I know I do sound like a broken record (oh! remember those?), but the solution again is provided in Michael Pollan's (who is interviewed in the documentary) motto calling us to "Eat [real] food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." Plus his encouragement to COOK at home, as this is the only way we can know exactly what and how much we are adding into our food, while we create bonding relationship with whomever we're cooking with, but let me get back to this post's point.
Yes, sugar is addictive, there's no question about it, but as opposed to other addictions that we can't do in "moderation," for most of us (please note that we are ALL different, and I can't give you personal suggestions through a blog!), small amounts of sugar are fine to handle, especially when they come together with whole foods rich in fiber and protein. I know my latest blog posts have been a bit alarming, and I hate doing that to you or even to myself, but on the other hand, knowledge is power, and we need power to make our bodies powerful, so here are my thoughts and suggestions so your life (or mine) doesn't have to be lived in absolute sweetness celibacy.
1. Don't demonize your sweet tooth, but taper down the amounts of sugar you consume to find the minimum that still satisfies you. For example, don't buy flavored yogurt. Purchase plain, and sweeten it lightly (alternatives offered below), and try it. If you need to, add a tiny more sweetener and taste again. Repeat until you find it satisfactory, and enjoy it. Later, you can just add a tiny bit less every time until you find the very minimum you need to find it pleasant. This can be applied to coffee, tea, oatmeal and everything else. Sugar tolerance builds up, but you can also decrease it. When baking, cut down the total sugar amount in the recipe between 1/3 and 1/2. It will still taste nice and sweet! Don't let anyone else decide how much sugar you are going to consume. Take charge of it yourself!
2. If purchasing a processed (packaged) product, read its label! Not necessarily for calorie content (I'm not an advocate of calorie counting), but check out how much sugar the product has. It's listed in the nutrition information. Keep in mind, that we should aim to keep our sugar consumption below 24 g/day (the equivalent to 6 teaspoons or 2 tablespoons), so if you're starting your day with sweetened cereal, you might already be giving your body a large enough load of sugar to process for the whole day! Aim to skip products with more than 8g sugar per serving (and check out the size of the serving, as often, it's only a fraction of the package).
3. Don't drink your sugar! Sodas, lemonades and even 100% juice are overwhelming to our body due to their lack of fiber and excess of sugar (yes! it includes fresh, organic, local, made with love, etc). It's quite easy to sip in lots of sugar when there's no chewing, fiber or protein involved to slow down its absorption. Especially, if it comes with your name on its red label!!! But please, please avoid diet soda, that's even worse!
Can't stand plain water? Infuse water with citrus, herbs, fruit chunks, or a tiny amount of juice.
4. Eat slowly, mindfully and joyously, appreciating the flavor, consistency, scent and every nuance of the food you are eating. When you eat a treat, don't eat it on a rush or with other activities distracting you, don't feel guilty and give your brain and your senses a chance and the time to feel satisfied and to register pleasure.
5. Add flavor: Sweet spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and ginger enhance the sweetness of foods without adding sugar. Experiment with a sprinkling, and you'll see how it works!
6. I've found unrefined sweeteners to be a great solution to my own sugar/sweet cravings. Most of them have rich, interesting flavors, so they make treats more satisfying. They are not just plain "sweet." I once heard award-winning pastry chef, author and TV host Johnny Iuzzini say how often people forget that sugar is not a flavor, that sugar just adds sweetness, so we don't need to abuse it, and we do need to find flavor in the other ingredients we're adding (see point #5). Sugar is kind of unidimensional, and some alternative sweeteners are much richer and flavorful, which is an extra point on their side. This doesn't mean that natural alternative sweeteners are sugar free, innocuous, or that we should use them as free for all, but they can do way more for your palate (still in smaller amounts) and add small amounts of nutrients, while sugar is only a source of empty calories. If you are a goop.com reader, you might have already read what Dr. Frank Lipman wrote via Paltrow about his favorite alternative sweeteners. As usual--and despite my husband rolling his eyes-- I was a big fan of the piece. The link for the post is here. I'll just add a couple of things and my own guide to alternative sweeteners (which I started planning way before Paltrow wrote about them, but I'm a lonely snail). If you want to know which one you should get, I'd recommend variety, this way I feel there's less risk of addiction (either physical or even an emotional attachment to the sweetener) and more opportunity for creativity and for finding the right match to each recipe and mood.Also, research keeps changing opinions, just as it happened with agave nectar, which skyrocketed only to be found to be less than the amazing alternative it was once thought to be. So for now, these are the best choices.
|So many options...so hard to decide|
PROS: The only sweetener that doesn’t have a real impact in blood sugar, this South American plant extract is many, many times sweeter than sugar, so a tiny bit goes a long way. It’s basically calorie free, and its main sugars are stevioside and and rebaudioside, not fructose.
