Craving Something Sweet?

Yesterday, I touched on the dangers of high fructose corn syrup. I don’t know how it is even allowed in our food system. Oh, right- corporations make money from it.

Same with sugar, regular old beet or cane sugar- it’s in everything. And, those corporations know that sugary substances can hijack the brain’s biochemistry to keep us wanting more and more- so we keep buying more and more.

Consuming sugar signals the release of dopamine in our system. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. As we eat more and more sugary foods to get that pleasure feeling, dopamine begins to down regulate, meaning that we need more of the substance to get the same effect. Sounds like an addiction, doesn’t it?

Well, sugar is considered to be as addictive as cocaine and heroine.

But, it’s really devoid of any nutrition and sets our bodies up for issues like fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

We can begin to curb the amount of sugar we eat by simply reading labels.

In processed foods, sugar is often at the top of the ingredient list (meaning that it is one of the more plentiful ingredients in that food). You can also check the amount of sugar in one serving of a packaged food and decide whether or not it is worth consuming.

I tend to avoid sugar. My body doesn’t like it. My adrenals don’t like it. I immediately begin to feel tired, bloated and out of sorts. But, my body does better with more natural sweeteners; ones that have some nutritional benefits.

Here is an overview of more natural sweeteners:

  • Maple Syrup- Maple syrup is a delicious source of antioxidants, potassium, calcium and zinc. Grade B or the darker maples contain more of these nutrients. Maple syrup is delicious in cooked puddings, in baked goods or drizzled over pancakes or waffles.
  • Black Strap Molasses- Molasses is made from raw cane sugar being boiled down into a thick syrup. Like olive oil, there are different levels of molasses. Black strap has the most nutrition and is extracted from the third boiling of the cane syrup, concentrating the nutrients and flavor. It is rich in potassium, vitamin B6 and iron. Use molasses in baking (quintessential ginger bread cookies) or stir it into tea or use a bit to give a more earthy flavor to baked goods. Be sure to buy ORGANIC, as non organic cane is sprayed with glyphosate.
  • Coconut sugar- Made from coconuts, this sugar is lower in the glycemic index (meaning it doesn’t spike your blood sugar) and is also full or minerals. You can use it one for one in any recipe that calls for white sugar (although I always use less sugar than what a recipe calls for ; almost at least 1/2 of what a recipe calls for!) Note that this sugar is brown in color so if you are wanting to make a white icing with it, it will come out more beige!
  • Raw honey- Really raw honey is rich in enzymes, antioxidants and antibacterial compounds. It is best when used raw, like stirred into tea or a hot cereal, but I do also cook with it. You want to make sure that the honey you are buying is raw. Raw honey will be thicker than the heated honeys you buy in those little squeezable bears. It may set up and be very thick and may even have some bee parts in it! Be sure that you are getting honey from a reputable source. Many of the supermarket honey is imported from China and is cut with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Fruit purees- Fruits have their own incredible sweetness and can be used in baking in place of any of the above sweeteners. Pureed bananas, apples or dates are some fruits that I have used in baking.

Remember that even with these natural sweeteners, it is all about moderation. If you crave sweet things, try eating more sweet foods like winter squashes and sweet potatoes, long braised cabbages or carrots. These foods are naturally sweet and can satisfy our cravings.

Also, when eating foods with sweeteners, try to have a good fat along with it. The fat slows down the absorption of the sugar and lessens those blood sugar spikes. Think about adding a touch of raw cream atop a pudding that is made with maple syrup. Use good fats when baking, like butter or coconut oil and use eggs in baked goods to provide a bit of protein.

Here is a recipe for a gluten free dairy free banana pancake.

Serve it with some nut butter and a touch of maple syrup.

Banana Pancakes

1 ripe banana

2 eggs 

1 T almond butter or sunflower butter ( or chia seeds ground)

1 T maple syrup (or raw honey)

1 T coconut milk (Native Forest Brand)

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 cup almond flour (or gf flour mix)

2 T coconut flour

1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t salt

1/4 t baking soda

Heat griddle.

Place banana, egg, almond butter, maple, coconut milk and vanilla in a large bowl and mix well using a hand mixer or food processor.

Add flours, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Mix well.

Melt coconut oil on griddle. Add 1/4 cup batter and cook 3-4 minutes per side, taking care not to burn. Makes 4-5 pancakes.

Make a double or triple batch to freeze.


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