Are Sugar Substitutes Better Than Sugar?

six teal icing cupcakes with sprinkles

Have you ever wondered how “sugar free” beverages or “diet” candies still taste sweet? Sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are replacing sugar and corn syrup across industries. You can’t have your cake, and eat it too, but trending sugar substitutes say otherwise. The demand for sugar substitutes are rising as science and mainstream healthy living sheds bad light on sugars. According to report by News Wire, the global zero calorie sweetener market was expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.40% from 2017 to 2021.

Table of contents:

Why is there a demand for sugar substitutions?

brown donuts on white tray

Weight gain: Eating too much sugar can cause a calorie surplus and lead to weight gain and obesity. This is detrimental to health as being overweight increases the risk of health problems such as cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Tooth decay: Sugar is one of the main culprits of tooth decay.

Diabetes: Artificial sweeteners allow diabetic patients to indulge in sugary food without the risk of spiking their blood sugar levels.

The origins of artificial sweeteners

coned ice cream with blueberries and flowers

Origins: The first artificial sweetener is saccharine, which was discovered in 1879. Saccharine was discovered by Russian chemist Fahlberg during his work on substitution products of coal tar. After forgetting to wash his hands after a long day in the lab, chemist Fahlberg discovered the coal tar product on his hands, Saccharin, made his dinner bread very sweet.

The rise: Artificial sweeteners or non-nutrient sweeteners shot to fame during World War I & II when sugar production was falling. Saccharin was a cheaper alternative compared to sugar. Since then, several artificial sweeteners have been discovered and produced, and are found in more than 6000 food products across the globe.

Different types of sugar substitutes

Sweeteners impart a sweet taste, which is highly addictive to many. Traditional sweeteners refer to the many forms of the carbohydrate, sugar, which gives out 4 kilocalories (kcal) per gram when consumed. Sugar substitutes are sweeteners that are being used instead of regular sugar sucrose. Sugar substitutes include sugar alcohols, natural and artificial sweeteners which vary in calorific value.

Artificial sweeteners

Monster Punch can

Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. However, they may not be as artificial as we think as some are derived from naturally occurring substances such as herbs or sugars. Widely used in processed foods, artificial sweeteners can be found in soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, confectionery, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products. Check out our article on why “low sugar” labels on beverages are lies.

There are two branches of sweeteners, nutritive and non nutritive sweeteners. Non- nutritive sweeteners are chemical additives that are sweeter than sugar, but contain 0 kilocalories. They are sweeter than sugars and a tiny amount of sweetener can provide enough sweetness in foods. 1 gram of aspartame of 4 kcal, can replace 200 grams of sucrose which is worth 800 kcal. Nutritive sweeteners contain less energy than sugars but are not kilojoule free.

Illustrated is general information on low calorie sweeteners:

General information on low-calorie sweeteners
Source: Centre of Food Safety

Weight control: Artificial sweeteners have “virtually no calories”, hence if you’re trying to prevent weight gain, products sweetened with artificial sweeteners may be an attractive option.

Blood sugar level: As artificial sweeteners are not carbohydrates, they generally do not break down into sugars and raise blood sugar levels. A 2018 study reviewing 29 research articles found that artificial sweeteners had no effect on blood sugars after consumption. Consult doctor or dietician before using any sugar substitutes for health reasons.

Health concerns: Artificial sweeteners, saccharine in particular has been tied to the occurrence of bladder cancer in laboratory rats in studies conducted in the 1970s, hence the label warnings that it “may be hazardous to your health”. However, the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies point out that there is no scientific evidence that artificial sweeteners approved for use in the United States cause cancer or other health problems. Coupled with studies that artificial sweeteners are generally safe in limited quantities in pregnant women, the warning label for saccharin was dropped and is permitted for food use in more than 100 countries to date.

chocolates with box on white surface

However, a 2020 study by a group of Yale researchers found that consuming artificial sweetener sucralose and a carbohydrate may disrupt body’s natural systems for regulating blood sugars although there is not enough evidence to conclude that artificial sweeteners cause diabetes.

What to look for: Artificial sweeteners are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food additives, and have to go through a process of being reviewed and approved by the FDA, Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) for safety, with before hitting grocery stores. FDA declares a substance as “generally recognized as safe”(GRAS) after being met with either criteria:

  • “Substances has a history of common use in food and is considered generally safe”
  • “Qualified professionals deem the substance safe for its intended use on the basis on scientific data”

Sugar alcohols

woman in white crew neck shirt blowing bubble

Found in processed foods, chocolates, chewing gums and tooth paste, these carbohydrates occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables, although they can also be manufactured. Although a natural substitute may seem healthier than sugar, its vitamin and mineral content isn’t significantly different. Sugar alcohols are hard to digest fully hence provide fewer calories compared to traditional sugars. Examples of sugar alcohols include xylitol (additive number 967), sorbitol (420), mannitol (421) and erythritol (968). When consumed in large amounts, sugar alcohols can have a potential laxative effect.

Weight control: Sugar alcohols range from 1.5-3kcal per gram and are less sweet than sugars, hence one puts on fewer calories than when consuming regular sugar, making them seem like an attractive alternative.

