering from heart disease or cancer or diabetes or obesity or any autoimmune disease, the first thing that I would do, and that I did, was to evaluate my diet; because if I was not feeding my immune system what it needed to work, why bother with anything else?

The question I asked myself, the question I asked other people, is “do you want to get well and do you want to live?” if you have something that may shorten your life sooner than later; and I am always curious to see their response. The answer typically is yes, but I gauge the success of that person’s future by the enthusiasm I hear in that “yes”. Some people go ‘yeah, I do”, other people go “YES, I DO!” and I know who’s going to succeed with what they want to do by that response.

As you probably know when I went through my cancer experience, I was already a vegan, I already thought I was on a pretty healthy diet. I realized that I needed help. And I needed professional medical help, I needed surgery, and I needed to really make my body stronger, stronger, and I learned the way to do that, especially if you’re in a crisis is to eat as many dark leafy green that you possibly can. Eat them juiced, blended, steamed and raw, every day, because eating them raw, eating them eating them steamed, eating them blended, eating them juiced, you are going to get the best of those vegetables. And by eating them in the different forms, you may get something one way that you don’t easily get another way. So it’s really good to get the range and eat as much of them as you can. These are the magic foods, this is where the magic lies. Of course whether you’re just trying to feel better or if you’re in a crisis, if you are in a crisis, I believe, that all the bad stuff has got to go, at least in the short term, when you are trying to find relief or find a cure. That means no refined foods, no white flours, no cakes, cookies, no sugars, no artificial sugars, no salt or very little, and everything should be organic, and there should be lots of dark leafy green vegetables underlined, underlined, underlined. And also if you are in a crisis, of certain supplements can actually help, turmeric, and mushrooms, there are some different concentrated mushrooms that are really have some powerful health promoting properties. There are a lot of things that you can get from concentrated foods, not synthetic, not artificially created nutrients, but from foods that have been concentrated.

Now when we talk about restless leg syndrome, and what this particular person wrote to me about was, do I think that changing to a diet like this will help, and what if it doesn’t? And this is what I did when I was going through my cancer scenario. I believed. I believed – and that is such a critical part, you must believe, you must try it; because number one there’s going to be no harm done by eating a healthy nutritious diet. It is only going to lower your risk for so many other things. And like I said before nobody gets out of this world alive. We are all dying, but we want to live a long as possible and as and be as productive and energetic and happy as possible, and we do that number one by feeding our body the best fuel we possibly can. There is that simple, simple analogy where you get really, really expensive car you don’t put crappy gasoline in it, You buy the really expensive good stuff because you want to keep the interior of your car clean, you want to take care – why don’t we do that with our bodies? Now if somebody feels like eating healthy food is too much trouble then they don’t want to get better. Then they don’t want to get better and what can I say? If you don’t believe that feeding yourself the best fuel possible is going to help you, there’s nothing more that I can say about that. I want to help people that want to help themselves and realize that power of healthy nutrition.

I just went to ehow.com. Okay it’s not a site that I really have a profound respect for. There’s some good information on it, but it’s just really pretty generic; and they have a list of what to do for restless leg syndrome and I was amused because you know, the information is pretty good. The number one thing it says on ehow.com is “change your diet to include an increased amount of food high in folate such as asparagus and spinach, dark leafy green vegetables are known to have high folate content. So the trick is to get high folate and I have to say here that that does not mean supplement getting with folic acid. Now for a long time, once this correlation between high folate and health was discovered, especially with pregnant women and the success of health of the birth of their children, it was recommended that women supplement with folic acid, this is not the same as eating folate. And unfortunately studies have shown subsequently that supplementing with folic acid can have negative side effects. What doesn’t have negative side effects is eating dark leafy green vegetables because they have a high folate content and they give your body what it’s needs. The second item on ehow.com is “diverse your breakfast menu with the use of whole wheat products in various breakfast cereals, read the label to find out what you like with the highest level of folate.” They are talking about folate again. Folate is important. Now I don’t agree with what they’re saying entirely here. I don’t eat a lot of wheat myself. A lot of people have to avoid wheat. Wheat can be problematic. I do agree to diversify the breakfast menu. I think getting cereals out of box is not a healthy thing. Many cereals have been over processed where the nutrition has been removed from the whole grains so that they have to add back a few and they typically just add back a handful, sometimes even add in folic acid, which you don’t want to get, again, you want to get folate from food, whole foods. At home we like to eat whole grains for breakfast like oatmeal and millet, maybe quinoa. And sometimes I go for something savory rather than something sweet with berries and nuts and seeds. Sometimes I’ll have a big salad. You can have whatever you want as long as you know that it is going to boost your immune system, satisfy you and not complicate things. This thing goes on with some other recommendations can’t say I agree with all of them but I wanted to just point out the top thing about folate which is really, really important.

