All year we try to hit the gym, grab those salads, make that smoothie, and switch to tea but then… sugar creeps in from every angle… from pumpkins to turkeys to champagne toasts and just when we’ve put away our fancy clothes, chocolate hearts and peanut butter eggs pop up everywhere! From the end of October through all of April, it’s pretty much “sugar season.”
We are exposed to enough hidden sugar daily without “’tis the season” mentality. Sugar is dumped into soft drinks, sports drinks, juice, lunch meats, pretzels, chips, snacks, and sadly now in infant formula! Think about this; when we first settled in this country Americans were consuming about 4 pounds of sugar a year and in 2009 over half of Americans were consuming 180 pounds of sugar annually!
We are not talking about glucose, the energy that your cells run on from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (as living things require glucose to live.) We are talking, simple sugars or monosaccharide’s and those are; fructose, glucose, dextrose, and disaccharides. Table sugar is half glucose and half fructose and known as a disaccharide. Many foods in our nation are laden with fructose such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as it is cheaper for the food manufactures and HFCS is much sweeter than sugar. However fructose is very hard on your liver as your liver is the organ that metabolizes fructose. Too much fructose is not our friend.
Honey is over half fructose and agave is about 80% fructose and that is something to be mindful of when deciding on a snack or a meal. And always remember, that those artificial sweeteners are not sugar at all! Artificial sugars are man-made chlorinated sweeteners and should be avoided at all costs. Beware of food labels with aspartame and saccharin! If you need to sweeten something up, try to use 100 precent organic liquid stevia. Stevia is a plant and does not cause the deleterious health consequences that man-made sweeteners do and the liquid form of stevia does not have an after taste.
Remember fructose leads to weight gain and that bloated belly feeling! Fructose can also increase LDL (the bad cholesterol) and elevates triglycerides. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about fructose is it is damaging to the delicate endothelial cells that line every blood vessel in our bodies.
Here are a few more reasons why we should eliminate “the bad” sugar as much as possible (if you need another gentle push):
- A critical reason to avoid simple sugars in our diet is cancer cells need 16 times the glucose as normal cells do to live.
- Sugar definitely adds to weight gain and it ages our skin.
- There is no fiber in sugar and it contains no nutrition.
Helpful healthful tips:
- Get the candy or dessert out of your house ASAP after an event or a holiday or it will call your name from the kitchen. Give it away that day.
- When baking use mashed bananas or applesauce in a one-to-one ratio instead of oil.
- Always use organic eggs when cooking.
- Choose vegan dairy free chocolate chips.
- Bake your treat and take it to share with lots of friends and family and don’t leave any at home.
- Have your one piece and be done.
- Remember your four food groups that provide the right type of sugar (glucose) are fruits, vegetables, wholes grains, and legumes.
- Choose Liquid Stevia for sweetening beverages
- Add plain dates when sweetening smoothies or baked goods.
- Read your food labels and watch for those dangerous man-made sugars and extra sugar in general.
- Eat before you go to a party even if it means eating two bananas as you run out the door.
- Keep high fiber foods like beans in your daily diet and you’ll not want sweets as often.
- Keep hydrated with half your body weight in ounces of plain, filtered water daily consumed away from meals.
- Relax, enjoy and always have fun… life does have food treats now and then!
Survive sugar season by baking these vegan pumpkin bars for special occasions!
Paras’ Pumpkin Bars
This recipe was taken from a healthy vegan website and my daughter Paras tweaked it and frosts them with the no dairy cream cheese icing. Fabulous and no one will know they are vegan! Bake them in a jelly roll pan for bars or in a 9×13 cake pan for a cake
What you’ll need:
2 cups pumpkin puree
12 tablespoons organic unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons good vanilla
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
What you’ll do:
Mix wet ingredients in a bowl and dry ingredients in a separate bowl then combine. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 39 to 40 minutes if you are baking a cake or 18- 20 minutes if you are baking bars in a jelly roll pan.
Paras’ “Cream Cheese” Icing
This is fabulous over pumpkin bars, brownies or cupcakes. No one knows it is vegan.
5 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan soy butter
4 ounces vegan cream cheese (found at most health food stores or Whole Foods- we use Tofutti brand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 half cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons of Plant based milk (we use vanilla soy or almond) to get the proper consistency.
Whip with beaters until smooth. You can add more powdered sugar if you want thicker frosting.
Lana M. Kontos is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor, A trained and certified lifestyle medicine practitioner and found of Your Skinny Kitchen virtual workshops. You may contact her at www.inspiredbywellness.com
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