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‘Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’

Hippocrates 400 B.C.

I recently participated in an international Dames d’Escoffier conference as the Educational Sessions Co-Chair.  One session, Food as Medicine, had a LOT of questions from participants.  Below are answers provided by myself and my fellow Dames.  I figured others out there might have the same questions.  

Are sugar alternatives, such as erythritol and allulose healthful? (Abby and Linda)

Anything ending in “ose” is a sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.) and anything ending in “ol” is an alcohol, with compounds like erythritol, sorbitol, mannitol, etc. being called ‘alcohol sugars’.  

The alcohol sugars are often used in products because they have less impact on blood sugar.  Unfortunately, alcohol sugars like erythritol often cause bloating and gas for many people.

Allulose is called a ‘rare sugar’ because it is found in very few foods in nature (wheat, figs, raisins).  Although 70–84% of the allulose you consume is absorbed into your blood from your digestive tract, it is eliminated in the urine without being used as fuel.  Allulose is not fermented by the gut bacteria and so does not cause bloating or gas. 

Allulose provides virtually no calories and does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels.  In small studies, people using allulose had less gain of belly fat.  Early research also suggests that allulose may have beneficial effects on blood sugar regulation in humans.

Many sources feel that more research is needed to completely determine the safety of allulose.  It’s a processed sugar. Manufacturers use enzymes to extract from corn. Do not advise the use of this processed sugar.

This article has a nice summary of current research:

Keto diets and use of sugar substitutes, why aren’t they a concern? (Linda)

Yes. In my opinion, use of sugar substitutes is a concern and should be avoided. 

On a Keto diet, organic Stevia in liquid or powder form are acceptable. Read the label to be sure it does not have maltodextrin. It can be used in raw or cooked foods. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol and erythritol are also acceptable but not everyone can absorb them well and may upset the stomach. Monk Fruit or lo han guo, is a fruit of a perennial vine in the gourd family, whose extract is 250 times sweeter than sugar and not as bitter as Stevia. 

This is another reason why the keto diet is not sustainable and why I recommend using natural sweeteners such as small amounts of honey or pure maple syrup, pitted dates or whole fruit as a sweetener in baking and smoothies. Cakes are an occasional celebratory food, so I use Zulka Pure Cane Sugar in in some baked products (sugar adds to browning and quality of the most baked goods) it is not as highly processed as regular granulated sugar. 

How can a vegan diet get B12 through food? (Abby and Linda)

Vitamin B-12 is most commonly found in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy so vegans will need to take extra steps to get vitamin B-12. 

Vitamin B-12 is absorbed in the stomach with the help of a protein called intrinsic factor.  This substance binds to the vitamin B-12 and facilitates its absorption into your blood and cells.  Unfortunately, production of intrinsic factor can decrease with aging and so less vitamin B-12 may be absorbed as we age. 

For this reason, sublingual (under the tongue) or injection of vitamin B-12 may be recommended.  In the past injectable cyanocobalamin (a form of B-12) was used, but some practitioners now prefer the more readily available methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin.  

B12 food sources- 1 TBS of Nutritional yeast has 100% RDA and Nori, Shitake mushrooms have a bit. If you have Celiac disease you are 30% likely to have difficulty digesting nutritional yeast and will have to take Methylcobalamine and Methylfolate

What foods directly benefit eye and skin health? (Abby)  (November is National Healthy Skin Month!)

For both eye and skin in general, the answer will be foods high in vitamin A and C.  Healthy skin will require healthy fats.  The eyes are especially benefited by the phytonutrients – the compounds we are discovering in plant foods along with vitamins and minerals that help the whole body. 

Carotenes are the building blocks for Vitamin A, which is sometimes known as the “eye vitamin”.  Carotenes are found in yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, plus green leafy vegetables (including beet greens, spinach, and broccoli).  Vitamin A is required for cell division and so is also helpful for skin.  

Vitamin C is a great antioxidant and is also required for collagen synthesis, the main structural protein that keeps skin strong and healthy.  Vitamin C deficiency is rare, but skin deficiency symptoms include dry, rough, and scaly skin that tends to bruise easily.  Oxidative damage is a contributor to eye problems like macular degeneration and several studies have shown that people who regularly eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C are less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who do not.

The other components in plants, the phytonutrients, though difficult to pronounce (!) have been found to be useful in healthy eyes and skin:

  • Leutein, a carotenoid, has been shown to be very useful in restoring and maintaining eye health.  Sources of lutein include corn, kiwi, zucchini, spinach, yellow squash, red grapes, green peas, cucumbers, butternut squash, green bell peppers and celery. 
  • Lycopene, is a helpful anti-oxidant found in tomato products. 
  • Zeaxanthin s found in high levels in dark green vegetables, orange and yellow fruits, and in the yolk of eggs.  Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that plays a role in protecting the eyes from the harmful effects of oxidation and light-induced damage. 
  • Anthycyanidins like in the herb bilberry have been shown to help protect against age-related and diabetes-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Healthy skin requires healthy fats like fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, avocado, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.  Sensitive, dry skin or dermatitis might be a result of deficiency of essential fatty acids found in these healthy fats.  

How do you compensate if you take omeprazole which the 4th presenter said is bad for gut health? (Dion)

If you have to be on Prilosec then be sure to include pre and probiotics daily from the food you eat. Examples: probiotics are fiber. Obtaining foods especially whole wheat, plantains or green bananas, apples, barley, flax meal, jicama, asparagus, oats, Jerusalem artichokes roots and tubers

Probiotics: yogurt, kefir, fermented foods, kombucha