As a scientist, I have a chemical engineering background, when I was approaching what to do about my own illness, I realized a number of things, and scientists realized some of these things as well. There are always issues, if you are going to test things, if you are going to try and solve a problem, there always parameters, there are always limitations: what’s your budget; what’s your time frame? For me, I had a limited time frame because I had this cancer thing growing in me and it if I allowed it to get out of control the game would be over. So I did have serious time constraints, and I did not have access to lots of funds, where I could roam around the world and visit with different experts or enroll in a place where they would feed me just dark leafy green vegetables or enroll in the place where they would prepare all my meals for me. So those were my limitations. But I quickly realized that there were different things that had impact on my health, number one nutrition, number two emotional issues, and number three, physical things were out of my control where I would need medical assistance. So I ultimately found the best doctors I could to remove my particular problem, but at the same time I went 100% into this intense, cleaning, nurturing immune system-boosting diet. I didn’t have time to have a piece of cake! That piece of cake was not important at that time. What was important was staying on the path and getting well. I wasn’t thinking about, “oh what if these green foods aren’t going to work?” They were going to work and I was committed. Some people will ask me how I feel about what if they just incorporate more green foods but that they don’t entirely get rid of some of the unhealthy foods. And frankly, that’s your choice. But I am trying to make something clear here – that if you want to solve a problem, go all the way with it, do it right. Once you’ve seen, once you’ve given it sufficient time, and dietary changes can take 3 to 12 weeks to really make a change. I’ve talked about detoxing before and when I had chemotherapy it took one year for all of the arthritic symptoms I had from the chemotherapy to get out of my body. One year – that’s a long time. But I stayed on the path, I knew what causes arthritis and I knew that it would take time to get out. And slowly, the pain and discomfort became more and more diminished. So I had some signs of progress but it took a long time. Things take time. Especially, you know if you’re not young. if you’re 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, whatever you have been mistreating your body for so long, it’s amazing how much the human body can actually put up with. So my recommendation if you are going to ask me what to do, I tell you what I did and that is to eat as a healthy diet as you possibly can. Reduce that variable; reduce that parameter, that that is going to impact whatever health problem you’re going through; because ultimately I think that most of the things we suffer have multiple causes. It’s not just one thing. That’s why – get the diet piece out of the equation, and then attack the other things. Get it? And that’s how I feel about it.

Now let’s say you’ve decided okay I am I am going to make these changes in my diet. I am. But then the reality hits you and you become overwhelmed, you have to go to work, you have a family, you have all these things to do. When I was talking to these people yesterday at the bank, one of them, the one who was complaining about the thinned hair, her friend next to her was saying, “yeah, we were doing the green juice for a while, and it was helping, but we stopped.” And that happens. Sometimes you see progress and you think you don’t have to do it anymore. I juice every day. I’m never stopping. I am feeling great. I am over that bad time of my life, but I am juicing every day. Occasionally if I’m on vacation or something happens if I go a day or two without juicing, I’m not going to go nuts over it. But I committed every day to make my green juice. It is so important to me because I am important and I like feeling good and I don’t like feeling bad.

