Suchero, an all-natural sweetener

My Dad had Type 2 diabetes. This means my children and I may have a higher risk of developing diabetes if we are not careful with our diet and lifestyle.

The scary thing is that for many who are at risk of diabetes, or already there, the alternative has always been artificial sweeteners. Years ago, it was Nutrasweet and Equal. But aspartame, which is what both are made of, has had problems as recent studies are showing it to be more toxic to the body than helpful.

Now, the popular artificial sweetener is Splenda. But because there are still very few clinical studies using Splenda, it will be years down the road before we know if Splenda is indeed very safe to use or it will go the same way as Nutrasweet and Equal.

Recently, I was invited to attend the launch of an all-natural sweetener, Suchero. The invitation to the launch mentioned that Suchero was coconut sugar so that excited me. Here in the Philippines, we are very rich in coconut resources. Coconut is often called the miracle fruit because its insides and outside parts are all useful. Coconut has been transformed into shampoo, body lotion, soap, virgin coconut oil (VCO) and the husks are used in tropical countries as a floor cleaner for wood. Its juice, alkaline in nature, is drank by those with kidney problems and the flesh is delicious to eat.

Present at the launch were the 3 partners who are behind Suchero: Joey Villa, Antonio Magcase and Vida Pamatian.

Seated: Joey Villa & Antonio Magcase. Standing leftmost: Vida Pamatian

Joey Villa gave us the lowdown on how Suchero came about and what is exactly in this sweetener that they believe is a much better alternative to the artificial sweeteners in the market now.

What is so great about Suchero?

The best selling point for Suchero is found in its glycemic index or GI. GI measures the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Anything you eat (like carbohydrates) that release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream has a high GI; conversely, the better foods are those that release glucose more gradually into the bloodstream and have a lower GI. Food with a high GI tax the pancrease unnecessarily because when it senses all that glucose, it signals the brain to release more insulin. Consuming regular food with high GI levels can lead to diabetes.

Cane sugar has a glycemic index of 65; Suchero’s GI is only 35. Doctors who have tried and tested Suchero, Villa said, have been recommending Suchero as a substitute for white sugar for their diabetic patients or patients who need to manage high sugar levels. They are aiming to position Suchero as an affordable, low GI, all-natural sweetener that can help in the proper management of diabetes, weight control, and prevention of heart disease and obesity.

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It’s Time to ACT and Curb HIV/AIDS Spread

Who would ever have thought that I would get involved in an HIV/AIDS advocacy?

I supported advocacies, yes. But I never thought of supporting something that I felt then I had no connection to. In my mind, I was saying that those who should be concerned are those who are sexually active with multiple partners, the gay community and others. Nope, not me. I will just focus on advocacies up my alley — maybe breast or cervical cancer or children illnesses. You know, women and motherly concerns.

But last year, when Project Headshot Clinic invited bloggers, along with some celebrities, to spread the word about HIV/AIDS awareness and the importance of action, I took a second look at the disease.

Here are some highlights that everyone should know about HIV/AIDS –

* HIV is not = AIDS. AIDS is the full-blown manifestation of HIV but if well-managed, HIV-positive people may not necessarily end up with AIDS.

* HIV attacks the immune system, our defense against all kinds of sickness

* You cannot die from HIV but because it weakens your immune system, you are susceptible to more serious infections and diseases

* Anyone can get HIV. It can hit anyone of any age, gender, sexual preference, race, religion, family background, profession, social status, life accomplishments, height or weight. ANYONE!

* HIV is transmitted in 4 ways: 1) unprotected sex, 2) sharing of infected needles, 3) as a fetus or infant during birth or through breastfeeding, and 4) by blood transfusion.

That is what caught my eye – item #4 (blood transfusion). How many of us have contracted dengue, for example, and needed blood transfusions? Even children get blood transfusions when platelet count is down.

Just today, I found this online news article from the Inquirer where some 124 blood units were found tainted with HIV. How safe is blood screening of donors in the Philippines – really? Scary thought…

That’s not all. Here are some alarming numbers. And mind you, this is just for the Philippines.

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Raising Healthy Kids Starts Early

As a mother of 4 kids, one of my major concerns is always how to keep my kids healthy and strong. There’s no underestimating the overused cliche “Health is Wealth“. It really is true!

