Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweet Holidays


This time of year, I always get caught up in the "sugar" trap. The smell and taste of Christmas cookies always lures me in. BUT, afterwards, I always end up with a sore throat or headache. I never really connected the two until recently when, in school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we discussed the effects sugar has on our bodies!


This month, I published an article on my magazine website, For HerInformation, detailing some healthy alternatives to sugar. I've pasted it below for your review.


Enjoy the holidays and remember to savor the flavor of your relationships this season and skip the cookie jar (well, maybe enjoy one cookie, for me).


(Copied from FHI Online magazine 12/07)

Gingerbread cookies, candy canes, Bouche de Noel—we’ve all probably eaten heaps of these and other goodies during past holiday seasons, every last sugary bite! It’s no wonder that so many people talk about being healthy or losing weight around this time of year. What baffles me is when they say, “I have to cut back on fat.” This is reasonable, depending on the type of fat you’re cutting back (yes, there is “good fat”), however very few people ever mention sugar: That white, processed fiend that puts you in a spin...that powdery stuff that is never enough.
Trust me, sugar and I go way back. Remember pixie sticks? Whoever invented a 24" straw filled with colored sugar should be sat down and scolded. How dare they give “sweet” unsuspecting girls like us that much sugar at one time? You wonder why our mothers thought we were crazy! We probably were, based on what we know now.


Of the 12 definitions for “sweet” in the Webster’s dictionary, here are a few that caught my eye...“having the taste of sugar or a substance containing or resembling sugar, as honey or saccharin”; “Pleasing the senses, agreeable; having a pleasing disposition.”
I agree that girls like us are “pleasing to the senses” and “agreeable” on a daily basis, being paired with saccharin is not my idea of sweet.


You may know the difference between diet soda and its sugary cousin, but your body is not so quick to judge. When you trick your body with an artificial sweetener, you may be disrupting Mother Nature’s way of counting calories, which according to a recent study could lead to overeating. (International Journal of Obesity, 2004, vol. 28, no.7)


To cut back on calories this holiday season and avoid artificial sweeteners, try natural sweeteners for your holiday treats; they’re much better for you. Here are a few suggestions:


Agave Nectar: My personal favorite that’s used at least 57 times a day in my home.
1 Tablespoon equals 60 Calories and 16g Carbs.


The juice extracted from the agave plant (the same plant used to make tequila) works well as a sweetener for your favorite beverage. You can use it for baking by substituting 3/4 cup agave for 1 cup sugar—just reduce other liquid content in recipe by 1/4 cup.
Agave has a low glycemic index, but is made primarily of fructose and may have a negative effect on insulin metabolism (always check with your doctor when changing your diet).


Brown Rice Syrup:
1 Tablespoon has 43 Calories and 11g Carbs.
The syrup is derived from sprouted brown rice, has a honey-like consistency and a mild flavor. In baking, substitute 1 1/3 cup for 1 cup white sugar—just reduce liquid by 1/4 cup per cup syrup, and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.


Brown Rice Syrup metabolizes steadily, which helps provide consistent energy. A good suggestion for marathon runners!


Date Sugar:
It’s got 36 Calories per Tablespoon and 9g Carbs.
The sugar comes from ground-up dehydrated dates (not the dud you went out with Saturday night!). You can substitute equally for brown or white sugar in most recipes; keep in mind this sweetener doesn’t dissolve well in drinks!


Date Sugar is very rich in fiber (dieters take note), and it metabolizes more slowly than sugar!


Fruit Juice Concentrates:
This sweet-tooth winner for lowest counts offers only 30 Calories per Tablespoon and 8g Carbs.


The concentrate comes from cooked-down fruits, plain and simple. You can use this alternative in the kitchen by flavoring and sweetening drinks. Your cup of tea will never be the same.
Fruit Juice Concentrates are extra sweet and made of fructose, and may negatively effect insulin metabolism (always check with your doctor when it comes to major dietary changes).


Honey:
Pooh Bear agrees that honey is by far the sweetest of all, contributing 64 Calories per Tablespoon and 17g Carbs.


This sticky stuff comes from the plant nectar processed by the honeybee. If you choose to cook with honey you’ll find it’s excellent in recipes and in tea. Use 1/2 cup for 1 cup white sugar; reduce liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup.
Honey is less processed than white sugar and is readily available.


Keep in mind all of these sweeteners are fat free and all natural—no chemicals here, missy! So next time someone says your sweet, be sure to thank them; but also let them know that you are naturally sweet!

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