Tag Archives: corn syrup

Friday Linkage 8/7/2015

There will be no linkage next week since I will be spending most of the week in Boulder, Colorado for work. Finally, work sends me some place that I actually like going.

On to the links…

The 19 Types of Beer Snobs—Which type of beer snob do you think you are?

This Kind Of Electricity Provider Is Already Integrating Renewables—As someone who lives in a state where rural electric cooperatives are alive and well this does not come as news. The key piece of information is that these cooperatives are beholden to the rate payers not investors.

Interior Launches National Conversation on Federal Coal—Coal mining companies need to pay their fair share for coal extracted from federally owned lands. If that puts the coal out of domain of economic feasibility then so be it. Maybe coal is in its death throes.

U.S. Coal Company Alpha Natural Resources Files For Bankruptcy—If you want proof that coal is in trouble look no further than once high flying Alpha Natural Resources. Since 211 the company has closed 80 mines, laid off 6,500 employees, and cut capital spending by 55%. These measures were still not enough to stave off bankruptcy.

This Insanely Detailed Map Shows every Power Plant in the United States—This map is an amazing piece of work:

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Map: Stacking up the States under the Clean Power Plan—The Clean Power Plan is a great thing. It really sets the stage for a clean energy transformation in the United States, but it lets the states decide the best path. How is your state looking?

The $13 Billion Bottled Water Industry vs. the National Park Service… and American Hikers, Campers, Hunters, and Nature-Lovers—There is a fundamental disconnect between people enjoying the natural awesomeness of our national parks and buying single use beverages.

The Disturbing Things that Happen to Your Body when You Drink Coca-Cola—I remember a time in the late-80s when parents would tell their children that soda had the same chemistry as battery acid. It was total bunk, but it looks like the stuff might really be bad for you. It’s just not battery acid.

Diets Are a Lot Like Religion—When you stop and listen to people talk about diets it really does sound like religion or a cult. I am going with cult. Complete with Kool-Aid.

Friday Linkage 7/3/2015

Damn, it’s July. Where did June go? That’s right, I spent the month trying to put as many miles on my bikes as possible and spending the rest of my time enjoying a few moments of clam between rain storms.

On to the links…

Americans Are Drinking Less Coffee Thanks to K-Cups—So, we are drinking less coffee but paying more for the privilege of brewing it a single cup at a time. How is this a good trade off?

The Surprising Environmental Reason Weed Should Be Legal—Marijuana should be legal nationwide because the war on drugs is a sham perpetuated by the prison industrial complex. It also appears that there is an environmental benefit to legalization.

Solar Power Per Capita & Wind Power Per Capita Leaders—Lichtenstein is the leader in per capita solar? Really?

Largest Solar Plant On Planet Earth — Solar Star — Comes Online—With all the hype about distributed solar—of which I am a big proponent—sometimes the scale of these utility projects gets lost. Solar Star in California has a rated capacity of 579 megawatts of funky yellow sun fueled electrical power.

How Renewables are Thriving in the US Thanks to State Policies—Government policy can advance the cause of renewables despite what right wingers might say:

CESA-Wind-and-Solar-infographic-FINAL_1-465x1024

Total Plans 500-800 MW Solar Power Capacity In Bolivia—Bolivia has not ever come up in the links before that I can remember. The French energy titan Total is putting some serious money into renewables in that country.

3 Out Of 4 New Solar Homes In NSW To Include Battery Storage—The more I read and the more I think about the topic the more that I come to the conclusion that Australia seems like the perfect laboratory for the distribution of massive amounts of residential solar.

The West Is Literally On Fire, And The Impacts Could Be Widespread—As the climate changes as a result of global warming we are going to have to deal with the massive impacts of wildfires in drought stricken regions.

Californians Getting Drought Message: Water Usage Plunges—The state still has not addressed some of the agricultural usage insanity—like growing alfalfa to feed to cows or to export—but the residents of the state seem to be getting the idea that el Nino will not rescue them from drought this time.

Mark Bittman Wants You to Know the Drought Isn’t Your Fault—The drought is not our fault, but our food choices may be making things worse. Given the water situation in California there is no logical reason why cows should be residents of that state. None.

Corn Syrup’s DC Attack on Sugar Could Hit Minnesota Beet Industry—Talk about some lobby-on-lobby crime. These two subsidized industries need to get of the government welfare.

Hawaii Just Became The First State To Ban Plastic Bags At Grocery Checkouts—A big thank you to the aloha state for banning the distribution of single use plastic bags. These things are the scourge of the earth.