Blood sugar level: Although its calorific value is lower than traditional sugar, it is still a carbohydrate and therefore is capable of raising blood sugar levels. However, as the body doesn’t metabolize all the sugar alcohol, the effect on blood sugar level is lower compared to other sugars, but not non existent. Be sure to consult your doctor or dietician for guidance.

Natural sweeteners

honey jar with honey comb

These sugar substitutes are promoted as “healthier options” compared to the others, however, these “natural sweeteners” often undergo processing and refining before reaching supermarket shelves. Natural sweeteners are considered “added sugars”and are generally safe, but when broken down by your body into simple sugars (glucose, fructose) it is nutritionally similar to sugar. Although marketed as a healthier and au natural alternative, “they are basically just ‘sugar’ and have been extracted and sold in concentrated form.” according to a report online.

Consuming too much sugar can lead to health problems such as tooth decay, weight gain, poor nutrition and increased triglycerides.

Natural sweeteners approved by the FDA:

  • Fruit juices and nectars
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Stevia
  • Monk fruit (luo han guo)

Moderation is key

vegetables and fruits display

Be it to lower the amount of calories consumed, to steer away from sugar, or to avoid a spike in blood sugar levels, sugar substitutes are appealing for a number of reasons. A 2019 review concluded that there is no strong evidence linking artificial sweeteners to any positive or negative outcome as there is not enough evidence available to draw a conclusion. When choosing sugar substitutes, remember that food marketed as sugar free isn’t necessary calorie free and can still cause weight gain. Furthermore, processed foods containing food substitutes don’t provide the health benefits as whole fruits and vegetables.

A two pronged approach is advised: to replace sugary foods and drinks with unsweetened substitutes and slowly cut down the amount of sugar consumed. The end goal is for the food trade to reduce the sweetness levels in products while the public “adapts gradually to lighter flavored food”, hence altering their dietary habits and pioneering a better approach to healthy living.


References:

“Artificial sweeteners vs sugar (stevia, aspartame & more) | CHOICE.” 12 Jun. 2020, https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/nutrition/sugar/articles/sweeteners. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

“Global Zero-Calorie Sweetener Market Trends and Analysis 2017 ….” 28 Mar. 2017, https://www.newswire.com/news/global-zero-calorie-sweetener-market-trends-and-analysis-2017-2021. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Sugar: the facts – NHS.” https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

“Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners … – The BMJ |.” 2 Jan. 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.k4718. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Low-Calorie Sweeteners | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan ….” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “The truth about artificial sweeteners – Are they … – ScienceDirect.com.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019483218300142. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021

“Constantin Fahlberg – Discovery of Saccharin.” https://todayinsci.com/F/Fahlberg_Constantin/FahlbergConstantin-Saccharin.htm. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Sweeteners in Food – Centre for Food Safety.” https://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/multimedia_pub_fsf_08_02.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

 “Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes – Mayo Clinic.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936. Accessed 17 Feb. 2021.

Why Mental Health Should Be Your #1 Priority in 2021

selective focus photo of terrestrial desk globe

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted society in a number of ways. One of the most concerning is the significant deterioration of the mental health of many of the world’s citizens. A rise in isolation, economic stress and worry about loved ones has led many to experience emotional distress in ways they previously had never encountered. It’s time to enter the new year with increased attention to emotional wellbeing. Here’s why mental health should be your number one priority in 2021 and some ways you can address your state of mind in a proactive manner.

Social Connection

three women walking on brown wooden dock near high rise building during daytime

Many have lost valuable social connections due to imposed social distancing since the beginning of the pandemic. One mental health trend that should arise is a renewed focus on the importance of social connections. It’s easy to forget what social creatures humans are and how they depend upon relationships with others. However, mental health professionals are seeing more of a crisis now that so many have been isolated from their social networks.

macbook pro displaying group of people

Chances are, you’re not seeing many people outside of those who live in your household. This is a wise and necessary choice that can, unfortunately, have negative effects on your mood. There are steps you can take to maintain connections and make new ones. Technology offers a number of outlets for connecting. Zoom meetings aren’t just for work. You can use such online services to organize chats with loved ones or friend groups. If video isn’t your thing, text chats through Facebook messenger can be a way to stay in touch with important people. In addition, there are lots of online learning and social options such as virtual tours, classes, and performances. Try to take advantage of some of these outlets for connection. it can do wonders for your mood and mental state.

Sleep Quality

woman sleeping on bed under blankets

Many who are spending the majority of their time at home are experiencing disruptions to their sleep cycles. The time you’re spending online might also contribute to a change in your slumber habits. Good sleep is crucial to overall wellness. Not getting enough rest can have you feeling groggy, cranky, depressed, anxious, and stressed. Your productivity can also be negatively affected if you’re not getting plenty of sleep.

Improving your sleep habits can be one way to overcome the negative mental health effects you may be experiencing due to your other life changes. You can take some control of this aspect by adhering to a regular sleep schedule. Shoot for getting eight hours of sleep each day.

Choose a bedtime and stick to it. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. Turning off electronics an hour before bed can help you fall asleep better. So can making your bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible. Dim the lights as you prepare for sleep. Read or listen to music quietly. Get the best quality mattress you can afford. You’re likely to notice that things begin to seem quite a bit better once you get your sleep patterns in order.

