Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Benefits of Natural Sweetener Xylitol

When I was a little girl visiting my elder relatives in Puerto Rico, I have a memory of being by the beach with my relatives. My Great Grandfather Cesaro was cutting down some sugar cane stalks with a machete and then he proceeded to cut it into smaller stalks, handing it out to all his prodigy to suck on like a candy cane. I really didn't want to put the stalk in my mouth as it looked more like a green tree bark but once my tongue and the cane met, it was all over for me. My sugar addiction had begun. Thanks Abuelito!

It seems every year there is a "new" sweetener out that is better than sugar, more natural than sugar or has less calories than sugar. We buy it and gladly sprinkle it on all our foods. However eventually you start hearing the inevitable, "has been known to cause cancer in rats" or "may cause lupus or bring on MS" warnings. You feel betrayed and go back to sugar thinking, "Perhaps if I use organic sugar or raw brown sugar that would be my healthiest choice".

My confusion is increased ten-fold when I shop at Whole Foods as there is an whole aisle dedicated to sweeteners. I think I have tried them all; unrefined brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt, rice syrups, honey and agave nectar have all made their way onto my amaranth flakes. So when my mother excitingly called me to tell me about Xylitol as a natural sweetener I was a little bit cynical on finding out more about this "healthy natural sweetener".

She had been at her local health food store pumping the clerks for information as usual on what will give her better health when the clerk strongly recommended that she try Xylitol as a sugar substitute. After researching it online she related all the information she learned to me and thought it would be a good topic for "The Wisdom of Beauty".

After I did my research and the much anticipated "taste test", I am thrilled to report the benefits of Xylitol (not a very natural sounding name). Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. It is a naturally occurring 5-carbon sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. It is the sweetest of the polyols with the same sweetness as sugar (sucrose) but with 40% fewer calories and none of the negative tooth decay or insulin release effects of sugar so it is recommended to those on a diabetic diet.

Xylitol has been used in foods since the 1960's and is approved in the U.S. as a food additive in unlimited quantity for foods with special dietary purposes and is safe for use in any sugar-controlled diet. Over 25 years of clinical testing confirms that Xylitol is the best sweetener for teeth. Xylitol, unlike other sugars, may reduce the risk of dental cavities. Sugar free chewing gums and candies made with this sweetener have already received official endorsements from six national dental associations.  

Xylitol is not only a safe, natural sweetener without the bad side-effects of sugar and artificial substitutes, it's also good for your teeth, stabilizes insulin and hormone levels, and promotes good health. We humans were really not designed to eat large amounts of sugar in whatever form it may take whether it be white, brown, honey, maple, molasses, etc. Sugar is really "white poison" as it is not only unhealthy for our bodies, it also ages us prematurely. While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, Xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity, protects against chronic degenerative disease, and has anti-aging benefits.

The only discomfort that some sensitive people may notice initially when taking large amounts is mild diarrhea or slight cramping. About one-third of the Xylitol that is consumed is absorbed in the liver. The other two-thirds travels to the intestinal tract, where it is broken down by gut bacteria into short-chain fatty acids.

Xylitol looks, feels, and tastes exactly like sugar, and leaves no unpleasant aftertaste. It is available in many forms. In its crystalline form, it can replace sugar in cooking, baking, or as a sweetener for beverages. It is also included as an ingredient in chewing gum, mints, and nasal spray.

I have replaced sugar with Xylitol as I have always joked to friends that if there was a rehab clinic for sugar, I would check myself in immediately. Now with Xylitol I feel that as long as I am craving sweets as long as I use Xylitol I am not poisoning my body or prematurely aging myself.

In a family that has a history of adult on-set diabetes I hope I will be able to turn back the clock on my sugar intake and avoid this deadly disease with my new sweetener. Then there is the vain part of me that hopes that any aging I incurred from my sugar addictive behavior throughout the years will come to a halt. 

Now perhaps I will not feel so guilty making my Red Velvet Cupcakes!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Only Four Necklaces You Need to Own

Well, after a little time off for a summer holiday I have returned and with a "back to school" energy when it comes to "The Wisdom of Beauty". In honor of Fashion Week I will write about a topic I know like the back of my hand. Accessories. Particularly jewelry.

My little nugget of wisdom on using jewelry as an accessory is that you actually don't need to own very much jewelry to fit all of your wardrobe choices. I've been able to narrow it down to just owning four necklaces to cover your wardrobe.

If you have trouble deciding what you like in jewelry, think it's too expensive or don't want to be a woman with an large jewelry box of pieces she rarely wears then this is what I advise. As far as necklaces go which are the most visible pieces of jewelry, the four necklaces you should own are: a strand of red coral, turquoise, light green jade and white pearls.

I came by this conclusion by observing paintings in the many museums I have visited over the years (the art world was my first career). I started to notice besides the grand heirloom jewelry you see in portraits of aristocrats from another age, the jewelry painted on the women of yesteryear were simple but attractive. I also started watching what women wore for jewelry in movies depicting women one or two centuries ago. That is when I was able to narrow it down to the fore mentioned four necklaces.

Me at my birthday party with my favorite red coral necklace
Red Coral Necklace
I first noticed the red coral necklace in a Masterpiece Theater movie where an eighteen century woman wearing a canary yellow dress was wearing a simple strand of round red coral beads. I found it very striking and it popped nicely against her skin. I own a magnificent seed beaded red coral necklace that I get stopped on multiple occasions every time I wear it. The red coral goes well with bright, primary colors such as yellow, blues, oranges, pinks, etc. The red coral also comes in so many shapes and formations it is a very fashionable stone to wear.

Megan Fox wearing turquoise against her skin with a black dress.
Turquoise Necklace
My second discovery was how great turquoise pops against your skin and looks great against black, brown and dark items of clothing. Turquoise to me always use to connote American Indian jewelry and I really had no desire to wear it. Now jewelry designers have started using the stones in contemporary designs without the silver and it definitely makes a statement as I feel turquoise is one of the most beautiful colors especially since it matches the color of the sky.

Naomi Watts holding her son with a light green jade necklace whilst wearing white.
Light Green Jade
My choice of light green jade came after seeing a picture of the actress Naomi Watts in a beautiful white eyelet dress holding her toddler son. She was wearing a light green jade necklace and I loved how soft it made her look. White is always a good backdrop for colorful necklaces but the light green made a new statement. I now love wearing light green jade in the summer with my white dresses.

Jackie O wearing her iconic white pearl necklace.
Pearl Necklace
My last choice is the of course the classic white pearl necklace. It's iconic and goes with most outfits whether formal or semi-casual. Although it can be read as conservative, many designers these days are making bold, fun statements with pearl necklaces. My favorite is Kenneth Jay Lane who made pieces for my favorite pearl necklace wearer and style icon, Jackie O. KJL still comes out with pieces that are not only very fashionable but affordable too as he also works with faux pearls. Try a triple strand, or a pearl bib. The little black dress and the white pearl necklace will forever be a fashion do as it reads simple elegance.

Maybe after owning these four necklaces you will start being inspired by gold, silver, diamonds and other precious or semi-precious stones but I guarantee you that if you possess a strand of red coral, turquoise, light green jade and white pearls you will feel completely covered in the "jewelry as an accessory" department. Then it's onto rings, earrings, bracelets, etc!

Thank you!