Differentiating Your "Natural" and Alternative Sugar Options; Learning the Art of Moderation + Day 6 Menu Plan
I want to address the number of different natural sugar options out there. Many believe that if it is natural, it is good...but that is not the case. Many also believe that ALL sugar is the enemy...but that, also, is not the case.
As with fats, there are good an bad sweeteners, and there is a difference in quality within these sweeteners.
Honey: Sticky, Sweet, Delicious and Controversial
In general, my go to sweetener is honey. To me, it is the best. But, not just any 'old honey. I ONLY use Raw, Unfiltered Honey.
In it's natural state, honey is a goldmine of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and this really cool stuff called propolis.
Some research actually supports that raw, unfiltered honey has the opposite effect than it should on blood sugar and inflammation, and the theory is that it is because of the added nutrients and enzymes. ONLY RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY provides these nutrients and phytochemicals. They are destroyed and removed in the pasteurizing and filtering processes.
For Vitamins, Raw, Unfiltered Honey provides Vitamin A, All the B's, C, D, E and K2.
For Minerals, Raw Unfiltered Honey provides Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Potassium and Iodine.
Raw honey is known for its high antioxidant levels, and research shows increases in blood antioxidant levels but switching only the sugar source in a diet to raw honey. Pinostrobin is one such antioxidant.
Honey is also Antimicrobial and has been shown to kill over 60 bacteria in the digestive system and human body, including MRSA.
There is actually a honey conundrum...you would expect this super rich sugar source to have the oposite effect, which in fact it does when it is pasteurized and refined, removing these compounds that actually HEAL the body.
Propolis, is this really cool stuff that is ONLY found in unfiltered honey. Propolis is the glue that holds the hive and honey combs together. It is full of over 300 active compounds that help to protect the honey from microbial invasion and fungal growth, thus working to preserve the honey....did you know raw, unfiltered honey never goes bad!!! Honey found in Egyptian tombs was still edible. It is the source of all the antibacterial properties of raw, unfiltered honey.
BUT IT HAS TO BE RAW AND UNFILTERED TO HAVE THESE BENEFITS. Commercial honey is pasteurized (heated to a high temperature to kill the enzymes), and filtered to remove "impurities." Also many honey's have been found to actually be flavors Corn Syrup...WHY!?
Remember a little goes a long way. Once you have readjusted your palate for sugar sensitivity, you will notice you don't need much. Just because it does have health benefits, doesn't mean you need to be consuming a cup of honey a day...keep it down.
Maple Syrup; Sweetener of the Americas
Maple syrup was collected and consumed by the Native Americans. The main sugar in Maple Syrup is Sucrose. In American, to be labels pure maple syrup, it only needs to contain 66% Maple sap...In Canada, they take their maple syrup a bit more seriously and it must be 100% maple sap to be called pure maple syrup...oh America and their sneaky food labeling.
I use Maple Syrup from time to time in my meals, but still prefer honey.
Maple Syrup does provide some added nutrition, unlike refined sugars. It is rich in Manganese, Riboflavin, Zinc and Calcium.
Oddly in Maple Syrup, there is an antioxidant that is FORMED during the boiled of the sap to condense into syrup...Qubecol. Quebecol is an antioxidant known to reduce inflammation. Who Knew!
When choosing your Maple Syrup, get the real stuff and look at the different grades. Grade sounds like it should be the best, but B is for Better in this case. Grade A is harvested at the beginning of the season is often lighter in flavor, color and nutrition. As the season goes on the sap gets thicker, darker and richer in nutrition and antioxidants.
Maple Syrup is STILL a dense sugar, so it must be used sparingly. 1/4 cup in your oatmeal is not okay, but 1/2 tsp is just fine.
Stevia, the Zero Calorie Sweetener
I am actually very saddened and torn by all the new stevia concoctions out there. I like stevia, don't get me wrong. I actually grow it in my garden, alongside mint and make mint/stevia bombs with them. (blend stevia leaves and mint leaves together and freeze. Great for adding to drinks).
Commercial stevia is just companies taking a natural and good thing and ruining it, in my opinion. They have chemically extracted the active ingredient, concentrated and isolated it, and marketed it to all those people out there with a strong sweet tooth who are stuck on the idea of artificial sweeteners.
I do not have a problem with people using stevia, but look for the extracts (liquids) and/or Green Stevia powder.
There are two active ingredients in the Stevia plant that cause the sweet flavor, Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. These two compounds are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar.
Most of the studies done on Stevia are done on Stevioside, so really little is known about the effects of Rebaudioside A.
That being said, always look for the purest form, like I mentioned, the extracts and green Stevia. There is no research on the effects the refining process has on the active ingredients, but I would assume it would denature its effects.
Also, Truvia is not stevia...it has stevia in it, but it is a blend of other low calorie sweeteners.
Many of you who are working to manage your blood sugar issues, have probably heard of Xylitol. It is a low calorie sugar alcohol. It is actually found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including berries.
There are two methods of extracting Xyliol...
1. Hydrogenation of the sugar molecule Xylose, which converts the sugar into an alcohol.
2. Microbial fermentation of the sugars. (sounds much better to me)...which happens in our digestive system and through culturing foods naturally
Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 and does contain calories.
There are some health benefits associated with Xyliol, but it seems only with the fermented form.
So far there have been no adverse effects associated with sugar alcohols.
Agave Nectar had its lime light, and now it is falling off. With the exception of Pure Fructose extracts, Agave Nectar has the highest levels of Fructose, more so than High Fructose Corn Syrup.
It's claim to fame was as a low glycemic sweetener. But it is a refined and highly processed sugar, just like corn syrup.
I would avoid Agave Nectar. It is too processed for my liking.
Always avoid Artificial Sweeteners. A plethora of research as shown the degenerative effects of these chemicals...
Also, all sugar, even the good stuff needs to be limited. Just because I give you some options, doesn't mean you need to trade out all of your sweetened items with more sweetened items. The goal is to limit your over all intake and make better choices for when you do indulge. You should not be just replacing your sugars with alternatives, but learning to need and use less. Added sugar is not a daily dietary need. It is reserved for special occasions, and light sweetening.
Breakfast #6: Quinoa Breakfast Flakes with Butter, Blueberries and a Smidge of Honey; Black Coffee
These Quinoa Breakfast Flakes are my new favorite hot breakfast cereal. I love the nutty flavor, and they cook up super fast. I added 1/2 tsp of raw, unfiltered honey this morning, and a bunch of blueberries...perfectly sweet!
Lunch #6: Avocado Reuben Lettuce Wrap
I love sauerkraut on my sandwiches. This is a homemade version I made with Juniper Berries.
In this wrap, I layered Avocado, Sauerkraut, Cucumber, Arugula and some homemade Thousand Island Dressing
Homemade Thousand Island Dressing
Dinner #6: Vietnamese Pork Kelp Noodle Bowl
I absolutely love Kelp Noodles. They are a perfect substitute for the many Asian dishes that call for rice noodles, like my Jap Chae recipe. They are made of, well kelp.
In a bowl combine marinade ingredients. Add pork and let sit for 30mins or longer. Heat grill to medium heat. Add pork and allow to cook 2-3 mintues, flip and finishing cooking 5min.
In a jar, add ingredients and shake. Pour over bowls...makes 3 servings
To Assemble Bowls
In a bowl, make a bed of Shredded Romaine Lettuce, top with some Kelp Noodles (no need to cook), arrange top with other cut and shredded vegetables...purple cabbage, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, and add diced pork. Drizzle with sauce and enjoy.