Health and Wellness

woman in black shorts and white tank top doing yoga

Paying better attention to your general health will go far toward improving your mental health. Taking care of your physical condition can go a long way toward making you feel better emotionally. That means trying to eat a healthy diet and getting exercise. These things can be especially important if you find yourself primarily housebound. Stress eating is understandable, but you may be surprised what making a few healthy substitutes can do for your energy level and confidence. Getting out for a safe and socially-distanced walk around the block, bike ride, or hike in the woods are wonderful ways to move your body and experience a change of scenery. You’ll feel happier and more alert when you return.

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage

Taking care of your mental health is obviously part of managing your wellbeing. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional assistance if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There are online programs and counseling available that are safe and confidential. Whether you seek counseling for anxiety or for specific mental health problems, you will almost certainly find benefit in such activities.

There are steps you can take on your own to improve your mood. Give some of these suggestions a try. Your mental health should definitely be a priority in 2021.

Love Potions: when Chemistry is used to make Chemistry

Originally celebrated in Ancient Rome, Valentine’s day, was practiced in a very-extremely-different-bloody way. Before continuing to the topic of the article. Here is an interesting historical lesson on how Valentine’s Day came to be.

(St.) Valentine’s Day replaced the Pegan festival of love and fertility (Lupercalia). The Romans celebrated the holiday drunk and naked, sacrificing a goat and a dog, hitting women with the hide of the dead animals as a ritual to bless them with fertility. Then when Rome converted to Catholicism, they replaced the Pegan name to Valentine in honor of St. Valentine(s), who were ordered to be killed by a Pegan Emperor (Emperor Claudius II) on February 14 (in different years).

Though there were three well known Valentines during those days (who were all martyred). The true origin cannot be accurately pinpointed. However, there are two theories of how their names became honored for the day of love.

  1. Secret Marriages

Emperor Claudius II thought that marriage – having a family in general made men bad soldiers. Therefore, he banned it for young men. Valentine the priest was against this, he proceeded to marry couples in secret. When the Emperor found out, he was sentenced to be killed. However, some believe this missionary was the act of St. Valentine of Terni the bishop, who was also killed by the Emperor.

2. From Your Valentine

When it was illegal to be Christian. A Valentine helped Christians to escape prison, unfortunately, he got sent in. He fell in love with the jailor’s daughter who visits him. Before he was sent to be martyred. He wrote a letter for her, signed with ‘From Your Valentine’

Love Potions: Magic or Chemistry?

According to Elite Daily, Ancient Greeks grounded up orchids into a fine powder and put it in wine for consumption, they did it as a charm for lovers. The Center of Research of Reproduction and Contraception (CRRC) mentioned that the significance of using orchids as an ingredient when it came to ritualistic practice surrounding love has its roots from the Greek physician, Dioscorides. He believed that the orchid plant influenced sexuality, probably because of its erotic appearance. Ever since, the Greeks used orchids as a symbolism of love, sex, fertility and so on.

Therefore, orchids have been used as an Aphrodisiac.

How Aphrodisiac works

Aphrodisiac: substances derived from plants, spices, foods, synthetic ‘chemicals’ that increases sexual desire, sexual pleasure, or sexual behavior.

The International Journal of Impotence Research has done a study on aphrodisiacs as a ‘herbal drug’. It was found that the orchid species, Vanda tessellata and Trichopus zylanicus stimulated ‘mounting behavior of male mice’ and increased the ‘mating performance in mice’.

Other than that, reports also showed that ‘plant has anti inflammatory, antiarthritic, antimicrobial, antipyretic and wound-healing properties’

From this research, Nitric Oxide (NO) has vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) and penile erection functions. NO activates ‘guanylate cyclase and thereby increases the levels of cyclic GMP (cGMP)’ In simpler terms, it means NO stimulates the production of cGMP, the thing that relaxes smooth muscle tissues – thus in blood vessels, increasing blood flow due to vasodilation, by interacting with the lyase enzyme, guanylate cyclase.

The researchers added: ‘The herbal drug appears to be useful for developing as an attractive alternative to Viagra…in this study, a novel aphrodisiac compound…was discovered from an orchid, V. tessellata …The finding has the potential to develop a valuable medicine for sexual dysfunction or erectile dysfunction.’

But why is Aphrodisiac is not exactly recognized by Science?

In an interview on Sunday Morning, Meryl Rosofsky, a physician who teaches food studies at New York University, said ‘Aphrodisiacs are bounded only by our imaginations’.

In the Middle Ages when superstitions and religious philosophy ruled the country, Law of Similarity was theorized and took over how people perceived material terrestrial things. The Law of Similarity is a philosophy that the appearance and design of a natural object represents its God-intended function. ‘If something looked virile and phallic and strong and erect, that it might confer those very properties on whoever consumed it…’

For example, Aphrodisiac got its name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love. She is illustrated as a God who sprung out of an oyster shell, hence oysters became a common aphrodisiacal food.

Quentin Wheeler on the Guardian, who specializes in articles about biological discoveries – New to Nature, had written a piece about another species of orchid. In it, they ended it with ‘Certain orchid tubers are shaped like testicles, and it has been long claimed that, when consumed, they are an aphrodisiac. This is, of course, a load of bollocks’

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.

Love in a bottle?

