If you were to put ice cream or cake or anything sweet in front of me about 4 months ago, then I would have eaten every single bite. Once I started, then it was impossible to stop until it was gone (which is why I would usually split dessert). Today, I still love dessert and sweets, just a healthier version of dessert that, I think, tastes just the same if not better!
There is a reason why we can't stop eating sweets or why we go back for more...it's because sugar is addicting. Literally, sugar is an addicting substance like a drug. It lifts you up, making you want more, and then an hour or two later, you experience that crash. So we all know that sugar comes from sugar cane, which is the natural form of sugar that your body understands because sugar cane has vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Your body understands food that nature grows in its whole form. However, refined sugar is everything but natural. In order to get refined sugar, the sugar cane is basically destroyed and stripped of any nutritional value. Similarly, heroin, another addictive substance like sugar, comes from the poppy flower, which is a pretty flower whose seeds end up on your breakfast bagel (The Kind Diet). Same thing with cocaine, it comes from a coca leaf that people eat every day, but the cocaine is the result of the healthy leaf stripped of all of its nutritional value, and what is left is this awful addictive substance (The Kind Diet) A horrible analogy, but it's the truth, and it allows you to understand why it's difficult to stop after just one bite of a donut. Refined sugar is associated with cancer because it spikes insulin levels and has been linked to several health problems such as a weakened immune system and hypoglycemia to name a few. And what is even worse, is that refined sugar is in everything...cereals, breads, crackers, drinks.
So, what about all these artificial sweeteners...Equal, Splenda, SweetNLow? The problem is aspartame, which is in just about anything that has the word "diet" or "sugar-free" on it such as diet sodas. An ingredient in aspartame forms into formaldehyde, a deadly neurotoxin, after it is ingested. I don't think that requires any further explanation... that just sounds awful. Splenda has become more popular because it does not have aspartame, but the finished product is actually sucralose. They say that it is 98% pure, but what they don't tell is what the other 2% is made from...heavy metals, methanol, and arsenic. Yuck! Sucralose and aspartame have also been linked to many health issues, and surprisingly, there is evidence that they stimulate appetite! So even though these artificial sweeteners have less calories, they make you want to eat more! So if you are going to choose between diet soda and regular soda, I would say go with the regular soda and just drink half a can. But the best thing, would be no soda made with refined sugar.
Okay, don't freak out. I am not saying you can never have dessert or anything sweet again. There is hope out there... natural sweeteners!! Sweeteners from nature. 100% organic maple syrup (not Aunt Jemima), agave nectar, and this may sound weird, but brown rice syrup is an amazing natural sweetener too. You can find most of these at your regular grocery store, but brown rice syrup may be a little more difficult to find. I know they have it at Whole Foods and the Central Market in Fort Worth. You will find these items near the maple syrup. Another amazing sweetener that is not a syrup is Stevia, which is made from a plant with sweet leaves. It comes in a liquid or powder form. On the back of many of these products it will tell you what amounts to use to substitute for refined sugar in recipes. You can use these natural sweeteners in many baking recipes (check out some delicious recipe below!).
Now, what about soda? My favorite alternative is sparkling water with lemon or lime, or both, or mixed with any organic, natural juice. Or naturally sweetened flavored sparkling waters called La Croix (they have La Croix at Tom Thumb and other grocery stores). But if you are craving a coke, root beer, or orange soda, you have to try Zevia, which is sweetened with stevia and tastes really good. Another alternative is Organic Blue Sky Soda. It is sweetened with organic sugar cane juice, which is still sugar, so not the best, but better than refined sugar. I know you can find these at Central Market.
I still love sweets, but made with natural sweeteners, and I eat them all the time. I will admit to you... my parents ordered this delicious chocolate cake at dinner, and I had a few bites, but I was able to stop after that. I still eat products made with refined sugars such as dairy-free ice creams and sorbets, but maybe only a few times a month. It's funny, once you take out the refined sugars, it is much easier to stop eating after a couple of bites.
I know this was a long one, but to sum it up... refined sugar is bad, artificial sweeteners are bad, natural sweeteners are good. And with anything, these are all good in moderation. So just because it is a natural, more healthy form of sugar, don't go crazy, but you will be able to enjoy it without getting that addictive feeling and crash later. Instead, your sweet tooth will be completely satisfied, and you won't feel like you have to go back for more.
With Love, Health, and Happiness,
RECIPES AND OTHER THOUGHTS
Did You Watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution??
This show will really appeal to if you are at all interested in health and, particularly, the nutrition that children are getting in U.S. schools. The show aired on abc, and it just finished up with it's first season. If you read any articles or watch any clips from the show, I think you will be quite surprised.
Peanut Butter Cup Recipe from The Kind Diet
1/2 cup Earth Balance Original Butter
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
Central Market makes their own that is so delicious, and you scoop it out of a bucket in the bulk section. Or just make sure you get an organic peanut butter where the only ingredient is peanuts and maybe some salt.
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
1/4 cup maple syrup or maple sugar
1 cup chocolate chips (I use nondairy chocolate chips which are usually in the gluten-free section of the grocery store.)
1/4 cup soy, rice, or nut milk
1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar or syrup, and mix well. Remove mixture from heat. Evenly divide mixture, approx. 2 tbsp per muffin cup. Combine chocolate and milk in another pan (I use the same saucepan that I just emptied). Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted. Spoon the chocolate evenly over peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts. Place in refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving. Delish!
Cornbread Recipe from The Kind Diet
(This is so good! Great with soup, stew, or chili.)
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a 9x9 baking dish. Combine syrup, soy milk, and oil in a medium bowl and mix well. In another bowl, stir together cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. Ad the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and mix just until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean. They should be golden brown.
This is a great way to use ripe bananas, and it is so good as a snack or breakfast with butter or peanut butter. I just substituted brown rice syrup for the sugar, and it made the bread really moist, but you definitely have to cook it for the full 50 minutes if not a little bit longer.