Food for Thought: You’re Sweet Enough!

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Posted on October 11, 2018 in Haddam-Killingworth Now

Are you feeling fatigued and tired all the time? Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Are you frustrated with your weight? Do you battle mild anxiety, depression, or chronic mood swings? Are you catching colds too often? Oh the list could go on… Much of this could be from what I call the sugar blues!

Did you know that when too much sugar is in the blood it gets all sticky and can cause a whole host of issues with blood vessels, leading to heart disease, an increase in inflammation, and type 2 diabetes? Well, the good news is so much of this can be reversed and prevented!

The “simple” solution is to decrease the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates you eat, but we all know that can be “not so simple” to do, especially when those cravings hit! Here is another reason it can be hard to do – sugar is a sneaky ingredient and is disguised by more than 60 different names hiding in most pre-packaged foods. Many of these sugars have names that you may not recognize as sugar when reading food labels. Did you know that most of us consume about 30 teaspoons of sugar every day? That’s about 100 pounds a year! Yikes that’s a lot of sugar. No wonder so many of us are getting sick.

With the holiday season creeping up on us, this is a great time to make some changes and plan for success. I can already hear you saying “I’ll get back on track after the holidays and make it my New Year’s resolution.” We all know how that goes! So let’s switch it up and take control of your blood sugar and make it your best holiday season ever! Keep in mind, it is not about depriving yourself; it is about taking some small steps, one at a time, and crowding out what is making you feel sick.

Here is a road map to take charge of your blood sugar and curb those cravings. Start by focusing on eating a whole food diet (add in lots of veggies at every meal), eat less pre-packaged foods (be a label reader and look for that pesky sugar), ditch the soda and other sugary drinks, decrease alcohol consumption, eliminate high fructose corn syrup and refined white sugar, and replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains. Eliminate artificial sweeteners like aspartame, NutraSweet, and Splenda – many have well-recognized neurotoxins and can cause a host of other issues. I have heard these artificial sweeteners have actually been linked to weight gain making you want to eat more food. Add in lean protein and high quality fats like avocado and olive oil.  Eat your veggies first to support optimal digestion. Nibble on a small handful of organic nuts or seeds as an afternoon pick-me-up. All of this is a great start to reducing blood sugar and getting yourself on track to better health.

Sweet is part of life and should be enjoyed in moderation. Choosing healthier options is a great way “to have your cake and eat it too.” Try replacing sweet treats with whole fruits (not juiced). The fiber in the fruit slows down the spike in blood sugar. For optimal digestion, fruit it is best when eaten alone.

Some of my favorite sweeteners, with the most nutritional value, include: raw honey, pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, dates, coconut sugar, yacon syrup, and blackstrap molasses. These sweeteners will raise blood sugar, but are better choices when used in moderation. I will often change up a recipe, replacing an overly refined sugar with one of the above and use much less, making it less sweet. Not to worry, your taste buds will adjust in time!

One of the best natural, plant-based sweeteners out there is stevia. I especially like the liquid version called Stevita. It is less refined and it is organic. The best part of Stevita is that it does not raise blood sugar and you need very little of it to make something sweet. I use it in my homemade lemonade, or a drop or two in my herbal tea. Some don’t care for the taste of stevia, but I find over time you get used to it and may even come to like it.

Some other sweetener options that do not raise blood sugar include: xylitol, erythritol, and inulins, but these natural sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues for some. My favorite in this sweetener category is Lakanto, a combination of non-gmo erythritol and monk fruit. Lakanto is a great option for baking.

Remember, you’re sweet enough! Adding a bit of sweetness to life now and then is okay, but you’re doing yourself a disservice when over consuming it. Plan ahead and make a batch of something using a more nutritional sweetener and freeze it for an occasional snack. When attending those holiday gatherings, bring something to share made with less sugar and healthier options. After one month of ridding yourself of the excess sugar you will see some remarkable differences and when you taste something made with overly refined sugars you may make a funny scrunch face and realize what you haven’t been missing!

Here are a few of my go to sweet treats to keep on hand (I use mostly organic ingredients whenever possible):

Chocolate “sea-salt” Turtles

  • 6 large Medjool dates, cut in half the long way and pitted

  • 3 Tbs. melted dark chocolate, preferably 85% dark

  • 36 organic pecan pieces, whole or cut

  • Coarse sea salt

Place date halves, sticky side up, on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Place 6 pecan pieces on each date, strategically to look like a turtles head, tail, and four little feet. Spoon about ½ tablespoon of dark chocolate on each turtle, anchoring the pecans to the date. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Set in the refrigerator until set. They make a wonderful holiday or hostess gift. Great to have a batch in the refrigerator for when you just need something a little sweet and chocolaty.

Strawberry Banana Ice-cream

  • 2 bananas cut into chunks and frozen

  • 1 small bag of frozen organic strawberries

  • 1 can (BPA-free) coconut milk, refrigerated

  • 1 cup almond milk

  • 2 large Tbs. of raw honey or pure maple syrup if vegan

  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract

  • 1 pinch sea salt

Place all ingredients in high-speed blender and start on low, then high until completely smooth. After blending you can add sliced fresh strawberries for texture if you like. Place all ingredients in an ice-cream maker and churn for 15-20 minutes, until thick and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a glass Pyrex container and freeze. Stir every couple of hours to keep smooth, or simply thaw for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Note – if you are using fresh ingredients that are not frozen, refrigerate after blending for 2 hours, before churning.

If you do not have an ice-cream maker, it is a wonderful investment to make whole food, clean, delicious ice-cream!

Very Berry Crisp

FILLING:

  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup

  • ½ lemon, juiced

  • 1 Tbs. avocado oil

  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

  • ½ tsp. nutmeg

  • 1 tsp. arrowroot powder

  • 1 pinch sea salt

  • 4 cups of your favorite berries

TOPPING:

  • ¼ cup avocado oil

  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup

  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract

  • 1 pinch of clove

  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

  • ½ tsp. nutmeg

  • 1 pinch sea salt

  • 2 cups organic almond flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the filling, whisk all ingredients in a large bowl, except the berries. Add the fruit and toss to coat. Pour into a 9” baking pan.

For the topping, using the same large bowl, whisk all the liquid ingredients, adding the spices and salt. Add in the almond flour and mix in with a wooden spoon until chunky bits form. Crumble it over the fruit mixture. Cover with parchment paper, bake for 30 minutes, remove parchment and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bubbly and brown.

Black Bean Brownies

  • 2 Tbs. water

  • 2 Tbs. flax meal

  • 3 Tbs. avocado oil

  • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract

  • ½ tsp. sea salt

  • ¾ cup raw cacao powder

  • ¾ cup coconut palm sugar

  • 1 can (BPA-free) black beans, rinsed

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients, except baking soda & baking powder, in blender and blend until smooth. Add baking soda & baking powder and blend on low. Pour into greased baking dish or in muffin tins lined with paper baking cups. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Completely cool before cutting

Janet Verney