By the time you are reading this edition of the TKC, you will have already made your 2018 New Year’s resolutions, if you are so inclined. Many of these self-promises are related to the betterment of our health. Next to quitting smoking, I’m sure losing weight and eating healthier are two of the more popular ones.

When we want to change our eating habits, it’s not just the foods we eat that make a difference. We also need to know what foods to avoid. Learning to read labels while shopping can help. It is alarming to most when they first discover just how many processed foods in the supermarket contain sugar. And it is usually listed as the main ingredient.

A hundred years ago, the average amount of sugar consumed in the Americas was less than 10 pounds per person. Now it is believed that those raised on a typical western diet will consume over 150 pounds per year.

Consumed in moderation, sugar is a helpful source of energy. In fact, your body needs sugar to survive. But there are “good” sugars (found in fruits), “bad” sugars, artificial sweeteners and healthy alternatives, and it is to our benefit to know the difference.

Processed sugar is one of the most destructive foods we can consume. Chemically speaking, it is only one atom away from cocaine, and just as addictive. It does not contain any nutrients, protein, healthy fats or enzymes. What it does do is weaken our teeth and bones, wreak havoc with all of our vital organs, (especially the liver) and is one of the leading contributors to obesity that we see running rampant today. Evidence shows that 20 years after sugar is brought into any culture, there is an outbreak of diabetes. There is no such thing as a safe amount of sugar, look for foods without it.

The sugar we buy in grocery stores, along with the foods that contain it, is made in large scale industrial refineries using mass-farmed crops like sugarcane and sugar beets. Manufacturers extract the sugary pulp from the plant and strip away all trace of healthy minerals and nutrients. Many foods we purchase now contain “high-fructose corn syrup”, a corn-based sweetener. Our bodies were not designed to deal with these unnatural highly concentrated sugars.

Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame have never been proven safe for consumption. They contain chemicals known as excitotoxins, which literally over-excite brain cells, until they die. This can lead to brain damage and neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

God has provided us with healthy alternatives. These foods are not only good for you, but they taste good too. Here are a few substitutes that won’t rot your teeth:

Raw, unpasteurized Honey: Thanks to the bees, we have been given a superfood that could be called “nature’s candy”. It’s known as the only food that never spoils. Honey supports your immune system and fights off harmful bacteria. It also supplies the building blocks for healthy cells.

Note (1) In addition to giving your body natural sugars, honey equips your body with a complex array of proteins, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. The moment these nutrients hit your body, they go to work.

Note (2) Honey is not only good on toast; it can be used in tea, on your cereal, as a baking ingredient and so much more. Just be aware that the honey sold in most supermarkets is nothing more than golden chemicals. Be sure it is raw and unpasteurized, otherwise most of its goodness has been removed.

Stevia: Stevia has been used by native people for both medicinal purposes and as a sweetener for their foods and drinks for centuries. This herb is naturally very sweet, but it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar and other artificial sweeteners do. Replacing sugar with stevia on a daily basis may help with weight loss, improved cholesterol levels and even lower blood pressure. It can be found in most health stores.

Blackstrap molasses: Blackstrap molasses is the thick, dark syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar. First the sugar cane juice is separated from the pulp, and then the sugar is extracted from the juice. Molasses is what’s left over. Repeating the separation process a second time, then a third time again, creates blackstrap molasses, its purest form. It has a very high nutritional value: a 3.5 oz. serving of blackstrap molasses contains more than a quarter of your daily supply of vital minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese and B vitamins.

Note (1) A 2011 study that added molasses to a high-fat diet had researchers suggesting “supplementing food with blackstrap molasses might be a way to address the escalating rates of overweight and obesity.” Rich in copper, iron, and calcium, molasses can play a vital role in maintaining healthy blood and bones. It also makes a great dietary supplement for those at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Coconut sugar: While the jury is still out as to whether coconut sugar is good for you or not, it is definitely a better choice for you than sugar. It contains some vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, though in small amounts. And it contains inulin, which can provide an overall boost to your immune system.

Maple syrup: Because it is made through natural methods, pure maple syrup not only tastes great, but it does have some health benefits also. It features over 65 antioxidants that can help delay or prevent diseases caused by free radicals, such as cancer and diabetes. In addition, maple syrup features high levels of zinc and manganese, keeping the heart healthy and boosting the immune system. Whenever possible, select darker, grade B maple syrup since it contains more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups do.

Dates: The two most common types of dates sold are Medjools and the Deglet Noor. The Medjool is known as the “King of dates”, and is generally larger and sweeter. It is said to be packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating dates in moderation can contribute to many health benefits, such as protecting against damage to cells from free radicals, helping to prevent a stroke, coronary heart disease and the development of colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. And they are a great baking substitute also.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I don’t have any medical training. I am just an individual that researches information that other people have studied and proven to be effective, and I just pass that information on to you.

Editor: What a pleasure it is to welcome Rick Coupland back as our health correspondent. For those readers who enquired, Rick has given us permission to tell you that for the past two years, he too has been struggling with a health problem and at times it looked very disheartening. But with his positive attitude and combining doctor’s orders with his holistic practices, Rick has come a long way on the road to recovery. He still has a way to go but he has God on his side and his and others’ daily prayers are a great hope and inspiration that soon his health will soon be restored. He won’t be able to submit articles monthly as in the past but believes every other month is very likely. God bless you Rick.