Potions have been around for a long time, we can see this in folk-literature, paintings and even in religious texts. Philter, is a specific name for love potions. During Old English times, potions were on the market sold by Quack doctors. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Quackery means ‘medical methods that do not work and are only intended to make money’. As Pharmaceutical Journal explains, people visited these ‘doctors’ because pills looked mysterious and suspicious.

Do you know any Novels or Poems that has a Love potion involved? The Love Potion from Wide Sargasso Sea gave Antoinette what she wanted, but she didn’t know it would take a bad turn…

Witchcraft was once fear mongered. According to the UK Parliament, A Witchcraft Act was passed in 1542 to criminalize witchcraft. Between 1560 – 1700, 513 witches were put on trial and 112 were executed (that was known).

Today Witchcraft has its own media, lineage and career. Vice produced an insightful documentary about witchery today, ‘Witchcraft in Romania‘. The documentary goes as correspondent Milène Larsson visiting the town of Mogosoaia, to brew a love potion, a curse, watch an exorcism and celebrate the Summer Solstice, where witches predicts the future.

(If you watch the video, the predictions oddly came true, whether it be coincidence or not)

In Mogosoaia, there lives one of the most famous and respected witches of Romania, Mihaela Minca, daughter of Bratara Buzea, another powerful witch known to be jailed by Communist dictator Ceausescu during the 70s. Today, she is free and feared by politicians. As part of the witch clan, Minca passes down her legacy to her daughters. It is safe to say, witchcraft in Romania will stay for now.

Vrajitoarea Mihaela Minca
Vrajitoarea Bratara on paper

When it comes to Love Potions, there is a specific time and ritual they practice. The Witches only have one chance to brew the love potion every year, as it is only done on the day of the Christian Pentecost festival. The witches go to the meadows and pick traditional plants and herbs, when they pick them they say a specific beautiful chant : Just like these flowers are proud, seen, beautiful and sought after, may it be the same with love and happiness. God bless, may it be so!

After picking them, they go back to the brewing area and boil the plants till the sap excretes from them which then turns to a potion. To use the potion, the person makes a cross sign on their forehead in the morning before sunrise.

Witchcraft in the Modern World?

Larsson asks Bratara : Are you worried about modern times will change this ancient craft?

Bratara responds enthusiastically: On the contrary, it’ll make it known world wide that our power exists.

When Bratara said this, I immediately understood what she meant. Information about witchery is very much accessible today on the internet, just from searching ‘How to make a Love Potion?’ results of Youtube videos of witchcraft tutorials show up. In addition, TikTok, the new and extremely influential platform has a whole community of witches – WitchTok, where witches educate, practice and interact with one another. Likewise, Pinterest has a fair share of witch content, from infographics to video tutorials.

When Love Potions killed a King

It is important to note that there are many types of witchery, Christian rooted, Wiccan, Spiritual or what I’m most familiar with, Buddhist ritualistic practices. Therefore, rituals are different. For example, scouring through the internet, common items when making love potions are rose quartz, apples and an oil. Compared to the Romanian Christian witches who were mentioned, the main ingredient is the sap of some plants.

In Ancient Greece, the Spanish Fly was used to make Love Potions. According to HistoryExtra, the fly would be crushed along with other herbs into a tonic. The results would be a warmth feeling, however, they added it was most likely inflammation rather than desire, because after all, the fly is toxic. The insect excrete a toxic blistering agent called Cantharidin, causing inflammation and blisters.

Spanish Fly, aka Blister Beetle
Spanish Fly on the market, sold as a ‘Love potion’

If you ever heard of the Catholic Monarchs, then you might know of Ferdinand II of Aragon and his Queen, Isabella I of Castile. They are called the Catholic Monarchs because their marriage joined the unification of Spain. The King reigned from 1475 – 1504, his death – theorized to be an effect of drinking many potions containing the Spanish Fly.

While others believed to be just a cause of a possible heart disease – Researchers from ‘The end of a myth: clinical causes of the death of Fernando el Católico’

The Catholic Monarchs

Magic or Chemistry, the point is still Love

Overall, whatever you believe about Love. 2021 Valentine’s Day will be different. Perhaps some couples would have ZOOM dinners, family members sending love hearts over WhatsApp, or spending it with yourself at home. The article shows how humanity levels out the importance of Love. From Scientists experimenting and researching on the ‘love chemicals’ in our brain, to people relying on the meta-physical world. Love is valuable.

Remember! Self-Love is Love too!

References::

“The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day : NPR.” 13 Feb. 2011, https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

 “What is Valentine’s Day and how did it start? – CBBC Newsround.” https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16945378. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“History of Valentine’s Day – Facts, Origins & Traditions – HISTORY.” 22 Dec. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“Are Love Potions Real? Here’s What History & Science Have To Say.” 12 Nov. 2019, https://www.elitedaily.com/p/are-love-potions-real-heres-what-history-science-have-to-say-19298441. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“​Making sense of aphrodisiacs – CBS News.” 15 Feb. 2015, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/making-sense-of-aphrodisiacs/. Accessed 13 Feb.