One of the things I told these women was – don’t watch television. Do you watch television? How much time do you spend watching television? You know there are only 24 hours in the day. Okay, eight hours should be sleeping. That leaves 16 hours. If you are at work, you may have to commute to work, you are there at at work eight hours, probably a little longer, commuting 9, 10 hours, at least about six hours, maybe five hours left, it’s not a lot of time to do stuff. You should like some of the stuff that you do during that time. Let’s give an hour to exercise, let’s give an hour of just relaxing, talking, being with your family. You are running out of time. Where is the time for television? It just doesn’t fit in at least not in my life anyway. I am busy preparing foods, food shopping and I don’t have time for it. Healthy food is so important to me that I prioritize it. It’s funny I just was asked to do a survey on health and lifestyle and the three-day project. It took a little longer than I thought it was going to take originally. It was actually kind of fun to do it because I was talking in this survey about how I make my own yogurt from almonds, and I liked to sprout; and I was just making a fresh new batch of broccoli sprouts; and I like to distill my water and some of it I “vitalize” and put in glass bottles in the refrigerator for drinking; and I buy lots of bulk teas, organic teas like to have a selection of fine black teas, green teas, herb teas because we drink a lot tea here. And all of this takes time. I have a big collection, I talked last week about herbs and spices, it’s so important to have them here because it makes your food taste good and herbs and spices have nutrition in them, really good. So flavor up your food with herbs and spices but don’t go with the little jars. They are expensive. Buy them online in bulk and have them, and throw in large quantities in your food. And I’ve got these all out in jars, displayed, and I love it. It’s just a testament to what I believe in and kind of gift to me of how I feel; all this healthy stuff around me is good for me; I deserved it; I am worth it. And part of the survey required photographing our cabinets, refrigerator, freezer and favorite food area. I might have to post some of these pictures because I was really proud of my photographs. I’ve got my refrigerator really well organized with grains in glass jar and nuts and seeds in glass jars and all my green produce. Then in the freezer I’ve got a supply of raw nuts and seeds. I keep them in the freezer to keep them fresh. My cabinets have the supply of salt-free canned beans. I’ve talked about the importance of having a backup supply of beans in the BPA free can. The water that I’ve been distilling was in the refrigerator. It was all there, all the proof of what I’ve been talking about. It’s kind of fun to see, in summary form. But it requires some planning; it requires some organization. Once you have a plan in place, they can work on sticking to it. And if you fall off the path from time to time, that’s okay. I think that the world was designed the way it was for a reason. Every day is a new day. It’s of blank canvas is start all over again every day. So if something think of that movie Groundhog’s Day, one of my favorite movies. It was really funny. If you’ve seen it, you remember that Bill Murray with in this town doing some journalistic story on Groundhog’s Day and everyday he would wake up and it was Groundhog’s Day. He couldn’t get past February 2. He kept reliving the day, always different, always learning something new until he finally got it right. I think that’s part of life that we are here to keep doing it until we get it right. So don’t know yourself when you make a mistake or you can’t stay on the plan. Tomorrow and I don’t want to sound cliché, but tomorrow is another day.

We all have personal struggles. You may know that I am a singer. I’ve sung opera and musical theater, some jazz, I’ve won some international awards, I’ve done some great shows, I never became really famous as a singer but I think I’ve done a good job and I get a lot of joy out of singing. I practice regularly at home. And I think for me when I went through three major surgeries six years ago for advanced ovarian cancer, I don’t know what they did but I do know that they took stuff out and put stuck back in and cut some stuff up. And my body was not the same afterwards. I don’t think my abdominal muscles are the same. And my body is my instrument, my the vocal instrument and it changed. I have been working now for years trying to rebuild my instrument. It is frustrating. I push buttons, symbolically, I try and do things that used to be easy and they’re not easy, it’s very frustrating. But I’ve been finding over time with consistent practice things are rebuilding, things are coming back. My goal is to be able to sing all of these pieces that I used to sing before and have the stamina to do so. It’s true I’m getting older but I believe I can do it and it’s just patience and practice. Sometimes it sad, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes I think why did this happen to me? I used to be able to sing this and I can’t and I want to. It all comes back to acceptance. That kind of thought doesn’t help me. It wastes time wondering why this happened and it’s not fair. I accept. I take in a deep breath and I move forward and I do the work. That’s all there is.