Getting the Sugar Out

The modern American…er, Western diet is awash in sugar. It is estimated that Americans consume an average of 47 sugar cubes or 10 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup per day. This compares with 39 sugar cubes in the 1980s or 34 sugar cubes in the 1950s. I do not know if those levels in the 1950s were healthy, as it is my sneaking suspicion that the health crisis related to sugar is really a story of post-war America which begins in the 1950s. Nonetheless, we eat too much god damned sugar.

All of this sugar—whether it is HFCS or table sugar or fair trade Turbinado or organic raw sugar from lowland plains of Maui—is killing us. Depending upon the measurement criteria almost 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Almost 35% are obese and over 6% are considered extremely obese. The problem with our weight has gotten so bad that the U.S. military is concerned that the population is “too fat to fight.”

Our collective expanding waistline is just the first sign indicator of greater problems to come. If you think a lot of people being overweight is bad, just wait until those numbers translate into a lot of people having Type II diabetes. Diabetes and its related conditions are estimated to cost Americans over $250 billion per year and it is going to get worse as the prevalence of the disease increases. This is a direct function of our love affair with sugar.

However, these trends and statistics are not new. What has changed in the last few years is that focus has been put squarely on added sugar. This is a story about the sugar that we have put into processed foods making us sick. Any dietician will tell you that the fructose in an apple—chemically similar to HFCS and metabolically the same—is not the problem because you cannot eat enough apples to get the same deleterious impact as hammering home a Big Gulp full of Coca-Cola. It’s like trying to equivocate drinking a glass of wine with dinner to doing keg stands at a tailgate. There are some similarities, but the differences are what matter.

The easy answer is to make all of our food from scratch. I am sure that there are people with both the time and patience to pull that off. I congratulate them on their being awesome. I am not nearly as awesome. Sometimes I need a quick solution to hungry kids while I assemble dinner after working the entire day.

The go-to solution in my house to hungry kids is a cup of yogurt and a banana. The banana speaks for itself, but the cup of yogurt is a Trojan horse for sugar. I had never really thought about the sugar content until a few months ago. Guess what? You might as well give your children a candy bar if you are going to feed them most flavored yogurts. Compare the nutritional labels of a standard cup of national brand strawberry yogurt versus equivalent sized cup of strawberry yogurt from Kalona SuperNatural:

Yoplait_Original_Strawberry

The strawberry yogurt from Kalona SuperNatural has 104 calories for a 6 oz serving and 6 grams of sugar. The irony is that the Kalona SuperNatural yogurt has significantly fewer calories while having more fat. Where do you think those calories are coming from? That’s right. Sugar.

Damn. 18 grams of sugar versus 6 grams of sugar. The Kalona SuperNatural yogurt has two-thirds the sugar.

Things are not as clear cut as the math would make it seem. Nutritional labels are not required to show the sugars that are naturally occurring versus the sugars that are added. In yogurt this means that you do not get to see the sugars present as lactose versus the added sugars like HFCS or sucrose. Depending upon the brand and variety of yogurt a six ounce serving may contain anywhere from 13 grams of lactose to as few as 2 to 6 grams of lactose. It matters if the yogurt is fat free where more lactose is present to take the place of removed fats or if the yogurt is Greek in style which has lactose skimmed out. This is why reading the nutritional label is not going to always provide a clear answer. A Greek style yogurt may appear to have less sugar, but the reduction in sugar is really a function of having less lactose not less added sugar which is the component we are trying to avoid.

Assuming that these two yogurts were made in similar ways with similar base ingredients you can really start to see the difference in added sugar.

Children are supposed to only get approximately 12 grams of added sugar per day. A single cup of grocery store brand strawberry yogurt puts them nearly all of the way to the total. And that was supposed to be a healthy alternative. See what I mean about yogurt being a Trojan horse for added sugar? It’s literally a battle of grams and teaspoons when it comes to cutting out the sugar.

The moral of the story is that we can find better alternatives to the things that we feed ourselves and our children. In my house, we went cold turkey on a lot of sugar laden items. One day there was your standard strawberry yogurt and the next it was replaced by something with a lot less sugar. I think there was one complaint and away we went.

No More Diet Soda

Hot on the heels of nearly banishing beer from my daily routine—I have been giving myself one night a week to enjoy carefully curated beers—I started to wonder about another daily habit that might be quite harmful to my health.

Despite my love of the Sodastream, I fall victim to the convenience and deception of diet soda. It’s so easy to get a twenty ounce bottle from the vending machine at work in the afternoon when I am thirsty and my energy is flagging. A little caffeine and carbonation seem to do wonders to get me through the stretch run most days. Add on top the idea that I am getting a soda fix without the calories and corn syrup guilt of a traditional soda.

With apologies to Lee Corso, not so fast my friends. In our collective desire to consume fewer calories and not make any lifestyle changes—isn’t that what diet soda is really selling—the addition of artificial sweeteners to our diets may be causing more harm than good.