2021.”Home Page – University of Washington.” 28 Nov. 2006, https://depts.washington.edu/popctr/orchids.htm. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

 “New to Nature No 138: Gastrodia flexistyloides | Wild … – The Guardian.” https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/25/orchid-gastrodia-flexistyloides-self-pollination-aphrodisiac. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“One Of The Reasons Why Quackery Seems To Work – Repictblog.” https://seruan.onrender.com/one-of-the-reasons-why-quackery-seems-to-work.html. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

 “Witchcraft – UK Parliament.” https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/overview/witchcraft/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“Witchcraft in Romania – YouTube.” 19 Jan. 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRckGlNQesk. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“History’s Weirdest Aphrodisiacs And Love Potions – HistoryExtra.” https://www.historyextra.com/period/ancient-history/love-potions-aphrodisiacs-facts-spanish-fly/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“Blister Beetles: Do Not Touch! – Poison Control.” https://www.poison.org/articles/blister-beetles-do-not-touch-194. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

“An investigation dismantles the myth that Fernando El Católico died ….” https://www.archyde.com/an-investigation-dismantles-the-myth-that-fernando-el-catolico-died-from-an-aphrodisiac-overdose/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.

2021: How Different Are Chinese New Year Celebrations This Year?

It’s been a little more than a year since the start of Covid, and here we are. Your Chinese New Year might look a little different this year, mine certainly did. With domestic and international travel restrictions in place to keep a lid over the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve swapped huge gatherings in restaurants and visits for smaller family gatherings and zoom dinners from the safety of our homes.

hanged red ball lantern

Having relocated in Hong Kong four years ago, the annual Chinese New Year trip back to Malaysia is a ritual, and failing to complete it this year feels blasphemous. It is at this moment I truly miss the little things. I miss the bright red decorations, the loud Chinese New Year songs pervading the air, the fireworks, the chatter of friends and generations of families reuniting, the shy giving and receiving of red packets, and of course, the food.

chinse lucky charms on display inside store

Whether we are stuck halfway across the globe or several states away, many of us are missing our families. Despite the slightly hollow feeling in my chest this year, food, seems to be the thing that connects us. Looking at all the “reunion” dinners posted on my social media newsfeed, and the multiple family facebook video calls, my heart is warm. The “pun choi” and “yee sang”, roast duck, the munching of Chinese New Year treats on Instagram show that we are celebrating this occasion, albeit, a slightly different way.

person holding brown wooden chopping board

Using food to connect with ancestry can be a comforting and bonding activity during these times. Spice things up by adding twists to old family recipes! If you’re not a whizz in the kitchen, keep your eyes peeled for vendors selling your heritage meals! We may not physically be able to fly across the world, but the smells and flavors of food can conjure the closest thing to home.

Easy Chinese heritage food to recreate:

1) Pan fried dumplings

dumpling dishes

Pan fried dumplings: Wrap minced pork in dumpling wrappers. How simple does that sound? Compete with family members for the neatest and most innovative pleats! Play around with this recipe!


2) Char Siew (Roast pork in sweet sauce)

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
Source: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/232681/char-siu-chinese-bbq-pork/

Char siu: Drench in sweet sauce and throw it in the oven. The smoky sweet scent of meat roasting in the oven is heavenly. Recipe here, and don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it’s made out to be!


3. Tang Yuan (Glutinous rice ball)

Tang Yuan: Fear not vegetarians, try out this Chinese dessert! Everyone can chip in in this family affair! Roll tiny balls of colored dough to be boiled and infused in pandan ginger syrup. (Recipe here) If you want an extra burst of flavor in the middle, check out this recipe for tang yuan with black sesame fillings!

5 Ways to Become Happier and Healthier

We all want to be happier and healthier, however, how to achieve it, is a million dollar question. Luckily, I have compiled a number of things you can do. The following are five ways to accomplish what you want, but bear in mind, it is going to take some work.

1. Dealing With the Physical

woman standing on dock

Take care of your body if you haven’t been doing so. This means doing everything you can to be your best self, which includes visiting your doctor to make sure your body is working as it should. This step will definitely make you happier and healthier.

On top of that, consistently work on eating well and exercising. Taking an active interest in your overall health should help you feel good. Try to make a habit out of this because happiness and health are life-long battles.

2. Addressing the Issue

smiling woman standing beside plant

Embrace your imperfections. Everyone has a few imperfections that do not fit society’s standard of beauty. However, don’t mistake things that make you unique versus things you can make better, like misaligned teeth. If it bothers you that much, go the extra mile of visiting a dentist. You can also try to address other imperfections, like if you’re losing your hair. You may have to use things like Theradome to help reverse this problem. Be sure to read Theradome reviews before you make your decision, but this should boost happiness and your self esteem.

3. Improving Your Lifestyle

woman sleeping on bed under blankets

Your lifestyle could also be fighting against your happiness and health. You could take the time to think about your life, and try to figure out where you can make some changes. These changes should help you feel happier and make you healthier.

For example, if you tend to stay up too late, you should fight this habit. Sleep can help regulate your overall mood, and that’ll make you feel happier. In addition to that, sleep also helps your body repair itself, which should make you feel healthier in the long run. Vices such as constantly drinking or smoking is detrimental to your health. Giving these up should help your health, and the accomplishment should uplift you.

4. Let the Heart Drive

man holding card with seeking human kindness text

It’s important to do something that brings your heart joy, and this goes beyond doing what you’re passionate about. You need to figure out how you can give back in some way. Doing a little charity work every so often or making a donation can do a lot for you. Being altruistic can help your soul sing, and that can help your overall self esteem.

