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sugar substitutes

  • The use of sugar and its effects on health and weight is important to discover for all of us who want to remain trim and vital. Of course, the wise use of sugar is crucial for everyone, children especially. As mothers, fathers and support guides for our youth, keeping sugary foods in check is a valuable lesson to learn. Paying attention to the foods that constitute “real food” and “treats” is an important guide for kids to learn as early as possible. Real foods are fresher and most natural, while treats are more typically processed and sugary, such as baked goods, sodas, candy, chips and more.

    Therefore, given this is one of the key principles for healthy eating; here are my 10 tips for sugar use. Remember, there are many foods that have natural sweetness. Just think of the juice of a peach, apple or strawberry running down your chin, or the fresh sweetness of corn on the corn, peas and carrots, and most fresh fruits and veggies. Plus, grains like rice have a wonderful sweetness. These natural foods are primarily where we should get most of our dietary sugars. Watch out though, even too much of a good thing can be excess! Those of us trying to lose or maintain our weight often go on a “low-carb” diet.

    Even away from Halloween and other holiday times, we can often find treats everywhere, so stay centered and follow the guidelines that are best for you and your health. Even so, we tend to use birthdays and any holidays to increase the offerings and consumption of sugar.

    1. Sugar is found in so many foods that are now available in the modern grocery stores and even natural food stores. It goes into food primarily as refined cane sugar (including brown sugars) and high-fructose corn syrup (the new leader of sugar consumption). More natural sugars include honey, maple syrup, malt sugar, date sugar, molasses and others. Foods that are high in sugars should be used only as occasional ‘treats’ in the diet, not as a main component of our food consumption. The best natural sugar may be the herb, stevia, also called sweetleaf. Xylitol is an alcohol sugar, tolerated by most people and a good substitute for refined sugar. There are also many naturally sweet desserts that include almonds, apples, dates and other fruits.

    2. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the desire for sugar, or the sweet flavor, as a craving for the mother (yin) energy, a craving that represents a need for comfort or security. In Western cultures, we have turned sugar into a reward system (a tangible symbol of material nurturing) to the degree that many of us have been conditioned to need some sweet treat to feel complete or satisfied. We continue the pattern with our children, unconsciously showing our affection by giving them sugary foods. We ideally do not want to unconsciously reinforce the “treat” pattern.

    3. For most of us, sugar is a symbol of love and nurturance. As infants, our first food is lactose, or milk sugar. Overconsumption and daily use of sugar is the first compulsive habit for most everyone with addictions later in life. Simple sugar, or glucose, is what our body, our cells and brain, use for fuel for energy. Some glucose is stored in our liver and muscle tissues as glycogen for future use; excess sugar is stored as fat for use during periods of low-calorie intake or starvation. If we don’t exercise or take periods of lower calorie intake, the fat never disappears.

    4. Our problem with sweets comes from the frequency with which we eat them, and the quantity of sugar we consume. The type of sugar we eat is also a contributing factor. Refined sugar or sucrose (a disaccharide made up of two sugars — glucose and fructose) is usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets, initially whole foods. However, most all of the nutrients are removed and retained only in the discarded extract called molasses. When the manufacturing process is complete, the result is pure sugar, a refined crystal that contains four calories per gram and essentially no nutrients. The biggest concern in my sense over the past 20 years is the wide use of highfructose corn syrup; I suggest people use this at a minimum.

    5. Many nutritional authorities feel that the high use of sugar in our diet is a significant underlying cause of disease. Too much sweetener in any form can have a negative effect on our health; this includes not only refined sugar, but also corn syrup, honey and fruit juices, and treats such as sodas, cakes, and candies. Because sugary foods satisfy our hunger, they often replace more nutritious foods and weaken our tissue’s health and disease resistance via stressing our immune system.

    6. The use of sugar in our culture sometimes resembles a drug, and can be treated as such. If you are “hooked” on sugar make a clear plan for withdrawal, while working emotionally to eliminate the habit. Our responses to certain flavors, and the feelings we get from them are usually conditioned. Selfreflection can be valuable when trying to understand these compulsions. To stop bad habits and see things clearly, we may need to talk these feelings through, transitioning from compulsion to a safe and balanced lifestyle. Talk to your hands and guide them to reach for healthier foods and snacks. A desire to improve and the use of will power can often get us through our sugar cravings. Although often emotionally hard to stop, the physical withdrawal is not as challenging as many other substances, such as with nicotine and alcohol. Still, it takes a full-fledged plan to clear and change any habits.

    7. The Glycemic Index basically rates how quickly foods are turned into sugars and/or absorbed into our blood stream. This is an important concept to know about. In simple terms quick-absorbing sugars are more of a concern with our blood sugar and energy. It may be helpful to consume some protein, such as a few nuts or nut butter, when eating some simple sugar like fruit, or easily assimilated carbohydrates like rice, bread, or potatoes. Remember to read those labels in the stores; there are loads of hidden sugars in items you wouldn’t even think should have added sweetener and concentrated sugars, like in some juice drinks. There are now many glycemic index resources online and as apps for your phone so check them out to learn more.