How is that possible? The dangers of artificial sweeteners have been hinted at for years. Most people hew to the conventional wisdom that aspartame—the generic name for trademarks like Nutrasweet—is not good for children. As my daughter so rightly pointed out one day, “If I shouldn’t drink it, why can you?” Good logic, little one, good logic.

The answer, in all likelihood, is that no one should be consuming artificial sweeteners. Why? Because recent studies and anecdotal evidence, which is mounting by the day as more long term studies are published, show that something in these products is confusing our bodies. People who replace sugary sodas with diet sodas do not appear to lose any more weight and, in fact, show signs of glucose intolerance which is a precursor to diabetes. Our bodies do not like to be fooled into thinking we are getting sugar because we are hard wired to seek calories. It’s a survival instinct.

There are a host of other problems associated with artificial sweeteners like migraines that appear to be linked to consumption. Rather than seek some happy median, it just seemed easier to excise the products from my life entirely. Like any change to habit it’s hard not to fall back into routine and slide a few dollar bills into the vending machine to get a late afternoon hit of liquid satisfaction. It all seems worth it when you are trying to avoid lifelong health problems like diabetes. On one hand you can have a diet soda, but you increase your risk of getting a lifelong illness. On the other hand, you can save a few bucks and avoid that chance. The downside risk on this one blows the upside gain out of the water.

Have you gotten rid of artificial sweeteners in your diet?

Friday Linkage 6/14/2013

The weather and what not is getting crazy.  Forest fires in Colorado turn out to be the most destructive in history every year.  First it was Waldo Canyon last year and this year we get the Black Forest fire.  In the Midwest we saw a 200 mile plus long storm front roll through this week that spawned tornadoes and the ever popular straight line winds.

For anyone who is a climate change denier, look outside and ask yourself what is going on.

On to the links…

Farm Subsidies Leading to More Water Use—Here is what is messed up about our farm policy in the United States…the programs in place often have the opposite effect of the desired outcome.  It’s amazing how messed up these things can get.

Regulatory Nominee Vows to Speed Up Energy Reviews—This just ticks me off because the White House could be making forward progress without Congress, yet is failing to take action because of some political calculus.  Ugh!

The U.S. Added 723 Megawatts of Solar during the 1st Quarter of 2013—On top of the good news, the U.S. is expected to add a total of 5.3 GW of solar capacity over the course of 2013.  That is enough to power almost 1 million average American homes with carbon free power.  Also, a 5.3 GW increase would be more than a 50% increase in the installed solar capacity in the U.S.  Damn!

Tea Party Takes On Georgia Power Over Lack Of Solar Energy—Just absorb the delicious irony of that title for a moment.  Tea Party…solar…Georgia…yep, solar power is the real deal when the Tea Party in the south is supporting its adoption.  Watch out king coal!

Master Limited Partnerships will Bring More Investment to Clean Energy—  Master Limited Partnerships (MLPS) are one of those boring, but very important, financing tools used by fossil fuel companies to acquire the capital to build out projects.  Congress is working on a bill that would expand the ability to use the tool to renewable energy.

What’s Needed to Get Sustainable Energy for All—Here is what it would take to move the entire world to a more sustainable energy future:

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How Big Soda is Losing the Battle for American Hearts and Bellies—If there is one thing that you can do to improve your health—assuming you do not smoke—it would be to eliminate soda—regular or diet—from your daily routine.  The stuff is just bad news.  Maybe the tide is turning in the war against the corn syrup horde.

Cod Stocks Recover after Years of Overfishing—It seems like the news from restricted fisheries is that stocks will return if left alone for long enough.  This is probably little comfort to the people who depend on the cod stocks off North America, which have yet to recover from recent collapses, but it provides hope.

Cheap Food is a Thing of the Past—If there is one thing that will destabilize the world as climate change worsens it will be empty bellies.  Deny people their daily bread and riots ensue.

The Cool Factor (With Feathers): New York Chefs React To Pastured Poultry—  We are what we eat and we are what are animals eat.  We are also what our animals lives are like before they are slaughtered for dinner.

Edible Landscape Transforms Minnesota Lawn—Edible landscaping is awesome and expanses of green grass are tyranny.  I love the look of this garden.  It’s organic, in the organizational sense, and folksy.  I would want one if my front yard were more than a small pizza slice shaped chunk of lawn.

Climbing and Cloning Sequoias—This is an interesting idea.  Find the world’s largest trees, clone them, and distribute the clones to create groves of super trees.  I doubt that it can have a measurable impact on the carbon in the atmosphere, but it is better than giving up.