Sometimes, being a good person can fight stress. If you are dealing with chronic stress, you need to find something to do for your mental health. You can try to do a few things until you find something you feel comfortable with. Be patient with yourself. Getting used to this can take some time, but you’ll get there.

5. Positive Friends All Around

people laughing and talking outside during daytime

The kind of people you have around can be good or bad for you. If you’ve noticed that some of your friends have a way of making you feel worse, then it’s important to minimize contact with these friends. You need to find a group of friends who are willing to back you up every so often and make you feel good about yourself.

This doesn’t mean your friends can’t disagree with you. Sometimes, you need a little push back as this can help you see things more clearly. What you don’t need is a person who constantly depresses you. This is not going to help you feel happy, and it might end up hurting your mental health. If you need to find new friends, this can be good for you because it will get you out of your comfort zone and give you a chance to meet new people.

Hopefully, you can use some of these to make yourself feel happier and healthier. Always look for more ways to achieve these goals because they aren’t incredibly simple goals to achieve, but they are worth the work.

The Black Community and the Fashion & Beauty world

In celebration of Black History Month, let’s explore how the Black Community has shaped the fashion & beauty world!

The Black Cosmetics Pioneer – Annie Turnbo Malone

Malone was considered to be one of the first African American women who earned her millionaire status in the US. She was born in Illinois, by the age of 20, she used her chemistry knowledge to form her first shampoo and scalp treatment. Her product became a success in 1902

Distribution Channels were not accessible to Black people during Malone’s days. She sold her products with her assistant by going door-to-door. And the product started to get the buzz as it spotted a gap in the market: although there were commercial shampoos targeted towards this niche, it was the only product to straighten the natural curly texture of Black hair without damaging it.

She expanded her business, thus naming it Poro Products. It later became a National brand after the 1904 World’s Fair, a large international exhibition showcase. In 1918, she built a factory and a cosmetology school, Poro College. She stayed in business after a divorce and the great depression. While doing so, she contributed and helped a lot of charities throughout her lifetime.

And it must be known, she was the employer of the famous Black entrepreneur and activist, Madam CJ Walker. Today, her legacy is still on Earth, as the St. Louis Colored Orphans Home.

The 60-second-rule by Nayamka Roberts (@LaBeautyologist)

Whether you heard it or not, Roberts had popularized this routine to the world of the skincare junkies. The rules of this ‘Free.99’ routine are simply cleansing your face with your fingers. She explains that the average person only spends 15-20 seconds washing their face, it is not enough for your cleanser to battle your skin concerns. This routine helps the face by improving the texture of the face, cleaning the pores and promoting circulation. The #60secondrule has been proven to be a must-do step by people’s reviews and reactions online!

Reviews on Twitter:

@if_iknewbetter: Not to be dramatic but the 60 seconds rule saved my skin in a week @LaBeautyologist

(https://twitter.com/if_iknewbetter/status/1181618814422794244?s=20)

@_kafayaat: The 60 second rule by @LaBeautyologist has literally changed the entire look of my face! Y’all really need to listen to that free gem! Wash your face for 60 seconds! I promise it works

(https://twitter.com/_kafayaat/status/1137813151876046848?s=20)

@sydmoise: thankful for @LaBeautyologist 60 second rule- CLEANSE UR FAVE FOR 60 SECONDS FOLKS

(https://twitter.com/sydmoise/status/1065762910125858816?s=20)

@skincare_hub: •Wear SPF everyday whether you’re going out or not. •Know your skintype and ingredients that work best for you and stick to it. •Double cleanse at night always using @labeautyologist 60 seconds rule. •Use witch hazel ONLY when you’re wearing makeup •Silk pillow case 24/7

(https://twitter.com/skincare_hub/status/1115620555724660737?s=20)

Robert’s video on the 60 Second Rule on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9yyZ9PysjI&feature=youtu.be

Y2K Aesthetic

Y2K – Network Encyclopedia

Y2K, or The Year 2000, was a colorful and fun time. NOT! The reason why people started expressing experimentalism and creativity in the beauty world and what not was because of a massive scare, caused by a computer bug. People thought that the world was going to end.

According to National Geographic, the Y2K bug caused a global panic because computers were not able to interpret dates beyond December 31, 1999. Only the last two digits of the year would represent the years. So when January 1, 2000 was coming, it could have turned to January 1, 1999. This was a problem to businesses like banks, technology centers, power plants and transportations e.t.c people believed that the computer crash was going to cause an apocalypse.

Now back to the beauty world. Y2K was everything, if it wasn’t girly – it was boyish, if it wasn’t baggy – it was skimpy, if it wasn’t metallic – it was vibrant, if it wasn’t cyber – it was street!

Destiny’s Child
Cam’ron
Missy Elliot

Jackie Aina, a Nigerian-American Youtube Star on her video, Things Black Culture Popularized, explains how the Black community started the Y2K fashion wave.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM7tjVVAGSQ

“right now something that is very very very popular that I’m actually really here for is the Y2K aesthetic…” at 3:50

What was it like to be wearing Y2K? It was never praised like today, in fact, according to Rashida Renée on ELLE, who explains that celebrities like Lil’ Kim, Mariah Carey and Foxy Brown were always criticized and labeled as ‘Worst Dressed’, while the ‘proper’ dresses were ‘Best Dressed’ on the runway. Interestingly, the Instagram engagement that the ‘worst dressed’ red carpet walkers had was better.