    8. If you do crave sugar, there are several supplements that can help you utilize the sugar better as well as reduce your desire for those sweets. These include the B vitamins (25–50 mg of most twice daily), vitamin C (500–1,000 mg twice daily), calcium (250–500 mg), and magnesium (150–300 mg). Chromium helps the body utilize the sugars more efficiently; it is usually supplemented in 100–200 mcg twice daily, in the morning and about 3:00 p.m. Also, the amino acid, L-glutamine (500–1,000 mg two to three times daily), helps to feed the brain and reduce sugar (and alcohol) cravings.

    9. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to keep the body balanced and lessen cravings and addictions. An alkalinizing diet high in greens and vegetables reduces cravings as well and helps with detoxification. Also, regular exercise does the same. Don’t be afraid to move that body for fitness with active aerobics and weight training. Yoga stretches can also give you inner and outer strength to be your true self. Walking in nature is another way to get in touch with your inner nature and gain your will power.

    10.There are usually emotional issues around excess sugar and carbohydrate consumption, and being overweight. Be open to explore these areas as you attempt to heal your habits and create a healthier body and weight. A support group or a counselor can help in this healing process.

    Good luck and make wise choices.

    Stay Healthy.

  • In a Duke University study researchers found that Splenda may not be as healthy as previously thought, and may instead cause weight gain, kill beneficial intestinal bacteria and block the absorption of prescription drugs.

    Over the course of 12 weeks, researchers gave varying dosages of Splenda to five groups of rats and then collected their fecal pellets. Though all of the rats consumed the same amount of food, the rats that received the Splenda treatment gained significantly more weight than the control group, and continued to do so even after treatment was stopped. “We found that the [sucrose] actually causes a decrease in the microflora,” said lead researcher Dr. Mohamed Abou-Donia, professor of pharmacology, cancer biology and neurobiology. “Generally, the microflora is responsible for the synthesis of vitamins and acts as protection from bad microbes.”

    But Dr. Pao-Hwa Lin, assistant research professor of medicine, noted that the results of the study cannot necessarily be applied to humans, although he acknowledged that Splenda could interfere with some medications.

    The company says that [Splenda] is derived from sugar, but there is some processing that is deriving this sucralose [and] we are not sure whether it is really safe or not,” she said. “However, [ the findings do ] need to be confirmed in humans.”

    Because the study was performed on rats, some students said the results will not deter them from using the sugar substitute.

    “The perception is that [artificial sweeteners] are healthier than pure sugar,” freshman Zhe Ma said, adding that he prefers their taste to that of sugar.

    Although the study was funded by the Sugar Association, which lobbies for the national sugar industry and sued Splenda in 2004, Abou-Donia said the group was not involved in conducting or analyzing the study.

    “I had the idea of doing the study, and asked the Sugar Association if they would fund it. They said yes,” he said. They did not, however, “have any input on the planning or performing [of ] the study, interpretation of the results or [the] writing of the [study],” he said.

    In previous studies, researchers discovered that between 60 and 95 percent of ingested sucralose which is a component of Splenda is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Abou-Donia wanted to find out what this excess sucralose does in the gut.

    The findings of the study were posted on The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health’s Web site.

  • Often, I'm asked what can be used in recipes that cut fat and sugar yet maintains moistness, sweetness and flavor as with the original ingredients. In our Health Sciences & Research kitchen we've been experimenting with healthy options and the following is what we've discovered are the best options and many of our taste testers couldn't even tell we used substitutes.

    Since our Research Center is now located in the high Andes of Ecuador, the challenge in baking is that nothing comes out like the recipe because adjustments have to be made for the 8,000-feet elevation—everything takes longer to cook or it cooks but comes out extremely dry and hard.

    A gourmet cook I am, a baker I am not—it's taken adjustments and patience but the end results have been well worth it! Therefore, if you live at high altitude, don't get discouraged simply add more moisture as listed below and allow for longer cooking times. These substitute suggestions are all Gluten—and Nightshade-FREE.

    White (yellowish) or Orange Sweet Potatoes
    Loaded with potassium...AND...if you include the skin they're full of fiber too. They're rich in healthy carbs, which are a main source of energy, especially during physical exercise, as we age, and for those with chronic immune disorders.

    Substitute: For a dessert recipe, choose mashed sweet potatoes made with a little fat-free milk or milk alternative (almond, coconut). In cake and quick bread recipes, use half a cup of cooled mashed sweet potatoes in place of a quarter-cup flour plus a quarter-cup milk, or milk alternative, and/or butter. Bake sweet potatoes and puree (with or without skins) in a food processor and make a thick paste—an excellent fat and sugar replacement in baking. Use this puree, about half a cup cooled to replace quarter-cup sugar and quarter-cup fat (butter, shortening, lard or oil). If using orange sweet potatoes, you may need to bake a couple minutes longer to allow for liquid evaporation. The result: MOIST, MOIST, MOIST.

