I share all this to express that I am not historically a health nut and I have very little experience in the kitchen.
Last week, when I was overwhelmed with the gap between where we were and where I wanted to be I decided to make a list of baby steps. I wanted to pick a first step that did not require new cooking skills or recipes. So, on September 10th I gave up sugar. Annabelle turned one on the 9th and I savored every bite of my last piece of sugar, my last cupcake. The next day I tossed out the left over cupcakes and when there was icing on my finger I washed it off in the sink instead of licking it. That's when I knew this was serious.
I am addicted to sugar. I can not eat small amounts. If there is a pastry sitting on my counter I will eat all of it before the day is over, it doesn't matter what size. It doesn't even matter if I know its something Brian will really want when he gets home. I try. I try to save it for him but I have no self-control. This is one of the reasons I know I need to give it up.
I'm also giving it up because I think it makes me sick. Everything I'm reading, regardless of how much opinions agree on something else, they all agree sugar is bad for you...especially refined sugar (table sugar) and even worse; high fructose corn syrup. Your gut is full of good bugs and most of us have guts that also host the bad bugs. The bad bugs feed on sugar, refined grains, and yeast. The normal western diet is full of processed foods which are foods that have been changed so much from their natural state that they often don't taste very good so sugar is added to make us want to buy them. And that's just normal food, not solely sweet items. Take a look at the boxes and cans in your cupboard. I will be surprised if you can find many things without sugar in them.
“A child or adult who eats a diet high in difficult-to-digest carbohydrates such as grains and processed foods will continue to encourage the underlying condition of gut dysbiosis. Dr. Campbell-McBride states that people with damaged flora will crave the very foods that support the survival of the unhealthy bacteria, often to the exclusion and refusal of others.”
I know there are some of you out there who have already done this and if you have ideas on what to eat when you have a sweet tooth, please comment below and share your recipes. I would especially love something kid friendly.
If you are not ready to totally kick out sugar then here are some ideas:
In the latest Wise Traditions, Sally Fallon gives these suggestions:
- If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit, not a candy bar labeled as a “health food”.
- Use sweeteners that are known to be safer. For uncooked dishes, unheated raw honey or dates work well. For cooked dishes or sweet drinks, a good organic maple syrup, or even freshly juiced apple juice or orange juice can provide delicious and relatively safe sweetness; dehydrated cane sugar juice or maple sugar may be used in moderation in cookies and desserts that contain nutritious ingredients and good fats such as butter, egg yolks and nuts.
- One should limit total sweetener consumption to less than five percent of daily calories.
- Many people do best by avoiding sweeteners completely.
These are in order from best choices to the worst choices:
- No refined sugar is best, and only small amounts of natural sugars. (Hopefully someday I’ll get there!)
- Stevia, rapadura, sucanat, maple syrup, maple sugar, honey, coconut or palm sugar, molasses, dates – these are all the least refined, the most natural, and contain the most nutrients - more info below about some of these natural sweeteners.)
- Turbinado, organic regular sugar (this one is a little better because organic has no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) from the sugar beets), evaporated cane juice
- Regular refined white table sugar or brown sugar (see above about GMOs) - refined sugars have no nutrients left in them at all…
- Avoid: high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, xylitol, erythritol, artificial sugars (Splenda, Nutrasweet, etc. – it’s better to use small amounts of real sweeteners above than to use these fake sugars.)
What I’ve (Kelly the Kitchen Kop) learned:
- I haven’t had much luck with Stevia, so I’m afraid to experiment more. Please comment and tell us what you like it in.
- Rapadura or sucanat is great for some things, like cinnamon toast or to sweeten a sauce, but I have found it to give baked goods too strong a taste. However, I just tried Ann Marie’s sucanat and hers tastes milder than my rapadura, and she has good luck with it in baked goods, so maybe it’s just a brand difference! Be sure to experiment to find what you like.
- Ann Marie also just had me try her organic evaporated palm sugar and it’s so good! I could use that to replace 100% of the refined sugar in cookies and it would taste exactly the same! I’m so excited about this, because I’ve still used some refined sweeteners in my recipes if I couldn’t get them to taste good otherwise, but this may get me totally away from refined sweeteners!
- Molasses is a sweetener with a strong taste, I use a little in the nut bar recipe that I’m posting soon – what have you had good luck with it in?
- As I said last time, this chocolate mousse is a great recipe using dates as the sweetener. You process them up really small and they give a good flavor.
- Maple syrup (or maple sugar) is great for the ooey gooey layer in the bottom of the pan of cinnamon rolls, in homemade ice cream, to give smoothies a little sweet taste, and in homemade applesauce!
- I like raw honey in my homemade bread, in a homemade hot fudge sauce or chocolate fudge, and to substitute part of the sugar in cookie recipes, but if I substitute it for all the sugar, the honey taste takes over.
- I don’t worry so much about the tiny amounts of xylitol in gum or toothpaste, but maybe I should…any thoughts?
- Often you can drastically cut the amount of sugar in a recipe without anyone noticing.
Other information on sweeteners:
- Passionate Homemaking has good info on the difference between rapadura vs. sucanat!
- The Nourishing Gourmet has more information on palm sugar and the glycemic index of these sugars (in the comments section).
- More info on these natural sweeteners:
- Blackstrap Molasses is approximately 65 percent as sweet as sugar and can be used in both cooking and baking. Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese and copper, and also contains iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin B6.
- Maple syrup is most widely known as a topping for pancakes and waffles, but it’s also a natural sweetener that can be used in baking and is a good source of magnesium and zinc. Maple syrup is about 60 percent as sweet as sugar. Maple syrup can cause blood sugar levels to rise, so those with diabetes should use it sparingly.
- Raw Honey is a natural sweetener that has powerful disease-protecting antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Honey is 25 to 50 percent sweeter than sugar and can be used in cooking, baking, and beverages. As with maple syrup, honey can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and should be used sparingly by those with diabetes. (Note: Do not give honey to children under one year of age as it may put younger children at risk for botulism.)