What is Y2K now? Resurrected – – Well it was never dead. The article mentioned above got me reminiscing from my childhood. Then I remembered these iconic looks that has a special place in my memory:

Beyonce’s metallic suit in Sweet Dreams MV
Zendaya’s ‘Pretty Girl Swag’
Nicki Minaj’s giraffe pink zip up suit in Super Bass MV

So Y2K stayed but it wasn’t called Y2K anymore, the different looks started to have its own names, during the 2010s, they were called Tomboy, Preppy, Hip-Hop and whatnot. Today, the trendiest look names are E-Girl/Boy, VSCO, Art Hoe, Soft Girl/Boy and…………….. Y2K.

Y2K today is not as versatile as before, now it has a specific look. It’s fun, cool and retro.

Saweetie
Megan Thee Stallion
Normani

Honorable mentions from Aina’s video:

Styling of baby hairs

Rico Nasty, an American rapper, not only known for her music but also her cool style!

Super long nails

All these iconic looking long nails are worn by the Youtube Star and Influencer, De’arra Taylor

Big Lips

Also from Aina’s video at 14:08, “Another painfully obvious thing that black people didn’t even intentionally make popular, we just existed, our big lips.”

Big Lips, or more popularly known as, the ‘Kylie Jenner’ Lips. It took the beauty world to another turn like when thick bushy eyebrows dethroned the thin eyebrows trend, also popularized by another black woman, Diana Ross. The 70s Diana Ross eyebrows flipped the game, even though the 80s went back to being thick and bushy like the 60s, the 90s turned back time and made brows thin again!

Diana Ross, an American singer and actress from Detroit. She was also the lead singer of the popular 1960s singing group, The Supremes.

The Big Lips trend was a big ‘culture’ change. More people began to get lip injections and overline their lips in their makeup routines. A study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), shows an increase in lip augmentation procedures. The statistics report shows the difference of lip augmentation procedures done between the year 2000 and 2019. In 2000, only 18,589 procedures were done. And in 2019, a whopping increase, 31,789 procedures took place! Why? It’s a safe bet that ever since Kylie Jenner posted her selfie in 2014 with plumper lips, and coming clean about them in an episode of Life of Kylie, that she was getting her lips done, the influence started flooding the world… while black people…have natural big lips…which were unlikeable???

Aina pointed out the irony of the Big Lip trend. Before the acceptance of big lips, they were once ridiculed for. Not only are big lips now a trend, it has become part of someone’s career.

Black people getting ridiculed for having big lips is not just a story about being bullied, it has a dark history. Minstrel shows, a form of racist ‘entertainment’, where an actor performed in a way that was dehumanizing and mocking of black people, in black face. An obvious feature to these shows are the overlining of the lips representing the ‘lips’ of a black person.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1280px-Minstrel_PosterBillyVanWare_edit-1024x758.jpg

The term ‘Kylie Jenner’ Lips proves what Jackie Aina mean: ‘the regurgitating of things that naturally come to us, and rebranding it, packaging it, selling it, making a career out of it, commodifying it basically where for us it’s a weapon, it’s a tool, it’s a flaw.’

How Lip Augmentation works?

Also known as lip fillers, this procedure is quick and simple. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the key ingredient to lip augmentation is Hyaluronic Acid (HA). Polyacrylamide is also available, but it is less common because it may cause granuloma. We ourselves have HA in our body, but overtime, the lip loses volume because of age, sun exposure and more. The purpose of the HA in lip fillers is to replace the HA that was lost.

Inclusivity

The beauty industry is one of the biggest industries in the market. According to Statista, in the year 2019, the beauty industry earned a revenue of USD49.2 billion in the United States alone! For such a universal market, the beauty industry still fails to cater to people of color. This includes: foundation, lipstick, eyeshadows – basically, everything.

Fenty Beauty

Rihanna

Fenty Beauty is a cosmetics brand that was launched back in the year 2017 by mega star Rihanna. When the brand launched, the foundation caught the most attention, not of it’s formula, packaging or whatsoever, it was the shade range which consisted of 40 colors (now 50), covering not only the light skinned, but also the darker skinned. It is almost satirical that 2017 would be the year people became more conscious about foundation shades that are lacking. Not saying that Fenty was the first brand to make foundation for POCs, but rather, it offered more. The brand didn’t just offer a ‘dark’ color, the brand closely looked into making shades with different undertones – because not everyone is warm, or neutral, or cool toned.

So why is it so hard to have darker shades? It’s not. According to Al-Nisa Ward, the owner and president of Cosmetic Science Innovations who appeared on Vox, said that the claim of product development for dark shades being more difficult is false. She explains, foundations have the same base formulas, the difference between shades is just up to the differing of ratios in pigments. There are 4 basic pigments in foundations – Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide Red, Iron Oxide Yellow, Iron Oxide Black.

PAT McGRATH Labs

Pat McGrath

PAT McGRATH Labs is a cosmetic brand that was founded in 2016 by the legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. She is known for her experimentalism with bold colors and materials like feathers and gold leafs.

