Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Add some sweetness to your Valentine's Day!
This is a re-post from last year. I thought it was such good info that I wanted to share it again. Enjoy!
Happy Valentine's Day! Are you enjoying anything sweet today? I have a horrible sweet tooth. I really do. I love almost anything that is sweet. The sweeter the better in my opinion. All in moderation of course:) I do realize that all sweets are not created equal when it comes to your health. So today, in honor of St. Valentine's Day, I thought I would add some sweetness to my blog by talking about sweeteners:)
Did you know that sugar comes from processed sugar cane? The liquid is taken out and boiled, leaving just the crystals. Unfortunately for us sugar lovers, there aren't any nutrients in this. Molasses is also left behind, which does contain nutrients. (things are looking up for the sugar lovers!) I used to think that brown sugar was better then white sugar. This really isn't true however, because brown sugar has a very little amount of molasses in it, making it pretty much nutrient free. (looking down again for the sugar lovers!) Unfortunately for people with a sweet tooth, no good can come from it. It plays a negative role in pretty much every body process, which leads to many different health issues. And sugar is in so many of the foods we eat. It has been estimated that the average American consumes 158 pounds of sugar each year and it is negatively effecting our health. Today I would like to tell you about some natural alternatives that my family has been using lately that taste as good or even better then regular sugar and are even a little better for you! yay!
So you may be wondering if artificial sweeteners (aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal etc) would be better for your health then regular sugar. I'm actually not going to blog about artificial sweeteners because that would make my blog way too long. In my opinion though, these are not good for a person's health and I have read a lot of things recently that suggest artificial sweeteners are linked to many health problems. If you'd like to know more about that, then you may be interested to check out the book, "Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health" by Dr. J. Mercola. You can see some info from him and his book here.
What I do want to talk about is natural sweeteners. I am quickly learning that there are natural sugar substitutes out there that actually taste really good and are much better for you then plain old sugar. One of my favorites is Pure Maple Syrup.
My family went to a small maple syrup festival last spring, about an hour from our midwest home. It was so interesting to learn about how maple syrup is made.
This is a picture of how they boil the sugar water down so they can make the maple syrup.
The blue bag is collecting the sugar water from the maple tree. Judging by the tree's size, it is not too young! We took this tour at a sugar camp and it was really interesting.
We did a lot of tasting that day, and ever since, the only maple syrup we use is pure maple syrup. There is nothing artificial in it. It's a little more costly then some of the non-pure varieties, but so much better for your health because it is a natural form of sugar that contains many B vitamins, iron and some trace minerals. Yum-O!
Another of my favorites is honey.
And not just regular honey, but raw honey. We buy ours from a health food store because I can't find it at the regular grocery store. It looks a little different then the honey I grew up with, and in my opinion, actually tastes better. It is thicker and more of a dull color. It has a richer taste and is a natural product, which makes it a good sugar substitute.
Next up - Molasses.
This is one of my husband's favorites. We made the Best molasses cookies the other day. They really were. Much better then store bought, and when you make them yourself, you can control the ingredients. We cut down on the sugar we used and substituted brown sugar in place of white sugar. Here is the recipe. Molasses has many nutrients including calcium and iron. This is esp. true in blackstrap molasses. It does have a very distinct dark taste. I would not say that molasses is sweet, but when you use it in the right recipe it is very good.
We have also used Agave nectar as a sugar substitute.
This is also very good. There are several different varieties. It tastes a bit sweeter then regular sugar; yet, has a low glycemic index which is good for insulin levels. Agave nectar has saponins, which are known to have natural anti-inflammatory and immune strengthening components.
There are other natural sweeteners out there. I certainly haven't talked about them all here. But I did talk about the ones that I have tried and liked lately. Some of these are good sugar substitutes. You could also substitute with mashed banana or applesauce in some recipes. I use a lot of the sweeteners I talked about to sweeten my oatmeal in the morning. So good!
What type of sweeteners do you prefer?
I hope you enjoyed reading and have an extra sweet Valentine's Day today!