Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quick Guide to Natural Sweeteners

White processed refined sugar has always been a nutritional “stay the hell away” ingredient.

It spikes your blood sugar, increases inflammation, and sends you on an endless roller coaster of cravings. And artificial substitutes like Splenda and Sweet ‘N Low come with chemical toxins that you need to avoid altogether.
In fact, I have no tolerance for the artificial AND white sugar.  There are no nutritional benefits to consuming sugar.  I mean NONE.
But without a little sweetness, life can be boring and bland.
So enter the natural sweeteners.

If you are baking and want to switch out the sugar (Domino) with a few of the below ingredients, totally cool. And recommended.

Just make sure you aren’t adding these to your tea, smoothies, even oatmeal everyday.  Natural sweeteners, although good alternatives, still spike blood sugar levels and cause weight gain as well as a load of health problems.
Guideline:  Use these natural sugars a few times a week.  It’s common to add honey to your morning tea, stevia to your smoothie for lunch, and then agave to the ice cream treat after dinner.  That’s way too much sugar for one day.  Spread out the lovin’ during the week for the best possible way to get sweetness as well as take care of your health.

Here’s a practical guide you can use:

Coconut Sugar:

 I use this sweetener a lot for baking.
PRO: It  has a  low glycemic index, and  it’s not as chemically processed as other sugars.
CONS: It’s super expensive. Usually it tends to be about four times more expensive than Domino sugar .

Agave Nectar:

It’s not the best for baking but can be used in teas and other drinks.PRO: Agave has a lower glycemic index, meaning your body absorbs it more slowly than refined sugar, so you avoid the typical blood-sugar spikes and crazy sugar rushes.
CON: Agave  is mainly 90%  fructose. While fructose breaks down more rapidly than glucose in the liver (that’s good for blood sugar), an excess can lead to a greater production of fat and overeating. It’s actually 10 calories more per tablespoon than sugar, too.Maple Syrup:
Maple syrup is great to top on pancakes and oatmeal.
PRO: Very natural. Pure maple syrup is high in antioxidants and Grade B is stronger in flavor than Grade A.

CON: Still the same amount of calories as white sugar, it also doesn’t taste as well in baking.  Oh and make sure to get 100% maple syrup not Mrs. Butterworth.


Great to put in tea, but the calories are similar to agave.
PRO: Honey is considered a powerhouse for vitamins and minerals and is known to have healing properties.  . Raw honey has a high level of antioxidants, too.
CONS: Honey’s glycemic index is higher than agave’s (though it’s still lower than refined sugar).


You can bake with stevia but it’s mainly used for drinks.
PRO: Calorie-free and natural, it comes from the stevia plant. If you are addicted to the artificial sugars and like ripping open the package, you can do that with stevia and feel like you are getting the same effect. 
CON: Sometimes it’s chemically processed, which can cause health issues like diarrhea.  Check the labels.  Truvia is both erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and stevia.  Try to get 100% raw stevia so you know you aren’t getting other processed ingredients.
* Word on Sugar in the Raw:  When it comes to your health, it’s still basically the same as regular refined table sugar—lots of calories, a blood sugar spike, etc… Turbinado (brown sugar) is a bit less refined than the white sugar, however.

 If you are having not-so-healthy sweet cravings and want a sure-fire way to curb things, try just one easy thing.

Add sweet veggies to your meals and see if the “I can’t stop eating cookies!” feeling eases up.

I don’t mean eat a sweet potato instead of the baklava, but slowly add in the pumpkin, squash, carrots, beets to your meals, and soon you’ll notice you won’t have the burning desire for the processed sugar.
The reason is because sweet veggies soothe the internal organs and are grounding. They  help balance out your system instead of the spaciness you feel after eating sugar.
Here’s a satisfying and sweet (and spicy) dish you can try:
(in fact, I slurped it up for dinner, it’s by far one of my favorite soups evah)
spicy sweet potato soup

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup


1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
3/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 -2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (3-4 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions:  Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, and flakes. Cook for 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and stock  cook until boiling. Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes.  Puree 3/4 of the soup.  Pour back into the pot and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.