CONS: -Baking with it is tricky, as you need to find a substitute for the bulk of sugar you are removing from the recipe when using stevia. I recommend using the liquid or powdered all natural stevia extract, as it’s less processed than the commercial, mass produced brands.
-Some people find its taste unpleasant (I wished I didn't, but I'm in that group!)
COCONUT NECTAR (LIQUID) AND COCONUT SUGAR (CRYSTALS)
PROS: This natural and sustainable sweetener is produced from the sap of the coconut flowers. It has a complex and delicious flavor (but doesn’t taste like coconut at all). It is higher in nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C and antioxidants than other sweeteners. In crystallized form, it can be substituted for regular or brown sugar 1:1. Has a low glycemic index (about 35, compared to sugar's 60, which means that it's absorbed much slower). It only contains 10% fructose.
Goes well with chocolate, cinnamon, oats, nuts and seeds.
CONS: It can only be found in specialty and health food stores, and it doesn't come in cheap.People allergic to coconut could react to it.
ORGANIC RAW HONEY
PROS: -Raw honey (can’t be pasteurized, as it looses most of its nutritional value)) contains minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, chromium, manganese and selenium, which are indispensible for blood sugar balance. Raw honey is also rich in disease-preventive substances such as antioxidants, enzymes, and B vitamins.
-Honey is 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so less of it is needed to sweeten a product.
- It has terroir: varies flavors vary according to the place and the flowers of the honey’s origin. Usually lighter-colored honeys have milder flavor, but the darker ones are richer in antioxidants.
-Raw honey has antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal qualities. Especially Manuka honey, from New Zealand. Local honey has been suggested to help heal local seasonal allergies.
-Pure raw honey is kosher. It doesn’t even require rabbinical supervision.
Goes well with citrus, berries, stone fruits, almonds and other nuts.
CONS: Honey does contain about 40%fructose, and does have an effect on blood sugar
-It’s not worth to use raw honey in baking, as the heating process affects most of its benefits. People following special diets (such as SCD and GAPS) can use honey as their only sweetener alternative, in these cases, if submitting it to a heating process, it's not worth investing in raw honey.
PURE MAPLE SYRUP
Goes well with chocolate, bananas, nuts, seeds,
Middle Eastern foods and lovely in home-made
nut or seed mylks.
Date syrup (which is NOT date paste) might also be found in stores,
especially at Middle Eastern or some kosher
stores. It's made of cooked date paste in
water until a syrup forms.
It's also called SILAN, and has a delicious complex flavor. It's less sweet than sugar and it has way less fiber than date paste, but it can be a delicious addition to some dishes. Look for silan made only of dates and water, as there are many brands in the market with lots of additives and sugar.
Goes well anywhere where maple syrup or date
paste would be used.
CONS: It's really hard to find pure monk fruit extract or powder. Most commercial brands have either sugars (such as dextrose, molasses, sugar) or even artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, which I stay away from (and would recommend you to do the same!).
-Monk fruit has a slightly bitter aftertaste.
You might notice rice syrup, agave nectar and maybe other alternative sweeteners missing from this list. It wasn't a mistake, I can give you a whole spiel about each one, but as usual, I know I already gave you TMI for one post! But feel free to comment on this blog. I'd love to know what you think and have a conversation.
4.5 oz (1 1/4 cups) roalled oats (gf, if needed)
2 oz (2/3 cup) quinoa flakes
3 oz (3/4 cup) almond meal
1 oz (1/4 cup) hemp protein powder
8g (2 tbsp) ground chia
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 tsp non aluminum baking powder
1⁄2 tsp fine sea or Himalayan salt
4 oz (1/2 cup) pure maple or yacon syrup, or coconut nectar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Line a 9x9-in square pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2 -inch overhang and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together oats, quinoa flakes, almond meal, hemp protein, chia, cinnamon, baking soda and powder, and salt, until combined.
Add in oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla and mix well with either the whisk or a silicone spatula.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, pressing well with a spatula and bake until golden and set, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes, until more set and cut into bars with a serrated knife.
Serve or store packed airtight for up to 5 days or double-wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month.