Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

There is not a single person I know who doesn't sometimes have cravings- usually it's a non-descript "I want something sweet" or "I want something salty". I find people tend to lean more to one rather than the other. Though I've had moments of craving a crunchy bag of chips, I almost always lean towards something sweet. My drug of choice? Chocolate.

Ever since I can remember, I always wanted something sweet after a meal. A little piece of chocolate to finish off the experience. A handful of chocolate chips..an After Eight...a square of Bakers' chocolate. Really it didn't matter which, what mattered was leaving the table with a sweet taste on my tongue (occasionally of course, that "little taste" turned into much more though...).

As I've talked about, last spring I decided to see a naturopath about my life-long digestive issues. I discussed those issues in a previous post. One of the things I had to stop, was eating processed and fake sugar. Now, sugar has many names: glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, and the fake ones like aspartame, malitol, sucralose, etc.  I don't think I need to go into detail on the dangers of "fake" sugars. This is food created in a lab by chemists. I do occasionally indulge in a sugar free cola, because it's really the only way I will drink a pop, however I fully recognize that this is NOT good for me.  It is a treat. Period. And it is tempered by lots of good-for-me foods to try and make up for those indulgences. This all goes back to me not being perfect...I know...it's a total surprise, right?

So, back to sugar in its various forms. If you look at the regular-calorie-having sugars, they all end in "ose". That's your key to figuring out where the sugar is in a food label. You may not see a single one high on the ingredient list, but if you see several of these lower down, the sum total may still mean a high sugar content in the recipe. Now, here's the thing about sugar: that sweetness that you put on your cereal, or in your cookie recipe, brings nothing with it. Keep in mind the same goes for brown sugar- it's just white sugar with molasses in it. Brown sugar is not "healthier". Period.  So the sugar in the recipe has been stripped of any goodness it once contained. Sanitized...bleached away... it is nothing but empty calories. So, when you eat something that comes with no nutrients, your body actually must reach into its nutrient stores, to find the nutrients it needs to process the sugar. So, in effect, by eating sugar you are now at a deficit, health-wise. It's not just that you didn't contribute to your health, you are actually at a deficit. Let's look at 24g of white sugar. There are over 100 calories in 24g of white sugar and in it you will find...drumroll please....NOTHING. Bupkiss. Zilch. Nada. No nutrients, no fiber, no protein, no nothing. Just straight sugar to cause a quick rush to the bloodstream, only to be squashed by insulin and then you feel the big CRASH... There is litterally nothing helpful in this stuff. So when you need the nutrients to produce stomach acids, etc., you must suck those out of your stores in order to break down and process your sugar-rich foods.

So if sugar is so bad for you how do you get that sweet craving satisfied? There are TONS of lovely, healthy options. Medjool dates are one of my favourites. Keep them in the fridge for an even bigger delight. They are like candy- chewy and sweet- and one date, with its 66 calories (for approx 24g) is full of natural sugars, but also brings fibre, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium...

Honey is another option. Though it is similar in sugar content to refined sugar (in terms of grams) it also brings with it pollen, enzymes and micronutrients. I wouldn't advise drinking it by the boatload, but it appears to have a less severe effect on the body and on insulin levels than processed sugar.

Agave is a plant found in the desert, and the nectar is used as a sugar substitute, as is good old Canadian maple syrup. See, here's the thing: sometimes it doesn't even boil down to what you can read on a nutritional label. Sometimes, if you choose a more "natural" less processed option, Mother Nature might surprise you and tuck in a few extras. Check out this article for some information on the antioxidants found in maple syrup.

Coconut sap, or coconut sugar, is another low glycemic index sweetner. It's really mild, and actually looks like brown sugar (in the organic brand that I buy) and from the bits and pieces I can find on comparisons, it is the most nutritionally dense of all the sweeteners.  I use this in coffee, recipes, everything. It rocks.

So here are some options for when you get those sweet cravings. Try substituting a little of one of these in place of refined cane sugar. Remember that most of these are waaaayyy sweeter than cane sugar so you need a lot less. I typically half the sweeteners in my recipes and adjust as necessary.

Hope this gives you some ammo in the fight against nutritionless food. May you use this information to find treats that are both good for the palate and good for the soul.

G'night all!



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