It didn’t help that they all had frequent asthma episodes when they were very young. The nebulizer became a necessity and constant partner whenever we traveled. I was also spending a small fortune on medicines, doctors’ fees and ER visits.

No matter how careful one is about their health, children do get sick. And it is not a joke taking care of sick children. I remember staying up late when they had fever to monitor their temperature every 4 hours and if needed, give them a sponge bath if it went too high. No one else stayed with them in the hospital as I wanted to be there whenever they’d be given anything by mouth or intravenously. It was really hard to be a Florence Nightingale 24/7 those days.

I’m a firm believer that the first line of defense against illnesses is really how solid and robust your kids’ immunity foundation is. They may not be able to control external forces like exposure to sick people or contamination but their bodies stand a better chance of fighting these off when their internal defense system is strong. The earlier we start our kids on a healthy lifestyle, the better their chances of staying that way till their adulthood.

My kids don’t get sick that often anymore and that is a big relief. Here are a few things I learned along the way to keeping my kids healthy:

1. Breastfeeding – Although I used to work in the corporate world, every time I gave birth, I’d spend at least 3 months breastfeeding my kids. It meant some inconvenience. I’d report for work bringing a small ice chest packed with bottles & ice. I’d spend so much of mybreak time pumping breastmilk into the bottles so that they could be stored in the freezer or ref for those days when I was not at home. Given a choice, I would have breastfed longer than 3 months as I have read that children who breastfed longer turned out with a stronger immune system.

2. Complete vaccinations – This cannot be overemphasized. Vaccinations ensure they have the antibodies to fight off the viruses that are more deadly or damaging.

3. Healthy diet and lifestyle – I confess this is one of the harder things to implement. Some of my kids eat vegetables; the others don’t. I used to include junk food in my grocery shopping. I no longer do. Any junk food they want to eat comes out of their own pockets. Getting them to sleep early can be challenging too especially for my kids now that they are older. It seems the youth of today have this habit of sleeping way, way beyond midnight. Lack of sleep lowers their resistance and opens them to cough and colds.

4. Home sanitation –  A clean home, free from pests and allergens, and frequent disinfecting of surfaces can rid your home of things that could make your kids sick.

5. Good hygienic habits – Simple habits to teach the kids would minimize their getting sick like frequent hand washing especially after a trip to the comfort room.

5. Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins – I am choosy about the multivitamins I give them. The one they currently take has zinc which is known to boost immunity. Besides that, I also give them Vitamin C to fight the colds.

Learn more about boosting your child’s immunity foundation by visiting On this site you will have access to expert advice and great tips on keeping your kids’ immunity high.

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The Biggest Loser Comes to Asia

The Biggest Loser Asia is coming to Asia for the first time and Fitness First is its major sponsor.  Fitness First clubs around Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia) will be exclusive venues for the live screen test auditions for participants who want to be part of the show. In the Philippines, LIVE screen test auditions were held at Fitness First at SM Megamall from August 15-16, 2009.

Since its debut in 2004 in the US by NBC reality television, The Biggest Loser has become a worldwide hit viewed by millions, airing in over 90 countries and produced in 25 countries. This is the first reality show where obese contestants are challenged and encouraged under guided expert supervision to undergo strenuous physical and mental training in order to shed kilos. The one who loses the most weight not only wins a grand cash prize of USD 100, 000 but also gains a healthier and better quality life!

Produced by Imagine Omnimedia (producers of Contender Asia) for the Hallmark Channel in Asia, Biggest Loser Asia will help change the lives of obese Filipinos who want to take up the challenge of shedding bad lifestyle habits and embracing healthier ones. The Biggest Loser Asia will not just look into the physical challenges of the contestants’ personal journeys but also their emotional and psychological trials and tribulations as they lose the kilos while inspiring and empowering others to do the same.

When my girl C2 and I got to Fitness First, we were met by a long line of applicants, all looking like they really could lose all that extra weight but looking hopeful as well that they would be chosen as one of the wanna-be losers.


Applicants were ushered into THE screen test room in batches of 6. They were told that the panel of judges could ask them any questions like  why they joined The Biggest Loser or even personal questions that could have contributed to their obesity or desire to lose weight.

