Eat Less Sugar. Need I say more?
Easier said than done this time of year, or any time of year for that matter. Whether in refined carbohydrates, sauces, dressings, cured meats, cereal, chips, soda, candy or juice, sugar appears in all corners of the modern diet.
In the natural world sugar is usually only available seasonally in ripe fruits and some vegetables. No wonder, as humans evolved in the wild, our bodies learned to treasure these sweet, energizing treats. However, the natural form sugar is not what we confront in the modern diet. Originally sugar was only part of whole foods paired with fiber that filled up the stomach and triggered satiation before overindulging, nutrients that helped the body digest and make energy and beneficial minerals. It is the processed and refined sugar we now add to more than half the foods we consume that is causing the sugar-induced chaos nationwide.
Sugar, in any refined form, can be detrimental to your body. Throwing your blood sugar levels out of control and triggering harsh periods of extreme energy followed by lethargy that the body struggles to regulate. In addition to the epidemic of diabetes and blood sugar related health issues, additional impacts of excess sugar on your body include; depressed ability to digest foods, increased fermentation (toxic buildup) in your gut, liver strain, adrenal fatigue, suppression of the immune system, overgrowth of yeast (Candida), hyper and hypo glycemia, stress, fatigue, weight gain and poor tissue (skin, nails, hair) health.
Fortunately, there are healthy alternatives out there that make eliminating sugar from your diet an easier feat. With sugar alternatives that are less refined, more nutrient-packed and not as harsh on your blood sugar levels, you can make an energy rich granola bar for your day of sledding or a nutrient filled batch of cookies for your holiday party without sending your body into a sugar oblivion.
In all recipes I make that call for sugar I start by cutting the amount called for in half. To eliminate the remaining sugar here are my favorite alternatives and a bit on why they are better than the real thing:
- Pure Maple Syrup: for every 1 cup sugar, substitute 1/3 cup maple syrup and reduce other liquids in the recipe by 3 tablespoons. High in potassium, manganese and zinc.
- Brown Rice Syrup: For every 1 cup sugar, substitute 1 cup of brown rice syrup, ¼ teaspoon extra baking powder and decrease other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup (some cookies get a bit crispier make with brown rice syrup so watch closely in the oven). Contains magnesium, manganese, and zinc and is a complex carbohydrate so it burns slower and provides long-term energy.
- Honey: For every cup of sugar, substitute 2/3 cup honey, ¼ teaspoon extra baking powder and decrease other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup. Bake 25 degrees lower than temperature called for. Honey does affect blood sugar like white sugar does, but it also contains a lot of nutrients and anti-inflammatory/anti-allergy qualities.
- Agave Nectar: for every 1 cup sugar, substitute ½ cup agave nectar and reduce other liquids in the recipe by ¼ cup. Bake 25 degrees lower that temperature called for. Agave Nectar is almost twice as sweet as sugar so you can use less, therefore consuming less calories in sugar. Has only a minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Fruit and vegetable based baked goods: when baking with fruits and vegetables natural sugars take the place of added ones. If you add any sugar at all add ½ the amount or less, you will be surprised how great the natural sweetness carries through. The added fiber, nutrients, great texture and flavor from the whole fruits and vegetables are an extra bonus. Try pumpkin, zucchini, apple, squash, carrot, parsnip, beet or sweet potato.
Happy Holidays! Get Baking!