There are more people out today who are acting as lifestyle coaches. Some of them are just generic lifestyle coaches and some have a specific focus. Many of them tie it with diet and nutrition. They have different approaches: some have memberships, you can sign up and get some consultations regularly, in a short amount of time, over the long run. I find all of this really curious. I suppose people need, some people need to have this type of service in order to accomplish what they want to get done but I’m telling you it really is up to you. Maybe you need to have somebody reminding you and telling you, “yeah you need to be doing this” and “yeah you’re doing a great job” and if you want to pay for that service and you can afford it – great. Keep in mind that it’s you who is in charge of your life. You call the shots, you make the choices. Yeah you may have had some bad breaks, and things may not have been fair. I get it. Accept and move forward.

Okay time to talk about my favorite subject food and the REAL recipes that we have been sharing this week. We put up the Baked Potato Pancake food show this week. I am so excited about it. I love this recipe. I’ve talked about it before. You can learn more about it on the food show. I hope you watch, we really had a lot of fun making it; and hope you enjoy watching it; and I hope you make the recipe because it is so fabulous. I really feel like I’ve made this great discovery because I’ve been eating potato pancakes fried in oil every year for the holiday of Hanukkah. The healthier I get the more I don’t want to eat these two pancakes fried in oil and I’ve come up with a recipe where they are baked and not fried; and they are delicious and they look just like they’re supposed to look, only they’re evolved. I like it. I like the idea of evolving. I think we are all here to improve and become better and evolve. We do that too with our recipes, our traditional recipes. Traditions are dynamic. Traditions don’t stay still. Everybody says, “Well my mother used to make it this way and it’s not right that way,” but that’s not true. Recipes keep morphing, they keep changing, based on the availability of food and people’s particular desires and styles and wants and needs and budgets. And this is the evolved potato pancake recipe. What’s great about it is you can make a pile of them. This recipe makes 36; and you can freeze them and take a few out, and heat them up. They’re like hash browns, something great for a little breakfast, a breakfast side.

And that leads me to the next recipe we posted this week, which is the Omelette Soufflé . Something that vegans have not been really good at duplicating is the omelette or the egg. Now we do eat a lot of tofu scramble. Tofu scramble can really be delicious and fill that breakfast gap. But I haven’t tasted many that really had the egg, the egg-y fluffy taste and texture. Now I am not saying that I miss eating eggs. I don’t. I don’t miss the sulfur. I don’t miss the cholesterol. I don’t miss torturing chickens. Got that? But it’s fun, it’s fun to do things with food. Gary actually came up with this great recipe, it’s up on our website. It’s the Baked No-Egg French Omelette Soufflé. He put a kale and onions in it. It’s just lovely. You can bake it up in a cast-iron frying pan. I highly recommend these cast-iron pans, they are very inexpensive. They last forever, if you treat them well and season them properly, they have a great nonstick surface and you get a little extra iron in your food which is good for you.

And the last recipe I wanted to finish up with is what we’re calling Epic Lasagna. It’s a lasagna made with gluten-free brown rice noodles. and it has this incredibly rich butternut squash cashew cream sauce layered with Brussels sprouts. It’s an amazing taste sensation, very satisfying, gorgeous to look at. It’s a bit time consuming to make, there a lot of different steps, but once you’ve assembled it, you can freeze it or refrigerate it and have it ready to pop in the oven to serve and impress your family or guests at another time. It’s an elegant dish. It’s a celebratory dish. Check it out, Epic Lasagna.

You’ve been listening to Ask A Vegan. Remember info@realmeals.org, that’s my e-mail and I can’t wait to hear from you; we can have a nice conversation. Write, let me know your thinking, questions, comments, suggestions, it’s all good. Have a great week.

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