Watts For Lunch? (Or Why Humans Are Like Light Bulbs)—All you need to be a human for an average day is the power to light up one 120 watt incandescent light bulb.  Interesting.

Tiny Aerosol Particles, Big Impacts—Black carbon, or soot, is a nasty aerosol particle that traps a ton of heat in the atmosphere.  Like 650 times more than carbon dioxide alone.

Glamorous Killers Expand their Range—Cougars are making a comeback.  The animals are increasingly being seen in suburban habitats.  I am guessing that this will become more of a problem like bears in the Front Range.

Friday Linkage 6/29/2012

Wildfires are abstract concepts to someone living in Iowa.  Sure, we see fields that catch fire now and again but rarely is anything more than an old barn or single farmstead truly threatened.

However, close friends in Colorado Springs were evacuated from the path of the ongoing Waldo Canyon Fire and are now homeless.  As of this morning they do not know the condition of their house or when they will be allowed to even go back to see what, if anything, remains.  Everyone in their family is safe, but there is just a pit in the bottom of your stomach when you think about the situation.

Sorry for the depressing tone, but thoughts about the wildfire have sort of consumed my waking hours lately as I tried to imagine the combination of horror, anger, and unknown.

On to the links…

Midwestern Drought Intensifies—Shades of the 1988 drought are beginning to appear as the Midwest is increasingly dry and the hot conditions of high summer are starting to bear down.  This week it was close to 100 degrees in Eastern Iowa with hot winds to match.

How Big Meat is Taking Over the Midwest—The forces of big meat, represented by the increase in confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs), are slowly taking over the remaining pockets of livestock production that they do not own in the Midwest.  A quick drive through rural Iowa will put you in contact with the foul smell of these modern hell holes.  Don’t believe these places are hell on Earth?  Just try and walk up to one without tearing up, vomiting, or giving up because of the smell.  Now imagine eating meat that comes from one of these operations.

We Evolved to Eat Meat, But How Much is Too Much?—It is not that meat, in and of itself, is a bad thing.  It is just that Americans in general and, increasingly, the rest of the world eats too much of the stuff and it is produced in deplorable conditions.

Visualizing a Nation of Meat Eaters—A series of very interesting charts and graphs that visually display the evolution of meat consumption in the U.S.

Too Big to Chug—In America we love us some big drinks:

Think about the fact that the McDonald’s kid size drink is 5 ounces larger than the original fountain drink size for the chain in 1955.  Think that is scary?  During my son’s one year checkup, the pediatrician was asking questions about his eating habits when he said “Do you try to limit juice and soda intake?”  Huh?  Soda intake for a one year old?  Why is that even a question?

How Clean is Your Beach?—Every year, the Natural Resources Defense Council releases a report on the water quality and public notification of beaches in the United States.  Check it out to see if your favorite beach is on the list and how it did.  Is it safe to go back into the water?

Fear Accompany Fisherman in Japanese Disaster Region—Fisherman are starting to make their way back into the sea in the area near the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.  Given the reports of potentially irradiated tuna making their way to California earlier, I would think that people would be more than hesitant to wrap their fingers around some calamari from these waters.

The Curse of the Lead Bullet—The California condor’s recovery is one the greatest success stories of the modern wildlife conservation movement.  Even though the majestic bird was brought back from the precipice of extinction, threats to its long term viability remain.  One of those is the lead shot used in hunting loads.    Why are we still using a toxic metal for recreational hunting?  In Iowa this year this same issue was brought forward by the Department of Natural Resources, but our tone deaf governor chose to make some kind of misguided ideological stand in opposing the ban of lead hunting loads.  Why?

Have Sledgehammer Will Farm—Breaking up asphalt and concrete is brutal and backbreaking work, but considering how much of our landscape is covered in the materials it is almost inevitable that spaces will have to be reclaimed.  Bit by bit we can replace the hard edges of the modern world with the softer edges of a better future.

Edible Weeds in the Garden—It may be a weed, but that does mean it lacks culinary value.  Like the non-marketable cuts of meat or offal, we too often think of food in terms of very narrowly defined items.  So, don’t just pull those weeds.  Saute them!

Simple Sheet of Paper Keeps Produce Fresh Four Times Longer—This is one of those little things that you smack your head when you see it and say, “Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?”  Probably because you don’t worry about the shelf life of food when you do not think about the cost.

Unfixable Computers—We have entered an age where a computer is a disposable item.  Think about that for a moment.  I remember when computers were something of a centerpiece of a family’s home, cared for like cars, but now these items have become merely electronic waste when the time comes to make even the simplest of repairs.  It is not forward progress at all.

BioLite Stove—This thing is just cool.  The BioLite stove seems like the perfect disaster stove because it can also provide a small amount of electricity for phones or lights.  Hmmm…