There is no doubt that Americans have a love affair with sugar. Not only do we find the white stuff in muffins, cookies, ice cream and soda, but added sugar is also hidden in packaged foods such as ketchup, energy bars, cereals, breads and salad dressing. The average American consumes an average of 170 lbs. of sugar per person each year! This is up from 152 lbs in 2000 and 110lbs in 1960. Do you see where this trend is heading?
When it comes to our kids, sugary treats are often used to bribe, celebrate and threaten them. It is tough to deny the connection between consuming sugar and behavior challenges. I have not talked to many parents that have not seen a difference in their child’s behavior after consuming sugar.
While any sweetener will increase blood sugar, there are some more natural sweeteners that are gentler on the body’s insulin response process. I want to stress that these are still sweeteners and should be used in moderation. Here are a few of my favorite more natural sweeteners to use in the kitchen:
1. Brown Rice Syrup: Brown rice syrup has a think consistency and is best used when a gentle sweetener is used, such as in oatmeal or smoothies. Brown rice is ground and cooked, converting the starches to maltose. It tastes less sweet than white sugar and you may have to use up to 50% more when replacing sugar in recipes.
2. Barley Malt: Making barley malt involves the process of soaking, cooking, mashing and roasting the whole grain barley. It is less sweet than white sugar, lower on the glycemic index and metabolized slower in the body making it a healthier alternative.
3. Raw Honey: Raw honey has not been heated, filtered or processed about 115 degrees, unlike regular honey. This helps retain the natural vitamins, minerals, and enzymes which in the honey. Raw honey contains vitamins B and C as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
4. Stevia: Stevia is an herb native to South America. It is up to 300 times sweeter than white sugar so use sparingly at first and then increase as needed. Since it is an herb, it has zero calories and does not effect blood sugar. It can be purchased in liquid or powder form and is versatile enough to use in cooking and baking recipes, as well as to sweeten beverages. Not all Stevia products are created equally. More on this in my next blog post…