Nectresse - Not So Natural

Americans are addicted to sugar. There’s no beating around the bush with this statement, because it’s so obvious in everything we embody as a nation. Endocrinologist Dr. Glenn Braunstein explained that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day in the form of drinks, foods, and added sweeteners. Thus, a new craze was spurred in the foods industry, leading to new lines of products that companies tried to convince the public to buy under the premise that they were “healthier” or “calorie-free.” 

However, when artificial sweeteners such as sucrose (Splenda), and fructose (Equal) began to leak out evidence that they were possible carcinogens and that they could promote weight gain instead of prevent it, the market opened for a new angle: natural sweeteners.

As a response, Stevia in the Raw—a sweetener derived from the stevia plant, which is naturally close to calorie free—was developed. 

What is Natural?

Technically, all of today’s sugars can be classified as natural, since they are all formed from “natural” plants such as beets, corn, and herbs. Sugar naturally found in whole foods is packed alongside fiber, vitamins, and healthy minerals. When they are processed, however, they are stripped of the qualities that make them wholesome, creating an entirely false image of a “natural food.”

Stevia may be derived from a wholesome source, but after the chemical processing that it undoubtedly underwent to transform it into the nutrition-less carbohydrate that is sold in stores across the world. The FDA even remarked that brands such as PureVia and Truvia are “not stevia but a highly purified product.” Because the FDA doesn’t regulate the use of the word “natural,” not even that context can be taken for granted. Nevertheless, consumers continue to rally for the sweeteners because of their lower calorie count, natural sweetness, and perceived health value. 

After all of this hype, who was to blame the geniuses behind the late success of Splenda for not wanting to catch on? The makers of one of them most successful artificial sweeteners began to market a new and improved version of their old zero-calorie sweetener — Nectresse, an all-natural sugar made from the mountainous monk fruit. 

History of Nectresse

This fruit had been used since antiquity by natives, yet its sweet qualities had never quite caught on to the rest of the world. The earliest report of its usage by the western world was in an unpublished article written in 1938 by Professor G. W. Groff and Hoh Hin Cheung. They described the Asian fruit’s uses, including its “cooling” properties in reducing fever and inflammation. Nevertheless, at the time, the monk fruit’s distinctive odor was enough to offset it from becoming a profitable venture, and the prospect of selling it to the western world almost ended there. However, in 1995 Proctor & Gamble patented a process to remove the offensive odors and obtain the concentrated sweetness of the fruit.

The Secret Behind Nectresse

Eventually, McNeill Nutritionals, LLC, the makers of Splenda, released Nectresse. Their product was a moderate success, generating a fair amount of attention among health-food consumers. Its natural sweetness and 100% natural guarantee assured purchasers that they were buying quality ingredients. The truth is, however, that this is far from the truth.

Although it is a general fact that even “zero calorie” sweeteners contain minimal calories, what may not be widely known is that Nectresse is not entirely natural, as their website states. The first ingredient is erythritol, a sugar alcohol, with sugar coming in at a close second. In fourth, after monk fruit itself, is molasses. The three non-fruit ingredients are typically created using GM crops such as corn for the erythritol and beets for the refined sugar.The use of such refined and processed ingredients likely stems from the need to produce a cheaper product with more substance, but even while monk fruit may be a main ingredient, the other ingredients force it to shed its false promise of being “all-natural.”

Truthfully, Nectresse is about 150x sweeter than sugar because of natural antioxidants called mogrosides that are perceived as sweet, but do not count towards calories as much as sugar. However, the likelihood that indigestible chemicals present in Nectresse will interfere with your body's natural metabolism runs a high risk. It is possible that, contrary to the mantra of the company, Nectresse and other highly refined, artificial products may induce weight gain, due to the mentality that less calories equates greater indulgence.

The bottom line is, moderation is key to any healthy diet. Although companies may try to sway consumers to buy their product, sneaky advertisement can make greater than life seem like a great deal.


Day Forty: Less Time, More Rush

Again, another rushed post. I hope you guys don't mind that this may possibly be my pattern for the upcoming few months. There's way too much to focus on at the moment, and even I'm getting the feeling that this has become a side commitment for me. No kidding, it is a side commitment.

Breakfast: English muffin with egg and cheese
Lunch: Orange and sushi
Dinner: Chopt Avocado salad

Day Thirty-Nine: More Rushing

Here's a really rushed post. I know it's really making a bore out of this challenge for one hundred days, but bear with me guys! I'm doing my best!

Breakfast: Blueberry muffin and milk
Lunch: Orange and cereal
Dinner: Salad and chicken
Snacks: Guacamole with vegetable chips

Day Thirty-Eight: The Rush and the Madness

The city is just so rushed all the time. I'm telling you, it's like you would never have known. There's just so many places to be, so many people to see, so many things to do all of the time. I have never experienced anything like it and it's so refreshing to be around people who similarly feel the same way. Not the way where I feel overwhelmed, but the way where I can feel like I am doing something important. Like, somehow, somewhere, I actually count and that there is actually a purpose to my living here.

