Tag: sugar

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

Series: Natural Sugars (Part 2)

This week we’re going to take a look at a ton of natural sugar alternatives. These substances are caloric and contain sugar in natural forms.

Natural sugar options can be complicated. On one hand, they’re sugar, and sugar is sugar no matter where it’s coming from, but on the other hand, some of them have benefits. Let’s take a look.

Honey, raw honey, hackberries, pomegranate, and Texas persimmons.

Honey

Most of us know of honey’s antimicrobial properties. It’s therapeutic uses are enough for me to keep a large jar of raw honey in my pantry. Raw honey has antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes that processed honey doesn’t. Raw honey also has a much lower glycemic index than processed–30ish vs 75ish–and tastes much better (that’s just my opinion).

When someone has a sore throat in our house, they either get hot tea with honey in it or a special slushie with honey. It can be used for other purposes, too. I’ll be honest (and gross), I’ve even used manuka honey for a drawing salve for staph with good results.

Maple syrup

Most of us can agree that maple syrup is delicious. I haven’t had it in a while, but it’s one of my favorite sugars flavor-wise. It’s got a moderate glycemic index, mid 50s. Nutritionally it’s got a few minerals. I usually steer clear of it, mostly because I still have lots of weight to lose and health to gain. If I were in great shape and super healthy, though, I would probably keep a bottle around.

Coconut sugar/Palm sugar

These seem to be pretty popular in the Paleo stratosphere. The GI is fairly low, 30s-40s, and the nutritional value is decent. Honestly, though, I tried it a few times and just wasn’t into it. I’m not even really sure why, but I certainly don’t think I’m missing out by avoiding a sugar that I didn’t enjoy using.

Molasses

Molasses is the byproduct of extracting plain white table sugar from sugar cane. The good thing about this is that molasses contains all the nutritional value that table sugar doesn’t, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper and zinc. The flavor of molasses is pleasant, both complex and earthy. We keep a bottle of it around for homemade BBQ sauce, pulled pork,  and other various recipes. We don’t use it often, but when you need it there’s not really anything great to substitute for it.

Agave nectar 

Okay, here it is: agave nectar is AWFUL! I remember the “health” world going crazy for it a while back, which is just nuts. It’s got nothing going for it nutritionally, the natural glycemic index of it is midline 50s, and processing techniques increase that. It’s 85% fructose–that’s higher than corn syrup, for goodness sake! Agave nectar is a prime example of the fact that not everything touted as “natural” is better or healthier. Like, honestly, there’s no reason to ever eat this stuff, it’s going straight to your liver.

Fruits

Oh, man, fruits are so tough. On one hand, they’re delicious, but on the other, they’re sugar. I know that when I’m eating fruit I want more fruit (sugar addiction and craving cycles!) and my kids are the same way. Honestly, I let my kids have fruit about once a week. Usually we stick to whatever we can get high nutritional value from, such as berries. Dates have a great nutritional profile, too. We have been foraging for wild Texas persimmons and hackberries lately, which is great fun and the kids really enjoy getting to eat what they collect. I’m all about that nature stuff, y’know.

Yacon syrup

Yacon is a little known, fairly new thing. It doesn’t raise blood glucose, but contains fructose. Supposedly it tastes similar to caramel. The nutritional profile is supposedly pretty good. There’s not a whole lot out there about it yet. When I lose a bit of weight I’ll have to give it a taste–the fructose is obviously not ideal, but it’s low enough that I would consider trying it once.

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

Series: Sugar Simplified (Part 1)

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the recipes here don’t feature refined sugar, and infrequently natural sugars such as honey, molasses, or fruit. If you’ve ever wondered why, you’re about to find out!

Proper nutritional education is essential for everyone, but especially for those of us who are trying to help nurture little ones (and raise good eaters!) I was taught almost no kind of nutrition growing up–thanks coaches teaching health class–and the little bit of information was scarce. You know, eat your fruits and veggies, bread, potatoes, pasta, lean protein, and avoid fats. It also turns out that it was bad advice to begin with (Thanks, Ancel Keys!)

