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The verdict is still out on sugar. It remains a matter of opinion, but I saw an ad on the television explaining that sugar is sugar, whether it comes from corn or not.

This is not true. Quite simply, there is a difference between real sugar and corn sugar. The reality is that corn sugar is the ingredient more commonly known as HFCS, otherwise known as high fructose corn syrup.

The compound HFCS, which came into existence in about 1957, is a popular food item in sodas, breads, candies, soups, dressings and dairy products. It is an inexpensive alternative to sugar that many believe is worse for you than the real thing.

HFCS has managed to find its way into many processed foods, so don't forget to read the label. If it is on the label, get it off the table! If you’re not already aware, HFCS can also cause insulin resistance, which can lead to type two diabetes and fatty liver disease. It also affects your body’s feeling of being full, causing overconsumption.    

Actually, research has found that rats fed a diet of HFCS gained 48% more weight. There was also a marked increase for fat found in their blood, when compared with those fed common table sugar.

The HFCS argument has gone on for years. Most independent studies say that there’s no difference. C&S sugar still claims that "only cane sugar was sugar" - sugar beet sugar was somehow inferior.

Studies by the American Medical Association say, "It appears unlikely that HFCS contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose." They do however call for further independent research on the subject. 

In any case, HFCS has been classified as generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1976. Although it’s not “harmful,” I would try to avoid HFCS sugar as much as possible.

There’s one other aspect to cover: taste. When traveling in foreign countries, experienced travelers try to avoid the water, and drink carbonated beverages such as soda, beer and sparkling water. You see, carbonated beverages are commercially produced, giving us some assurance. 

This carbonation kills bacteria, so when hearing the hiss of carbonation, we are assured that it has not been tampered with. Why do I mention this? Because Coca-Cola tastes different in other parts of the world. A quick check of the ingredients shows that they use sugar instead of corn syrup.

There is a slogan used to halt the use of salt. You've heard many say I don't use much salt and never put it on the table. Good for you. But that is not the whole story.  The real story is in that number after sodium on the food label. If that number is high, don't buy it.

Sea salt does have some ingredients that may be good for you, but the fact remains, it is still salt. Don't let the manufactures fool you into thinking that it is safe to use, if you are not advised to use salt. 

Also, remember to check the herbs and spices (but also check for salt) for flavoring foods. As manufacturers remove oils from foods and plaster the information on the label, they neglect to tell you that they slipped in other ingredients like salt and sugar - all to enhance the flavor.

While on the subject of what not to eat or use, let’s talk about the dangers of plastic. It has been found that plastic is not as innocent or as forgiving as once thought. Young children should not be exposed to most plastic utensils or toys, especially foods heated in plastic dinnerware.

The rule also applies to kids of all ages. Since many toys are imported from other countries, who knows what is in there. It is hard enough to monitor things made here in our own country, let alone things made elsewhere. 

As for washing those toys, some say a little bleach in hot water and a rinse later is OK. Others say vinegar or peroxide will disinfect and not leave a chemical residue.

Considering the worth of your child - aren't organics worth the cost? Researchers now say children fed organic foods do better than those who aren't. Yes, we can wash and spray, but what’s to say it does the trick.

I've stuck my neck out before and will no doubt again, but I am not ashamed to say I do not care for tattoos. Why anyone would permanently discolor and damage a perfectly beautiful God-given body, I'll never know.

I guess that is their business, not mine. However, tattoos aren't just a blotch on the skin. In actuality they are harmful. Dark henna, the blue and black dye, is especially harmful to the skin. The dye may be safe to use on your hair, but it has not been approved to use as skin dye in the USA. 

Another consideration is this: the henna dye is derived from indigo, and contains PPD, p-pyhenylenediamine. Again, it may be ok for hair but not for skin. Research shows that 15% of people have an allergic reaction to it, more so as they age and are exposed to sun and light.  

It can cause intense scarring, liver tumors, breathing problems and other complications, not to mention embarrassment in the later years. One might also ask if the ink contains such ingredients as silver nitrate, chromium or pyrogalliol.

A recent Mayo Clinic study found that chewing gum can boost your metabolism up to 20 percent.

That could help you lose up to 10 pounds in a year. It also boosts memory, prevents tooth decay and relieves tension and stress. It helps you control eating habits and cravings for food, because it gives your mouth an activity. It is better for your teeth and overall health to chew gum that has a little bit of sugar from cane sugar, than it is to chew gum with artificial sweeteners.

There is a strange sounding gum I have never found called Xylitol, which is derived from birch trees and is low in calories. It has a much lower glycemic index than sugar so it is safe for diabetics. Actually it can protect your teeth from decay.

Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, May 12th: Everal Lageson, Richie Robinson, Dorothy Jensen, Larry & Jean Klocek

• Friday, May 13th: Brooklyn Christine DuBois, her 8th; David Richards, Rose Glienke, Troy Donahue, Curt Esplan, John Nechanicky, Holly Pence, Tracy Swearingen, Larry Schmidt, Reed Thostenson, Rose Glienke, Alan & Kathy Knudson, John & Barbara Olson

• Saturday, May 14th: Clair Dahl, Linda Olson, Anna Mae Peterson, her 6th; Katie Peterson, Ginger Thompson, Bruce Waage, Brad Wayne, Judy VerHey, Mark VerHey, Jeff Christensen, Shannon Krikava

• Sunday, May 15th: Carter Hagen, Evan Dobberstein, Megan Grubish, Alex Wayne, Mark Flesche, Dan Hagen, Don Hagen, Nicole Strand Harris, Stephanie Krueger, Neil Berg, Sandy Jensen, Marsha Neitzell, Tammy Thompson, Brett & Jessica Richards, Ralph & Irene Krueger, Jon & Nicole Farr

• Monday, May 16th: Ron Kubicek, Mark Reistad, Mark Skroch, Vernie Stieglbauer, Kim Lageson, Doug Lembke, Judy Karsjens, Anne Larson, Allycia Zinke, Becky Phagan, Bev White, Annie Larson, Christine & Brian Carlson

• Tuesday, May 17th: Laura Caroline Deml, her 4th; Caitlyn Nelson, David Thompson, Dale DeRaad, Rhonda Lund Thevenot, Jerry Blouin, Robert Briggs, Dyne Thereneau, Kay Barclay, Darlyne Paulson, Luella Reiman, Judith Hatch, Thomas Shawback, Rose & Carl Glienke

• Wednesday, May 18th: Blake Ihrke, Zachary Jacob Dau, Cory Bailey, David Farr, Arlene Busho, Arlene Cummins, Xan Johnson, Mandy Muri Johannsen, Charlie Hanson, Dan Schember, Hank Thompson, Carol Stohr, Vernetta Scott, Roger Draayer, Kelly Krumwiede, Rod Serdahl, Dan & Val Schember, Sue & Dean Westrum, Ken & Pat Sable

• Thursday, May 19th: Christina Hill Berry, Madison Schweirjohann, Summer Schember Schultz, Mike Rysavy, John Oolman, Dawn Parks, Tim & Tiffany Hanson

• Friday, May 20th: Oakley Baker, Kaye Schember Cady, Laureen Hohansee, Kathy Hanson, Hannah Ashton, Carrie Thorstenson, Penny Nordhorn, Haley Collins, Scott Stohr, Kevin Peterson, Kent Lageson, Josh Kelly, Virginia Jensen, Cynthia Butler, Jay & Marsha Neitzel, Ed & Camille Nelson, Hannah Ashton, Adam & Kristen Arends

Here's hoping that your special day brings you laughter, a light heart and much love.

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