    A great source of beta carotene—a type of vitamin A important for maintaining good vision and healthy immune responses.

    In older adults, foods rich in beta carotene helps improve strength and physical performance.

    Substitute: Finely grate raw carrots (I use my small food processor) and stir them into any batter including for cookies, quick breads, muffins, brownies and cakes. Works best in recipes that require minimum of 30 minutes baking time to allow carrots to soften. Start with a half a cup shredded carrots and if you like the consistency you can use more next time for added texture. NOTE:
    For recipes that are no-bake, you can still substitute but steam shredded carrots until very soft, cool, mash and add to batter.

    Spinach provides hefty amounts of health-enhancing plant nutrients such as alpha lipoic acid, folate and iron—known to improve insulin sensitivity in people with Type 2 diabetes. Substitute: Whenever you want a lovely green color in your dessert (like the mint chocolate fudge bark, or spinach roulade pictured), add spinach. Include up to half cup of fresh baby spinach. For a super-charged smoothie, add spinach and a bit of peppermint leaves or dash of extract and your vanilla smoothie has that fresh green color and taste full of nutrients.

    Pumpkin and/or Squash
    Pumpkin, in particular, whether canned puree or freshly baked, is an amazing source of vitamin A. This orange gourd is credited by researchers and scientists for its vast array of health benefits including anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties.

    Substitute: To cut "bad" fats and calories in cookies, cakes, brownies or quick breads, use a quarter-cup of pumpkin puree in place of a quarter-cup butter or shortening.

    If you, like me, are concerned about your eye health, zucchinis are one produce you'll definitely want to include as much as possible in your diet. Zucchini contains good amounts of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthine, which play an important role in reducing age-related macular degeneration and other eye disorders.

    Substitute: Coarsely grate raw zucchini, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Add the zucchini into any batter, especially quick breads, muffins and brownies where moisture is necessary. Begin slowly with half a cup. Again, if it works well and maintains its moisture in your recipe then adjust for more or less the next time.

    Some of the health-enhancing benefits of corn may surprise you because it's had such a bad rap because of GMO varieties. The fiber in corn is believed to act as a probiotic, meaning it can potentially boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut—just insure the corn is organic.

    Substitute: Especially in desserts, corn goes well with any berry flavor. When making a berry-filled dessert such as in strawberry shortcake (or try making it as trifles), blueberry muffins or raspberry crepes—add a half-cup either fresh or thawed frozen corn into the batter. If you're a real foodie like I am, pan-char the corn first to caramelize and further sweeten the kernels—the taste is amazing. If you do the caramelizing, you can avoid one to two tablespoons of sugar in the recipe. To create a smoother texture, I blend the corn in a food processor after caramelizing then add; experiment to see which method works best for your particular recipes.

    If you're looking for a powerhouse of nutrients, you can't beat beets. They're high in digestion-promoting fiber and loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C. They're also credited in helping those with low blood pressure as well as to fight inflammation…AND…they do wonders for liver health.

    Substitute: I use beets in so many dishes to replace nightshades, for instance. They transform a light-toned recipe like New York-style cheesecake into an appetizing reddish-pink tone. Add the liquid ingredients of your cake or cheesecake recipe to a blender or food processor along with half a cup of cooled, well-cooked diced beets and puree until velvety smooth. If you have inflammation and are avoiding nightshades, you can find my award-winning recipe for Mock Tomato Sauce on my website at under recipe tab.

    One of the vegetables in the cruciferous family, cauliflower contains glucosinolates—credited to help prevent cancer. It's high in vitamin C, which additionally reduces inflammation and boosts immunity.

    Substitute: To cut "bad" fats in a recipe as in frosting, steam chopped cauliflower, drain well and puree in food processor until it reaches a velvety-smooth texture. Use in place of either butter or shortening and the milk or cream in frosting. You can blend a spoonful of puree one at a time into powdered sugar until it reaches a thick, desirable consistency. If you're completely avoiding sugar, try what I use which is powered Lakanto, available directly from the manufacturer or retailers online. It's my go-to substitute for sugar of any type; white, brown or powdered. No calories or carbs and doesn't affect blood sugar or feed yeast.

    A Vegan List of Substitutes—Healthy for us All:

    • Unsweetened applesauce for butter;
    • Avocado purée for butter;
    • Almond or Coconut milk for dairy milk;
    • Coconut ice cream for ice cream;
    • Olive or Coconut oil for butter;
    • Coconut milk for cream;
    • Nutritional yeast for cheese;
    • Mashed bananas for bacon fat.