This week we’re going to be starting a new series addressing all of the different sweetener options out there. We’ll cover sugar, natural sugars, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners–their composition, effects on the body, and potential health implications. So let’s get down to brass tacks. I hope that you enjoy learning with me!


Today we’re kicking it off with a talk about sugar.

What is it, anyway?

Sugar is a group of sweet tasting soluble carbohydrates which are (very) frequently used in food. The high use of sugar as a food additive today is astonishing–it’s used in everything from common beverages and breakfast cereals to meats and sauces. The average person in developed countries consumes roughly 73 pounds of sugar a year (and 53 pounds in undeveloped countries). Frankly, that’s just appalling. This is straight from wikipedia: “As sugar consumption grew in the latter part of the 20th century, researchers began to examine whether a diet high in sugar, especially refined sugar, was damaging to human health. Excessive consumption of sugar has been implicated in the onset of obesitydiabetescardiovascular diseasedementia, and tooth decay. Numerous studies have tried to clarify those implications, but with varying results, mainly because of the difficulty of finding populations for use as controls that consume little or no sugar.”

Many people know of glucose and fructose. Contrary to what most people believe, fructose, also known as fruit sugar, is not a healthier sugar even though “it is natural sugar.” In fact, many health experts believe fructose is the worse of the two. I’m not going to into the chemistry of it for two reasons: one, others have done it before me and written about it more eloquently than I ever could, and two, laziness.

Why is sugar such a problem? Let’s take a quick look at what we know sugar does to the body. It impairs the immune system and your ability to regulate appetite by decreasing leptin production. It increases oxidative stress in the body, promotes free radicals, and even feeds cancer cells.

Is this good? Seems like a ridiculous question when you put it like that, right? No, of course damage to the body isn’t good. As a mom, my number one priority is making sure that my babies get food that nourishes and builds their bodies strong.

There are three primary sugar based sweeteners used in food production and commonly available today: table sugar (sucrose), glucose syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. Glucose or corn syrup is primarily glucose. HFCS, as the name suggests, is more than half fructose. If you are going to use a sweetener in your foods, quite frankly, these are awful options.

Is there a better alternative energy source? Absolutely, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Exfoliating Herbal Scrub

Exfoliating Herbal Scrub

This is really more of a how to, DIY home recipe for a luxurious herbal face and body scrub, but I don’t want it confused with food.

Well, January is feeling great, we’re a week in and I hope most of us are still going strong on those new goals. One surefire way to continue to feel good is to treat yourself right.

As most of you have probably figured out, I don’t generally approve of sugar as a food additive, but there is one thing that it is GREAT for–skincare. Sugar is an incredible exfoliant! Well, and it’s food for attracting ants, so that’s two things. I digress.

If you want to use salt instead, that’s fine, but salts are a bit abrasive, especially on the face, so you might want to powder it in a mortar and pestle first (if you happen to have one lying around). I used salt because we don’t usually keep sugar in the house. My absolute favorite version of this was made with brown sugar as a base. It was wonderful! I would put it on about 5 minutes before getting in the shower and then let it crystallize on my face. I also don’t usually take the time to powder my herbs all the way, because I don’t mind it a little rough and chunky.

Ingredients: Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

1 mason jar

2 cups sugar, brown sugar, or salt (please powder it first) as a base substance

1/2 cup herbs (I bought this herbal kit to get myself back in the swing of things)

Steps: 

  1. If you’re using salt as a base substance, grind in a mortar and pestle until a fine powder. Add salt or sugar to mason jar.
  2. Select your herbs. I have chosen mine based on skincare and anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. One at a time, grind each herb in your mortar and pestle (or you can blend them in a blending apparatus for a few seconds).
  4. Add ground herbs to mason jar.
  5. Shake until combined.

That’s it! I love making this stuff, and I enjoy giving it as gifts too.