New York City is really more than just a city for me. Even though it's been less than a month since I've first moved here, it's become my new home in far less time. Somehow, I just find myself acclimating to everything that's ever defined it -- from the late night bodegas to the delis to the bagel stores to the old pizzerias, rusty shabby, their doors already falling off their hinges. I love the smell of the dew in Central Park, the sight of the majestic globe in Flushing Meadows, the chatter of hundreds of languages passing through Brooklyn, the sight of the skyscrapers and the beautiful High Bridge over the Bronx, the Staten Island ferry ambling its way across the river...

There's hope in this girl yet.

Breakfast: Fruit and yogurt parfait
Lunch: Chinese noodles
Dinner: Beef and various vegetables

Day Thirty-Seven: Time to Get Down to Business

I've got interview tomorrow and I'm really excited. I'm not quite sure what to expect, other than extreme anxiety, highlighted with a few dots of clever witty statements that could randomly pop up here and there throughout the interview. Or not. Depends on my lunch. Unfortunately, I don't have the best of luck from what I can tell.

Anyway, there are a lot of website telling me to get a good breakfast on the day of. My dad's planning on taking us to McDonald's for our breakfast, aka the most important meal of the day. That in itself makes me skeptical, but I love Mcdonald's fruit parfait (it's one of my guilty early morning pleasures ^.^) so there's nothing wrong right there. I just hope my nerves are able to calm down because it's almost midnight and I'm still up, pacing as urgently to finish my homework as ever.

One thing I've noticed about myself: I don't do time management. I mean, I can definitely finish every assignment you throw out at me, but when it comes to things like choosing homework or working on projects, I choose projects. When it comes to projects or Facebook, I choose Facebook. Of course, I'm at least good enough to pace the amount of time I spend on anything (no more than an hour a day, even though that in itself is quite a lot of time wasted on social media rather than spending it on my studies, like a good little Asian). Nevertheless, I'm just about as typical as any other teenager with way too much technology on their hands. What we need is more time, in a constantly rushed world full of priorities, deadlines, dues, and whatnot.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt
Lunch: Peaches and salad
Dinner: Pumpkin salad with enoki mushrooms 

Day Thirty-Six: Bodegas and Blasphemy

I was riding on the subway in Bronx for the first time today. I have to admit, compared to the stations in Queens and Manhattan (which are already pretty run-down in a lot of areas) most of the stations I saw were downright horrid. Now, don't get me wrong, I love NYC and almost every aspect of its hurried, incredibly rapid pace of life. However, there are quite a few things that get on my nerves and the disgusting state of the public facilities in the poorer sections of the city are some of them.

Some other things about the city that bother me:

Tourists calling it the "Big Apple"
I know it's the proper term and all, but I always get the feeling that they're mocking us, in some sort of subtle, convoluted way. I don't know, maybe it's just me. I always thought of it like when people intentionally slur "Beijing" and it comes out "BAY-tsing." Even I'm getting goosebumps hearing that in my head.

The length of time it takes to pave roads.
To be honest, these construction projects can stretch on for years. Literally. I've seen barely-miles of road in working process for over three years before.

How summers turn into winters.
The seasons have always fluctuated, but there's nothing like New York weather, especially when the school year's starting and you're already getting a cold.

People always ask me to say "coffee," "dog," "talk," and "walk." Oh, and occasionally "Staten Island."

Houston St. vs. Houston, Texas
There's actually a difference in pronunciation. Similar to the issue above, but now reversed. If only tourists would learn!

The price of food downtown
I love all of the sophisticated and chic eateries downtown, but the prices kill me. $10 for a lunch at Shake Shack actually sounds like a good deal, now.

Do you guys have any other anecdotes to share about pet peeves and whatnot? Leave a comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you!

The Day's Eats
Breakfast: Cream cheese bagel and orange juice
Lunch: Tuna salad wrap and bean salad
Dinner: Fish sandwich and melons

Day Thirty-Five: Exciting Weekend

I'm looking forward to this weekend. It holds promises of exciting people, places, and events I have never had the chance to experience. I am going to take part in my first prep school interview, which in itself is already a milestone for me. Taking part in the interview when it is on Columbia University's campus -- one of the premier universities in the world, as well as one of the Ivy League -- makes this all the better.

Anyway, I won't be able to post my usual articles on healthy eating, so I hope you guys remember all of the facts and figures I've been shooting out at you. I admit, this entire "no junk food" approach is becoming quite difficult to handle, especially when I was walking past the Shake Shack earlier this week. The deathly smell of the cheesy crinkle cut fries, of the Shack Burger, of the churning wheels out behind the counter stirring great vats of shakes, custards, and cements was making me salivate so much I hurried on past with my eyes averted. In other words, crisis averted.

But I wanted to end on a happy note. I've been feeling pretty good lately, and I don't know if it's actually this ban on fast food working or if it's just the natural high I get from my first week of high school. I have to admit, I'm loving my high school! It's so interesting to be in an environment where everyone craves learning, the teachers are genuinely passionate about their craft, and there's so many choices to pursue your interests. If only my entire educational life had been like this!

Breakfast: Sausage, waffles, fruit juice
Lunch: Tuna sandwich, chickpea salad
Dinner: Pumpkin salad
Snacks: Figs (our tree out back is starting to produce a skimpier harvest. I have a feeling the season's about to end. I sure am going to miss my supply of figs.)