The makeup line is known for its luxurious packaging, shiny shimmers, pigmented lipsticks and more. McGrath appeared in an interview with Guardian writer Sali Hughes. “…a lot of the time when you buy a normal shadow, it doesn’t always work on every skin tone – it’s chalky or too light – so that’s my main aim, to bring makeup for all skin tones to the fore.” She told Hughes, ‘there was no makeup for women of color…NOTHING”

McGrath does not only bring inclusivity when it comes to race. She works with everyone, like men, drag queens and plus size people. To her, “It’s about pushing boundaries. I believe absolutely, the world wants something different, people want back their individuality.”

SKIN FETISH: SUBLIME SKIN HIGHLIGHTING TRIO

Beauty Bakerie

Cashmere Nicole

Beauty Bakerie is an indie cosmetics brand founded in 2011 by Cashmere Nicole. The indie brand is known for it’s cute and ‘yummy’ theme. Where products are designed or inspired by foods found in bakeries, like cartons of eggs, flour bags or utensils.

After surviving breast cancer. Nicole became more health conscious and looked closely what ingredients are in the beauty products people put on everyday. She developed the brand to be cruelty-free and vegan. In addition, in 2016, Beauty Bakerie became associated with Sugar Homes, which donates money, clothes, toys and more to orphanages. Their journey has helped children from Uganda, Indonesia and Zanzibar.

ORGANIC EGGS BEAUTY SPONGES
FLOUR SETTING POWDER
EYESCREAM PAINT JOB

For such a fan favorite brand, it wasn’t an easy journey for Nicole. According to an interview with Aimee Simeon in Refinery29, Nicole observed that the beauty industry was focused on ‘self’, she thought, approaching the cosmetics business with ‘thinking about others’ would be the right way for her.

Apart from cancer, raising a daughter by herself, and investing into the side-business. Being a black entrepreneur was not going to be easy, “I’ve learned that being Black and running an indie brand is extremely tough. As a child, I remember hearing that you have to work twice as hard when you’re Black — and now I know that it’s true.” However, Nicole never gave up, her constant perseverance and hard work had brought her to where she is today. A successful strong Black businesswoman.

Why is being a black entrepreneur hard?

According to Devin Dixon, Black entrepreneurs lack access to ‘people, education, opportunity, and capital’. Dixon, who started being an entrepreneur at the age of 18 and the journey was hard. He recalls to a moment when he was advised by a Black business leader to have a White man become the face of the company, this was shocking. Dixion pointed out that this type of idea is part of the problem and plays into the narrative that Black people are not collaborative or don’t work.

Systematic racism in society is still very apparent. And it is a reason why being not only a Black entrepreneur, also in general, Black is hard. There is lack of safety when it comes to being a Black entrepreneur. Jumping to being a business owner or CEO is risky, the access to important materials makes it harder to obtain. “For example…these top execs have strong ties to the top schools such as Stanford or Harvard. Given that top schools tend to only have about a 5% black population, we have less access to powerful networks.”Video by Sam Dey about being a Black entrepreneur.

Video by Sam Dey about being a Black entrepreneur:

https://youtu.be/66ak9PWUyuc

2:05 ‘One thing I noticed about these events is that the Black race are underrepresented at the majority of these events…’

6:06 ‘Particularly in the UK, young black males are seen as a certain way, whether we like it or not, we are often portrayed as trouble makers because of the way we are depicted in the news….’

Support the Black Community

As we observed, it is acknowledged that the Black community has contributed a lot to society, however, it gets rebranded as ‘an invention’ or ‘a trend’ curated by non black celebrities or influencers. I remember a sign from one of the Black Lives Matter protest that says something like ‘You enjoy our culture, but hate our People.’ This article was not written to tell people to stop participating in the culture, but rather, appreciate and give credit where credit is due.


References:

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“Four Pioneering Black Cosmetics Entrepreneurs – LiveAbout.” 16 Feb. 2018, https://www.liveabout.com/black-cosmetics-pioneers-2442513. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“Annie Turnbo Malone – Historic Missourians – The State Historical ….” https://historicmissourians.shsmo.org/historicmissourians/name/m/malone/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

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“Y2K bug | National Geographic Society.” https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/Y2K-bug/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

 “Times people thought the world was going to end – Insider.” 24 Jan. 2019, https://www.insider.com/apocalypse-end-of-world-predictions-theories-2019-1. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“Huge Moments In Fashion History That Were Inspired By Black Culture.” 6 Oct. 2020, https://www.elle.com/uk/fashion/a34244867/fashion-inspired-by-black-culture/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

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 “Shaping Lips with Fillers – NCBI – NIH.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4645142/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

“How do dermal fillers work? – The Victorian Cosmetic Institute.” 17 Aug. 2016, https://www.thevictoriancosmeticinstitute.com.au/2016/08/dermal-fillers-dermal-fillers-skin/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

 “Revenue of the cosmetic & beauty industry in the U.S. 2002 … – Statista.” 24 Nov. 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/243742/revenue-of-the-cosmetic-industry-in-the-us/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

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 “Pat McGrath’s Best Makeup Looks in the Pages of W | W Magazine ….” 21 Jul. 2018, https://www.wmagazine.com/gallery/pat-mcgrath-best-makeup/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2021.

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