Simon Flint and Mark Ellis of Fitness First brief the applicants

Simon Flint and Mark Ellis of Fitness First brief the applicants

Here are some snippets from a jolly group of guys who I thought were friends since they were very animated as they sat around waiting for their turn.  But they all just met each other on that day.

And I did an ambush interview with actress Ruby Rodriguez, who I chanced upon also lining up:

The show is expected to come out on TV by end of this year. Watch for it and see who becomes the biggest Asian LOSER!

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An A(H1N1) Flu Booklet from the UN

The Philippines is now counted as one of the countries affected by the A(H1N1) virus. As of last count by the Department of Health, there are already57 people who contracted it. Thankfully, we have had no deaths yet.

What is worrisome to parents like me is its timing with the opening of classes.

When De La Salle University was first hit with the news of 2 foreign exchange students testing positive, my first thoughts were with our nephew who had just come to Manila from the province to begin school as a freshman there. We checked up on him and had him go home immediately.

Yesterday, I was at Ateneo with my 2 girls to enroll and get our car stickers as well as meet up with a cousin whose daughter (my niece) was also an incoming freshman in the school. We were in and out of the school and only heard the news in the evening that 3 high school boys of Ateneo had likewise tested positive.

There are also confirmed cases in a Paranaque school and DLSU’s sister school (College of St. Benilde).

My boys (at another school) start school next week after a parent orientation. I know that many families in this school travel abroad during summer. I am now having second thoughts about attending the parent orientation. Maybe the school can use technology, do a podcast or video of what they intended to tell us, upload it into their website, and just have us view it from there. That way we avoid personal contact and still get the same information. I am very happy though that this school is such a proactive one and this week, is having thorough pest control done prior to the boys coming in for classes.

Other private schools should probably look at the use of technology likewise to keep parents, faculty, students and staff informed about their school’s actions to keep them all virus-free.

I have been cutting out newspaper clippings on A(H1N1) but these seemed inadequate. The non-medical one simply listed the symptoms, a few treatments, contact numbers of designated hospitals and some precautionary measures. Another clipping listed down the alert levels for schools (but this was not applicable to me as a parent).

Thanks to a heads-up from Dine and Noemi (on Facebook), I became aware of this document over at It is an easy read, pleasant to the eyes, uses simple language, and readily understandable to non-medical people like me.

Please feel free to pass this link to your family and friends. The more people who are aware of this document, the more people we can keep healthy and virus-free.

Let’s also continue to pray that our country and our families are kept safe and healthy, not just from this virus but from dengue also, which has actually claimed more lives since the onset of the rains.

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Kefir – Time for a Second Look at this Potent Probiotic

In February of 2007, a co-parent at our boys’ school gave me a batch of what looked like cottage cheese-like, curdled milk. I saw kefir for the first time.

It was only after I did some googling on the internet that I discovered that kefir was one of, if not THE most potent, probiotic there is. It contains different varieties of good bacteria and far outweigh the benefits of products claiming to have lactobacilli and even yogurt.

Since then, that first batch of kefir grains has multiplied over and over again. From just that one batch, I have given out kefir grains to friends and even unknown persons who ask for them — many times over. And up to this day, our household continues to culture it, harvest its liquid and drink it plain or as a smoothie (for the kids). Our youngest, who used to consume Yakult by the pack (that comes in packs of 5 bottles), has totally switched over to kefir smoothies, thereby saving me quite a sum of money.

Kefir is not a miracle drug and does not claim to be so. But its powerful live organisms have been known to normalize the digestive tracts of people suffering both from diarrhea and constipation. Other kefir users I have come across on the internet have claimed it boosts the immune system, lowers high blood pressure and reduces the effect of acne (it can be used as a facial mask too!).

With the H1N1 virus threatening the world and who knows what other diseases are out there waiting to explode, it might be good to take a second look at kefir and see if its benefits go beyond just the ones we know so far. At the very least, if it boosts our immune system, we could stand a better chance resisting whatever viruses there are out there.

Here are links to my older posts about kefir:

1. Kefir – An Intro

2. Kefir – Paraphernalia and Process

3. A Kefir Smoothie

4. Kefir – Loads of Good Bacteria

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