Thursday May 2, 2013
It may taste sweet but the effects of sugar are anything but. Refined white sugar contains zero nutrients. It does nothing for our health and takes a toll on our waistlines. Curbing our sugar intake involves making a few changes. These don't have to be severe. Substituting refined white sugar allows you a little sweetness in your life, without depriving yourself.
This list of sugar substitutes leans into those that are considered to be natural products. Why remove the harmful elements of sugar only to substitute them with chemicals and food additives? Natural alternative sweeteners are those that are minimally processed and have an inherent sweetness all their own. Coconut seems to be the new kid on the block in the natural foods world, but it has been around as long as sugar has. Only now is it catching on as a sweetener, with the added benefit of minerals. Another popular sweetener is banana, now being used to sweeten everything from fruit snacks to chocolate. Honey is still king in my books, both for its versatility and its healing properties.
Perhaps honey isn't your choice and stevia suits you better. People are surprised to learn stevia is a herb that is many times sweeter than sugar. You might utilize blackstrap molasses for its iron content. Your family may prefer pure maple syrup. Ever considered using it in place of refined white sugar in desserts or muffins? It too contains minerals.
This list aims to provide an overview of the alternative sweeteners available when you're ready to substitute sugar for something else. It contains many of the sweeteners I've used in my own kitchen. You'll see them in the recipes and product reviews I post in upcoming months. Growing up, white sugar and white flour were all I knew when it came to baking, but I've learned about so many alternatives that taste much better. I look forward to sharing those with you.
So I'm on the look-out for other sweeteners. Please feel free to use the comment section below to suggest any that you've heard of. Have you used one you've liked? Join in on the discussion and tell me if something worked well for you, or didn't.
Thursday May 2, 2013
As a nutritionist I aim to explain the benefits of eating real, organic, whole food, over processed, preserved, and manufactured food products. If you and me were discussing the benefits of eating sugar-free I would get into the gritty details about sugar's impact on inflammation, insulin spiking and its role in diabetes and other chronic illness. You'd leave my office knowing that sugar consumption can shorten your lifespan, rob you of your energy, make your skin look saggy and aged prematurely. Although this is important information, I'd rather that fear not be your motivation to limit your sugar intake.
I'd rather you understand how to curb your sugar consumption both at home in the kitchen and on the go. I'd be happy if you changed some of your usual choices and considered how you could enjoy sugar in small amounts, if not at all.
When reading the The Benefits of Eating Sugar-Free I want you to see the best part of healthy eating and a sugar-free lifestyle. It's not about being the thinnest person in the room. It's not about depriving yourself and it is not at all about starving yourself. It is so important to really enjoy what you're eating. Understand that your food is you. The adage, "You are what you eat." means that what you take in is what you assimilate into your body and what you are made of, at a cellular level.
Rather than feeling guilt, shame or anxiety about giving up foods high in sugar, consider the benefits. Think of the sheer joy you will feel when you have the energy to be active every day, the satisfaction that comes from being closer to your health goals, the simple pleasure of learning something new. Think of how happy you'll be when the people you love - the people you feed - try a sugar-free food because you introduced them to it. I'm excited to help you to see the benefits.
Using the comment section below, tell me what you have enjoyed most about a sugar-free lifestyle. What encouraged you to be more mindful of your eating?
Image © [Sandra Lucas]
Thursday May 2, 2013
I adore the eager father Phil Dunphy on the TV show Modern Family. One of the quirky phrases he often uses is, "That's coconuts!", and I happen to love it. Sometimes when I'm at a natural food show I think the world has gone coconuts for coconuts, as their derivatives seem to be ubiquitous. I'm not complaining. It's one of my favorite foods.
In searching for alternative sweeteners you've likely come across a coconut sweetener in one form or another. An apparent surge has taken place and now coconut has been used to create a nectar, a crystal similar to sugar crystals and a jam. (You'll also find coconut vinegars, oils, butters and skin care products without searching too far.)
When eating these, it does help if you enjoy the flavor of coconut. Most of the sweeteners have a definite coconut taste to them. However, I did find that the coconut nectar when used in cooking does not necessarily leave a lot of coconut-y flavor, and I'd go so far as to say you could get it past a coconut hater (gasp!).
I was visiting a local health food store when Cocovie Natural's Coconut Jam was being demonstrated and samples were distributed. I had the opportunity to try each flavor. I've written a full review of Cocovie Natural's Vanilla Coconut Jam. The price may be a sticking point for some people, but as I mention in the review, a little jam goes a long way. No need to be buying it often, or using it in large amounts.
What to do with coconut jam? Not everyone eats toast but a lot of people would enjoy it if it was on top of a coconut cookie. These Coconut Thumbprint Cookies are gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free and dairy-free. Topped with the jam, they make for a tasty sugar-free snack or dessert.
Lately I've been using almond and coconut flour in combination for baking. Both are gluten-free but of course, should not be used if you are serving anyone with nut allergies.
If you've used a coconut sweetener that I haven't mentioned I'd like to hear about it. I'm always interested in new products. Share a comment below letting me know what I should review next.
Thursday May 2, 2013
I'm often asked how to kick the sugar habit. Many of us have a sweet tooth that goes from being overfed to starved for affection. It's never easy to eliminate or reduce anything we love. Most people are doing their best to exercise regularly, shop for healthy food, prepare meals at home and feed their families. At times, considering all the components of a healthy lifestyle is overwhelming. When we learn that sugar lurks in foods we hadn't even expected them to be, it is difficult not to throw our hands up in defeat. It doesn't have to be this way.
In the last century sugar consumption has significantly increased, along with conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease. What is partly to blame for this is the fact that food manufacturers have increased the number of food items that contain sugar. This ingredient is now in the majority of processed and packaged foods and is therefore consumed on a very regular basis.
This list of five ways to reduce the sugar in your foods features just a few places where you can cut down on your intake. You may already be eating sandwich wraps made out of leafy greens or making your own yogurt. You may be aware of the sugar in juices, snacks and prepared foods and are trying to avoid these. Eliminating sugar in small ways can be your first step to a sugar-free lifestyle.
Examine the spots where sugar may be reduced in your meals and read further on this site to understand the ways that sugar impacts health. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty for the foods you do consume. Cutting sugar out all at once may be too drastic a tactic for you to stick with long-term. Slowly eliminate it from some of these common sources and little by little you'll be eating less sugar regularly.
Where else have you found sugar lurking? I'd like to hear some of the ways in which you've cut the sugar in your foods. Share your experience in a comment below.